3/19/2008 08:37:00 PM

The Pinstripe Fashion Statement

Posted by Mark McCray |

Article by Keith Olberman for Men's Health Magazine Online:

Every time I see the New York Yankees’ pinstriped uniforms, I think how lucky we are that this long-ago fashion experiment caught on instead of the one conducted simultaneously by the New York Giants. While the Yanks were first fooling around with pinstripes, the Giants trotted out a set of windowpane-patterned unis. In purple.

Sports uniforms rarely influence civilian clothing, and that’s a damn good thing. Before they adopted the pinstripes for good in 1915, the Yanks tried blue turnup collars; striped socks; an “NY” logo that, unlike their now-famous insignia, did not interlock; and another that did, though it looked as if the letters had been crushed together.

But then, 90 years ago, the Yankees settled on a uniform that remains essentially the same today. You can select a black-and-white photo of a Yankee from the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig era and put it alongside a black-and-white photo from the Derek Jeter/Alex Rodriguez era and not notice much of a difference. Which raises a chicken-and-egg kind of question: Have Yankee pinstripes spanned the decades because they have an intrinsic timelessness, or are they timeless simply because they’ve been around for so many years?

One thing is certain: Yankee pinstripes contributed to the success of another classic fashion statement, the pinstriped suit. On the field or in the office, those long, thin lines have evolved into an enduring symbol of status and style. Windowpane chic, on the other hand, proved as popular as blue turnup collars.

The Yankees’ pinstripes continue to transcend time. And thanks to HDTV, more people are beginning to realize something that always catches my eye when I see the team in person: These famous pinstripes aren’t black, but, rather, a very deep blue. And the line itself--in the best tradition of the pinstripe--is not perfectly solid; it has a mottled quality.

All of which makes it even more unthinkable that the Yankees almost blew it. In the winter of 1975–76, the team announced that it would commemorate the nation’s Bicentennial by wearing road uniforms that were the exact opposite of those legendary home outfits--dark blue, with white pinstripes and lettering. To this day, we don’t know if owner George Steinbrenner was the one who dreamed up that idea--or the one who ordered it canceled.

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