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FanPost Friday: In defense of road grays and powder blues

Speculation, teeth-gnashing, and loud opinions about the league-imposed changes to the Seattle Mariners uniforms in 2023

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Ichiro wore the road grays in his final MLB game in 2019. I won’t forget what you’re taking from us, Nike/MLB!
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The tradition-shattering Mariners uniform news broke after last week’s FanPost Friday was written and published, so my apologies for the late nature of this commentary. But, as LL’s resident outspoken uniform sartorial opinion-haver, I feel it very necessary to speak on the subject.

The indomitable Chris Creamer broke the story last Friday afternoon on his long-running Sports Logo dot net blog:

Ryan Divish added some more context from the team for the Seattle Times:

The three main takeaways:

  1. MLB, in collaboration with the current uniform makers Nike, made a rule to limit teams to four sets of uniforms. The Mariners previously had six: white, gray, teal, navy tops, cream, and powder blue for Spring Training.
  2. The team says they used feedback from players and fans to decide on which four uniforms to keep and which two would become future throwback items after languishing in the bargain bins at Mariners Team Stores for a few years.
  3. Nike City Connect uniforms and other one-off uniforms (throwbacks, etc) do not count toward the four uniform limit.

On point number one, why in the year 2023 would a company as large as Nike and a league as successful as MLB want to limit the number of merchandise options a team has to sell to its fans? That was the first thing I asked Chris while trying to process the decision:

I’ve yet to see any official explanation from Nike or MLB in the follow up coverage since then. As with most things concerning the inner workings of baseball teams, all we’ve got is our speculation. It could be for supply chain and quality control reasons. The global systems of manufacturing and shipping goods is still not back to where it was pre-pandemic. I do recall that the Mariners did not have the teal (Northwest Green) or navy jerseys for the first month plus of the 2022 season and so they did not wear the teals on the customary Friday night home games in April. This was due to some kind of delay according to Senior VP of Marketing & Communications Kevin Martinez:

Seattle Mariners v. Houston Astros Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

So perhaps teams and the league are happy to try to avoid these kinds of delays by streamlining the uniform options to only four. Again, this is pure speculation. Does the team save any money by not being inconvenienced by delays compared to how much money they would make by selling replica and authentic versions of the gray and powder blue jerseys to fans? I don’t know! I studied journalism, not economics. Big Business Brain people, sound off in the comments on that one, please, because I am still just kinda flabbergasted by the league and teams choosing to have fewer merchandise options available, particularly for a fairly popular team with a marketable star like Julio Rodríguez.

Onto point number two. Listen, I like the navy tops a lot. The very first authentic Mariners jersey I bought as a young adult with my own money was a navy Félix Hernández jersey in 2010, back when they said Mariners on the front instead of Seattle because they only wore them at home. They look incredible when they (very rarely) wear the teal brim hats with the navy tops. The navy tops stand out, just like the teal, because they’re unique. Only a handful of MLB teams have dark blue tops, but the Mariners have historically cornered the market on having the darkest navy blue possible so that they literally look black to a lot of people. Remember the unfortunately named “Astro Navy” uniforms? (Get it? Because they were as dark as the darkest voids of space?)

Luckily for sight-impaired impaired folks and those who hate to be caught wearing black with navy blue like some kind of philistine, the current shade is lighter than Astro Navy, but still quite dark.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It’s been clear since 2018 or so that the players love these jerseys.

Maybe they don’t bother to stare at what their names and numbers look like on the back, though, because as many fellow nerds know, that shit looks ROUGH most of the time. And it’s not the fault of the handful of people who actually sew the on-field uniforms. They’re doing their best with a near-impossible task. As Pete Schwadel here explains with a graphic that I would like to plaster on the front office’s doors, the font was designed to say two things and two things only, Seattle and Mariners. It was not designed with other names in mind, or numbers! Therefore, trying to slap names together on jerseys with the font as is ends up looking like the top row here:

In the third row, Pete alters the letters just enough so that they fit together nicely. That means for each player name, they’d have to create a bunch of altered letters for each player’s name in order to avoid them looking like this all the time:

Speaking of delays from supply chain issues, that’s just not feasible to sew a whole slew of individually altered letters for names. Also, as Pete noted above, it’s not the kerning that causes the gaps as many folks have often thought.

Since the Mariners will be wearing the navy tops on the road and at home because the players love them, yes, the team could easily rock them for 100 games or more as @MarinerMuse speculates. That’s just boring, man. And the lettering issue is an affront to good taste and order in the world. The teal, navy, and cream jerseys were originally meant to be “alternates,” which is supposed to mean they’re not worn regularly. The home whites and road grays have been the standard uniforms since 1987 (in two different logo/color schemes). Alternate jerseys look great when worn occasionally because they stand out and are more memorable that way. It’s probably a big reason why I love the teal uniforms so much. They feel special.

