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13 Worst Sports Uniform Innovations

by: Esteban On  Tuesday, February 12, 2013

worst sports uniform innovations

Yesterday, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors dropped a bomb on uniform-aware sports fans: they’ll soon be wearing the first jerseys with sleeves in the history of the league. And they won’t be the only ones for long. According to sources at the league and Adidas, other teams are in talks to wear sleeved jerseys and will probably start doing so in the near future.

Of course, the reaction to the new look has been mostly critical. Fans of every sport tend to like the unique features of the sport’s uniforms, and this is certainly true of basketball fans. Nevertheless, this is hardly the first time a sports league or team has introduced a questionable uniform innovation. And today we’re going to see where this one stands in relation to the other legendarily terrible changes.



13. Pullover Baseball Jerseys

13 astros pullover baseball jerseys - worst sports uniform innovations

There’s nothing inherently awful about the pull-over baseball jerseys. However, one of the best things about sports uniforms are idiosyncrasies—little details that wouldn’t be necessary or even make any sense if a uni was designed now, but which made sense back in the day and simply because part of the tradition. And that’s what button-up baseball jerseys are: an idiosyncrasy. Now buttons are unnecessary, but back in the day, before they had stretchy synthetic fabrics, they were necessary. Then over time they just because one of the cool, unique aspects of baseball uniforms. And when teams went to pull-over jerseys in the 70s and 80s, they lost this part of the sport’s heritage.

So, pullover baseball jerseys: a bad sports uniform innovation.


12. The Apron Stripes on Reebok NHL Jerseys

12 piping on reebok nhl jerseys - worst sports uniform innovations

Reebok and the NHL introduced the new Rbk Edge jersey design back in 2007. They are tighter fitting than the old jerseys but are more flexible, so in theory they amount to small update on the classic template. However, there was one major change: for some reason, many teams around the league decided to highlight some of the seems in the new jersey. The result? It looks like some teams are wearing aprons.

In fairness to Reebok, the silly apron stripes aren’t necessary. They just gave the teams the option and, unfortunately, some of them took it.


11. Sponsors on Soccer Jerseys

11 manchester united jersey advertising - worst sports uniform innovations

Sponsor names on the front of sports jerseys? Yep, one of the worst things ever. If I buy a jersey, I don’t want to walk around advertising a brand of televisions or an insurance company. I want to display my loyalty to my team. But if you’re a fan of any of the world’s pro soccer teams, you can’t do one without doing the other. And as a sports fan I find that kind of depressing.

The club officially credited with inventing the idea of jersey sponsorship is Penarol of Uruguay. However, in 1973  the German club Eintracht Braunshweig sold jersey rights to Jagermeister (yes, the liqueur) and the flood gates were opened in Europe. Four years later the English league system began allowing sponsors on jerseys—after being vehemently opposed to it for decades—and the rest is history.

Cynical, money-grubbing history.


10. Low Pants + High Stirrups

10 dwight doc gooden mets low pants high stirrups - worst sports uniform innovations

Baseball stirrups developed because, in the early days of pro ball, players wanted to display team colors on socks. However, the dyes used on fabrics back then were toxic and prone to running, so there was fear that if a player got spiked (which ought to have been called “Ty Cobbed”), the dye might get mingled in the blood and, you know, kill the player. Thus, they wore two pairs of socks: plain and safe white socks underneath, colorful socks on top.

But then that posed a problem: two pairs of socks were too thick to fit into the cleats. Thus, the stirrups were born. It was a nice little idiosyncrasy, and to this day, most baseball fans I know love the look of high socks on a ballplayer.

But did MLB have an official uniform policy? Nope. The unfortunate result was that, in the 1980s players, started wearing their pants longer and their stirrups higher, which meant that the socks pretty much vanished. This set the table for the next unfortunate sports uniform innovation…


9. Baseball Pajama Pants

9 baggy baseball pants - worst sports uniform innovations

Look, there’s nothing wrong with loose-fitting baseball pants. That’s how they were in the beginning, and they stayed that way until the 1970s. But this thing where players where baggy pants and go down past the shoes? It’s ridiculous. They look like they’re wearing pajamas out there, and there’s no way it offers any competitive advantage. It’s time for MLB to step in an implement an official policy.


