5 Problems with the New MLB Uniforms

MLB’s new uniforms have not been well received by players or fans

When discussing sports uniforms, the first thing to remember is that they are, first, the players’ work clothes.

As fans, generally, we want team gear that looks authentic and sends whatever message it is we’re trying to send by wearing a particular piece of merch. For us, these are special-occasion clothes.

But for players, it’s different. In the same way that you want to be comfortable when you do whatever it is you do to pay the rent, they do as well, except their job is very different — and a lot more public — than most of our jobs are.

And players think a lot about their uniforms. When I’ve asked Colorado Rockies players about their feelings on the iconic black vests, they have strong opinions, and many of them have to do with performance. (Some pitchers loved the black vests because they lacked sleeves; others hated them for the same reason.) Similarly, when I spoke with the Arizona Diamondbacks players about their retro uniforms, they also had clear ideas — and it extended beyond looks to fabrics and fit.

In other words, uniform stories may initially seem like an interesting fashion take, but there’s more going on. It’s also about on-field performance.

This brings us to MLB’s new uniforms.

News of the new Nike-designed and Fanatics’-produced Vapor Premier uniforms began leaking during the offseason with Paul Lukas at Uniwatch providing some useful background. (He also explained the design process.)

Last week, what had mostly been rumor became official as the uniforms made their debut at spring training complexes.

Here’s a passage from MLB’s press release:

Developed over multiple years, the Nike Vapor Premier jersey was engineered to improve mobility, moisture management and fit, while keeping sustainability in mind — bringing inspiration and innovation to athletes. Its breathable, lightweight, high-performance fabric was made for at least 90% recycles polyester yarns. It also provides 25% more stretch and allows the jersey to dry 28% faster, with moisture-wicking Dri-Fit ADV technology to help ensure athletes stay cool all game long. Using the latest in digital technology, Nike body-scanned more than 300 baseball players to dial in the idea fit — more athletic and form-fitting than the previous chassis.

Whenever I’m given a document that relies on adjectives and lots of high-tech-sounding language with accompanying percentages and nods to sustainability, I become leery because a lack of clarity is generally not a good sign. Follow that up with enthusiastic endorsements from Nolan Arenado, Adley Rutschman, and Ronald Acuña Jr./strong>, and the press release feels more like a pre-buttal.

Before moving into some specifics, this post from Patrick Lyons at Rockies spring training provides a nice starting point:


Still, the early reviews are, uh, not good.


So, taking into account the perspectives of players and fans, here are five reasons these new uniforms are bad.


1. Player names and numbers are smaller — and harder to read


In its design, Nike decided to narrow the placket (which leaves less spaces for numbers and lettering), reduce the size of the name on the back and remove the outline stitching, and drop the MLB logo below the collar trim. Practically speaking, the changes make the uniform less useful for spectators who are trying to find players on the field.

At the end of the day, a jersey is the way by which a player is identified — and surely this is especially important during spring training when teams are dealing with a number of prospects from their minor-league system as well as MiLB contract signees who are less familiar to both team staff and fans.

If players can’t be quickly identified by their uniform, the garment has fundamentally failed in doing what it needs to do.


2. According to players, the pants don’t fit — and worse


Here’s what Los Angeles Angels closer Carlos Estévez told The Athletic: “When I wear my pants, I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s pants.” Miles Mikolas agrees with Estévez.

Stephen J. Nesbitt writes, “Pitchers, in particular, are huffing about their pants. Before last year, according to multiple pitchers, they had several measurements taken for their pants, which then were tailored. Nike has since simplified the fitting process, and tailoring is not on the table.”

Actually, it makes sense pitchers would be so finicky about their pants, beyond the aesthetics. They’re, well, pitching, and they need to be comfortable and not dealing with a wardrobe malfunction so that they can do their jobs. (The next time you go to the gym, wear a pair of pants that don’t fit in the way you want them to, and see how it affects your workout.)

If players aren’t getting the equipment they need, then it’s a problem.

Then there’s the quality of the fabric. Check out this Cal Raleigh video short:

Those pants are, uh, revealing — and not in an especially attractive way.


3. They don’t look as good


Some of the problems appear on the front of the jersey.

A most obvious case in point here are the iconic Los Angeles Dodgers uniforms, which are no longer white, and now the “DODGERS” script breaks in the “D” rather than between the “O” and the “D.”  (Read more here and here). This is, again, due to the narrowed placket.

Other problems emerge on the back where the player’s name appears.

The “VERLANDER” is getting a bit crowded there.

Consider the Philadelphia Phillies jerseys, which no longer have chain stitching. (Only the St. Louis Cardinals do now, which they had to petition for.)

Dansby Swanson questioned whether the blue is the “Cubbie blue” that’s been a team trademark.

You know, an MLB player’s uniform really shouldn’t look like something that got picked up at an outlet mall.


4. Fans, too, get lesser-quality jerseys 


Of course, players spend much of their time wearing these uniforms, but fans buy them — sometimes at considerable cost. (And Fanatics’ history on this is not good.)

Here’s a comparison from Bobby Mullins focused on the Seattle Mariners’ replica jerseys:

According to Mullins, much of the stitching is gone with these garments more like a “shirsey” than a replica jersey.

Officially, fans will have three versions to choose from. Here’s how MLB describes the options:

  • Elite jersey: “Authentic jersey, as worn by players on-field.”
  • Limited jersey: “Inspired by the on-field jersey, featuring an embroidered Nike Swoosh, heat applied twill logos and a woven, heat applied jocktag, heat-applied sublimated twill palyer name and number.”
  • Game jersey: “Replica player jersey, featuring silicone printed heat transfer from wordmark, Nike Swoosh and Silhouetted Batter, screen-printed back player name and number, heat-applied jocktag and back neck label.”

If you appreciate true craftsmanship in your jerseys, the 2024 version looks to be a bitter disappointment.


5. Despite complaints, nothing will probably change


According to Nesbitt, MLB players are so irritated that they asked the MLB Players Association may step in, an action that Sam Blum reports has happened.

That’s all well and good — and exactly the kind of issue the Players Union should be addressing.

But none of this seems unlikely to elicit any change in the near term. Surely, MLB, Nike, and Fanatics hope this will all just go away (“vaporize,” perhaps?).

Plus, in comments to the media on Thursday, Rob Manfred showed no sign of changing course.

“The jerseys are different,” Manfred said. “They’re designed to be performance wear as opposed to what’s been traditionally worn, so they are going to be different. But they have been tested more extensively than any jersey in any sport. The feedback from the All-Star Game last year where the jerseys were worn was uniformly positive from the players, so I think after people wear them a little bit, they’re going to be really popular.”


I’ll take the under.

Renee Dechert

Renee Dechert writes about baseball and fandom, often with a focus on the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. (She's also an English professor, but the baseball is more interesting.) Follow her on Twitter (@ReneeDechert) or Bluesky (@ReneeDechert.com).

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