Fashion blogs are all over the Internet these days, from the Sartorialist’s style-making streetside photos to 1990s First Basemen Week contributor Jesse Thorn and his men’s fashion blog Put This On. Troops of professionals and weekend stylists scour the streets of Brooklyn and the world snapping portraits of youths in leather shoes and old men in double-breasted suits. I enjoy these image-heavy style blogs. Their subjects are often idiosyncratic and interesting and more bold than your average Joe. Mister Mort, one of my favorites, finds some real characters whose style often includes just one fantastic adornment amidst an ensemble of crazy.
With Mort’s work being a more extreme example, style blogs chronicle this continual tension between the traditional, the contemporary, and the futuristic. Baseball fields are another such battleground, where a few intrepid sports put heat to the glass of tradition and warp it into some novel shape. Others, in my humble opinion, succumb to the overwhelming weight of skewed tradition and/or mediocrity. In any event, I’ve got my opinions, and that’s what I’ll do here.
And so, taking my own turn at the wheel, I present the Pitchers & Poets Style Academy, Volume 1, in which I decide for myself which players’ style on-the-field sets them apart, and which players’ stand out for their sourness.
Note: In this volume, I am taking into account only on-field presentation. I am not bold enough to venture into what some of these dudes wear in their privatest times (Exhibit A).
Fashion Five: The Height of Style
Ichiro, whose style has personified the Japanese look in America for a solid decade now, creates harmony among the disparate elements that comprise his rig. A glint of silver in his high tops echoes the shimmer of his batting gloves, which in turn calls out to the silver in the Mariners cap. The neat crest of his pant leg where it meets the high sock, and the close fit of his jersey on his narrow frame accentuate the speed that comes with the silver lining.
Dreadlocks are more commonplace now than ever, and now that Manny Ramirez has retired, they can return to respectability as a charming style component, best displayed by Reyes, the kinetic, quick-footed shortstop. What better to trail a speedster as he takes the extra base, like built-in motion lines? Reyes’ modern baggy pants also reflect his kinetic style.
Proprietor of the beard with its own Twitter feed, Jayson Werth pulls off dramatic facial hair while maintaining a sense of decorum that a showman like Brian Wilson jettisoned long ago. While Wilson clings to the meme that began last year, letting his boot polish bristle expand, Werth doesn’t fear change, and he’s known to trim down to a soul patch (causing his Twitter doppelganger to enter SOUL PATCH MODE). Beard aside, Werth’s pants and jersey are of a full cut that looks back to an age-old style while remaining contemporary.
For decades, now, this man mountain’s visual style has worked in perfect tandem with the way he plays baseball. Who else could successfully tuck his pant cuffs into his high tops but a player of Vlad’s trademark aggressive effectiveness. Guerrero’s giant legs help the idiosyncratic gambit succeed. Subtract batting gloves, add pine tar, finger tape, and one of the very few successful chin-only goatees, and the swing-away vision of Vlad is complete.
I don’t necessarily agree with Mike Napoli’s style. I’m not a gold chain guy. But I respect the completeness of the effort. Chain, tightly bounded beard, ornamental arm tats, hair flowing from his helmet, wide red armtape. If Russell Crowe played a major leaguer, I would expect to see the same full-bodied commitment to the aesthetic. Not since Piazza’s handlebar mustache has a catcher so boldly defied the aesthetic limitations of life behind the mask.
Fashion Five Hole: The Dregs
I’m not immune to the impact of Luke Scott’s politics when evaluating his look, but it seems fair to say that his style choices hint at his strange brew of ideas and behaviors. For years, his sideburns have been cut higher than a Monty Burns employee, and the snug fit of his jersey top and his devotion to gaudy Oakley sunglasses suggests an unhealthy attachment to the Reagan Era. And, of late, some kind of
mullet thing has been seen creeping out of the back of his helmet. Also, this.
Beckett is, in my eyes, the lead culprit in the disparaging trend of nausea-inducing magic necklaces and repulsive chin beards that are so common in today’s game (there are whole Houston Astros teams from 2007 to 2009 that lionize and emulate Beckett’s style the way hipster ladies look to Zooey Deschanel). Back during his rise to prominence with the Marlins in 2003, Beckett was a fresh faced young power pitcher sporting a chin disaster. Follies of youth can be excused, if only Beckett had abandoned the gaff in the interim. Instead, he’s elevated the chin beard to an art form, like a Thomas Kinkaid painting or a faded tag on a stop sign in Topeka.
Big men don’t have it easy when it comes to looking good in a baseball uniform. The solution, however, is not to add twenty-four square feet of additional fabric to the ensemble. Plus, he wears his cap less crooked/awesome than he used to.
Sometimes, a single fatal flaw can sink an entire presentation. In Hideki Matsui’s case, it’s the grandpa-grade altitude of his waistline.
With his “roadie for the WARPED tour” multi-leveled beard, his “roadie for Led Zeppelin” bell-bottom pants, and his “roadie for the Chili Peppers” necklace menagerie, Shawn Marcum could front a crappy rock band in any of three decades.