Seattle Mariners v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Speaking of special, I must devote some time to the sartorial defense of the perfect Spring Training jersey, the powder blue uniforms. ST jerseys should be a little different, a little fun, and they should stand out in contrast with the team’s regular uniforms. We know New Era likes to play real fast and loose with the ST hats, so why wouldn’t teams want something unique for ST uniforms? The team brought back powder blue in 2019 as a nod to the team’s road uniforms in the late 70’s and through the mid 80’s. Having a powder blue alternate has become fairly popular across MLB, even if a team never wore powder blue or didn’t exist in the 70’s. It’s a clear historical aesthetic connection to a unique era of the game that often gets overshadowed by other eras. Plainly said, I think it sucks to get rid of it. That said, now the main ST uniform for the Mariners will be teal again like it was from 2016 to 2018. I’ll accept that as a silver lining.

However, there is no silver lining for ditching the road grays. In perhaps my least popular opinion among LL staffers, I ranked the gray uniforms as my second favorite of the pre-2023 six options (the correct order per me is teal, gray, navy, white, powder blue, cream). Here are a few reasons why I enjoy(ed) the concrete-toned road gray uniforms:

  • For fans, they look great on anyone and the gray goes with anything. You wanna wear jeans or black pants or shorts with your gray jersey? Looks great. Wear jeans with your navy top and you look like a god damn blueberry.
  • (/Fiddler on the Roof voice) TRADITION!!!!!!! Since the beginning of time, the road team has worn gray in baseball. Multiple sources say this was due to the lack of laundry services on road trips for visiting teams, so gray uniforms concealed the dirt and grass stains better than white ones. It became a tradition that was born out of necessity, as most are.
Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees
the absolute peak of road gray performance. no sleeves, no problems.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
  • Obviously washing the uniforms stopped being an issue generations ago, but by then TV broadcasts of baseballs were becoming more common and the visual shorthand of visiting teams wearing gray took on a much great utility for fans. For anyone who watches a lot of sports, particularly baseball, when you flip on a game at random, there are two quick ways for a fan to figure out who is the home team: the order of the teams on the broadcast’s score bug (away team first, home team last) and the colors of their uniforms. As uniforms progressed and teams started wearing different colored tops on the road, they still wore gray pants. So, call me old fashioned, I guess, but I always appreciate that I can instantly tell where a game is being played when I look at the color of pants the teams are wearing.
Sports Contributor Archive 2020
caution: legend at work
Photo by SPX/Ron Vesely Photography via Getty Images

Moving onto the third point, which I will sneakily and tenuously tie to the first point. Ah yes, the Nike-created City Connect uniforms do not count toward the four uniform limit. Wonder why! By 2024, every team will reportedly have a City Connect uniform set, designed by Nike. It hasn’t been confirmed yet whether the Mariners will get one in 2023 or 2024, but by 2024 the Mariners, like every team, will then have 5 uniforms in their rotation. Does Nike make more money off of uniforms they are credited with designing? Again, I studied journalism and not copyright law or business, but my inclination is that it must be either financially or intellectually beneficial from a branding standpoint for Nike to have been the sole reason that every MLB team has that fifth uniform. So perhaps the four uniform restriction is addition by subtraction and Nike is playing the long-game here.

(/puts tin-foil hat away, puts Nike Dunks on) Well, anyways, folks. Someday I will get over the loss of the gray and powder blue uniforms. Being able to see the teals more often will certainly help and all the outspoken teal-haters can continue to be loudly wrong and that’s okay.

Let’s wrap up this way-too-long post with some polls, shall we? I love doing free consumer market research for the Mariners, don’t y’all?


Do you disagree with the decision to get rid of the road gray and powder blue Mariners uniforms?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    (458 votes)
  • 27%
    (215 votes)
  • 13%
    I am indifferent
    (104 votes)
777 votes total Vote Now


Which uniform will you miss more?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    The road grays
    (492 votes)
  • 27%
    The powder blues
    (212 votes)
  • 8%
    Again I am indifferent
    (67 votes)
771 votes total Vote Now


If I could only pick one favorite of the 2022 Mariners uniform sets, I’d pick:

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    (95 votes)
  • 6%
    (49 votes)
  • 38%
    Teal (Northwest Green, calm down Kevin)
    (300 votes)
  • 14%
    (109 votes)
  • 25%
    (197 votes)
  • 3%
    Powder blue
    (27 votes)
777 votes total Vote Now


Does the font and spacing issues on the names and numbers on the navy jerseys bother you?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Yes, a little
    (271 votes)
  • 37%
    Yes, a lot
    (284 votes)
  • 20%
    (154 votes)
  • 5%
    The what on who?
    (45 votes)
754 votes total Vote Now

Have a great weekend folks! One more FPF to go before pitchers and catchers report, how ‘bout that?