8. The NFL's 70s Collars

8 nfl 70s collar - worst sports uniform innovations

This year, NFL teams started wearing new Nike jerseys with stretchy collars. As with the new NHL jerseys introduced in 2007, teams could customize the jerseys however they wanted to fit their time-honored traditions, and some, like the Packers, did just that. Others, however, did not. And the result is that teams like the Saints, Redskins, Rams, and Vikings all looked like they were wearing shirts with giant 70s liesure suit collars.


7. Excessively Baggy Basketball Shorts

7 excessively baggy basketball shorts - worst sports uniform innovations

Baggy shorts are comfortable for playing basketball. Everybody who’s ever played the game knows that. But the ones that could fit three dudes and come down below the knees? They just look ridiculous. Are they preferable to short shorts? Well obviously, yes…


6. Basketball Short Shorts

6 basketball short shorts - worst sports uniform innovations

Now, maybe you think, hey, short shorts weren’t an innovation in basketball uniforms. That’s just how they were at the beginning. However, this is untrue. While the baggy shorts look is definitely a modern innovation, the shorts definitely didn’t start out this small. If you don’t believe me, check out this pic of the 1910-11 University of Missouri basketball team.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line somebody said, “hey, those shorts are too big and don’t show off our manly upper thighs. Let’s wear something that more closely resembles underwear!”

Terrible, terrible sports uniform innovation.


5. Hockey Pants

5 flyers whalers hockey pants - worst sports uniform innovations

Hockey pants kind of make sense from a fashion point of view. After all, the hose & shorts look is kind of unusual. However, what people forgot is that the hose & shorts look was practical. You need a lot of padding in the crotch region, so you want thick clothing. But you can’t have thick clothing all the way down your legs because it would limit motion. Hence the hose & shorts system.

Nevertheless, in 1981 and 1982, the Flyers and Whalers gave pants a try. The verdict? Players said they were too slick. When they fell, they just kept on sliding, and many got injured sliding into endboards.

Plus, they looked like figure skaters on steroids.


4. The Full-Body Male Swimsuit

4 full body swimsuits - worst sports uniform innovations

There are a number of problems with these swimsuits. For starters, they provide extra buoyancy which helps swimmers obliterate records in the pool, and that is problematic. More importantly, though, they look absurd. I mean, just look at this guy.


3. T-Shirts Under Basketball Jerseys

3 t-shirt under basketball jersey 22 john legend - worst sports uniform innovations

The basketball jersey has always been sleeveless, and for a very practical reason: you need an unencumbered range of motion in your shoulders to play the game at a top level. But even if you didn’t, if the uniform is sleeveless, why would teams allow players to wear shirts underneath that clash with the actual fit of the official uniform? They allow it in baseball and football because it can be cold. Basketball is played inside, though, so there is no excuse.


2. NBA Jerseys with Sleeves

2 warriors uniforms with sleeves - worst sports uniform innovations

Yesterday, the Golden State Warriors and Adidas introduced a new sleeved jersey that will be worn for the first time on February 22. It was not a joke.

Now, as you can see, these things are specially designed to provide a full, free range of motion in the shoulders. The fabric is stretchy, and it is breathable. So this probably will be pretty comfortable. But the issue here is, why add something unnecessary? The sleeveless basketball jersey works. It’s the tradition. Why add sleeves now? They just don’t look right.

Well, unfortunately the answer probably has to do with money: the NBA wants to go the way of soccer and sell ad space on jerseys, but to do that they needed more space. Hence the sleeves.

Yep, that’s right North America. Sponsored jerseys are coming to an arena near you.


1. Baseball Shorts

1 white sox shorts - worst sports uniform innovations

In 1976, the Chicago White Sox wore shorts. They weren’t the first pro baseball team to try it (some minor league teams did it in the 1950s), but they were the first in MLB. Of course, they were also the only. As everyone knows, there is a very good reason why baseball players wear pants: to protect their legs while sliding. So, obviously, the softball look did not last very long on the South Side of Chicago.