The announcement earlier this week that Major League Baseball has teamed up with noted sock maker Stance on a multi-year deal as the league’s official sock supplier is an interesting development. On the surface, it may not seem as big as last year’s contract renewal with Majestic for the MLB uniforms. For Stance, Major League Baseball, and uniform nerds like myself, this could be a big sartorial move both aesthetically and financially.
If you were judging the importance of baseball socks or stirrups in MLB, based on how many players wear them, it would be down near the bottom. According to Stance’s research, nearly 90 percent of players favor long pants covering the socks. The league does have some stars who like to expose hosiery. Andrew McCutchen has been seen wearing the striped socks. Chris Archer loves the striped stirrup. Bryce Harper can be seen ranging from long pants to colored socks to colored stirrups. For Stance, they need more stars or more players in general donning socks.
The days of players willing wearing socks, let alone stirrups, are part of a distant memory. As much as a team’s identity is in the logos, hats, or uniforms of yesteryear, the stirrups are a big part as well. As iconic as the uniforms for the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals or Oakland Athletics, the striped stirrups they wore were also as notable. Even the double-knit A’s looked great in solid colored stirrups. As time passed and uniforms evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, we saw the stirrup get thinner and less exposure.
At the start of this century, you saw more and more players go to the long pants. Outside of some exceptions, like the 1997 Cleveland Indians navy socks or Anthony Reyes‘ retro team stirrups, it seemed like hosiery was dying in the game.
With a small group of players embracing the sock game, there is hope for a revival. Stance and Major League Baseball are banking on it. Stance is becoming a hit with their current deal with the NBA and their fans.
Stance is being very proactive in the style and design. Rather than just slap MLB team logos on their current line, the company is designing socks with baseball in mind. At the same time, they plan on discussing designs with teams to better help integrate them with the Majestic uniforms.
The hope is that more players will wear these Stance socks in hopes of not only increasing sales but also drawing kids to the game. Given the league’s push for the Play Ball initiative, this could be a valuable marketing move.
As a lifelong stirrup fan myself, I’m hoping that this pays off for not only Stance but also the league in terms of getting kids interested in the game. Yes, this is yet another way to market more merchandise alongside the numerous special event hats and jerseys. We should be aware of how popular those items are by now.
While Stance has built its reputation on lots of trendy designs on their basketball socks, I’m hoping they and the teams help design socks and stirrups to traditional styles not seen in a few decades. Even going further to market those same styles to fans, I’d be first in line buying them for my softball/baseball/kickball league uniform. It will be even better to see stirrups in both the striped variety and with the logo, like the ones the Minnesota Twins have worn.
It is doubtful that socks will help promote Major League Baseball the way the NBA benefited from the rise of sneaker collectors in the 1990s. If they can get kids more invested in the games by way of team socks, then it will be a huge boost to the game’s great fanbase.