They Wore WHAT? The Odd History of Sports Uniforms

Football team uniforms

Athletic apparel was created after the fact of the game was conceived. Meaning, people were naturally inclined to play, to run and jump and kick, but they lacked clothing that would allow them to perform their best. This resulted in soccer teams, baseball teams, and track and field team uniforms that look a little odd from our current vantage point. The trend in sports today is lightweight, breathable materials that allow freedom of movement. Read below to find out how far sports uniforms have come.

No Distractions In This Fast-Paced Game.

There is some dispute about where exactly the game of soccer originated. What is known is that many of the rules of the game as it is played today where written down October 1863 in London, England by the Association of Football. Early soccer team uniforms would sometimes consist of wear matching striped sweaters with their wool trousers and work boots. The stripes were simple to weave into the fabric, but other teams would sometimes choose to sew badges onto their uniforms instead. Shin guards were not required until 1984, even though Samuel Widdowson, a player for Nottingham Forest, came up with the design all the way back in 1874. Gloves to protect the goal keepers hands were added later. As the uniforms changed, so did the ball. It used to be made from a heavy leather shell inflated with a pig’s bladder.

Freedom of Movement Reigns Supreme on the Field.
Track and field team uniforms are traditionally not as flashy as the team uniforms in other sports. There are currently over 20 different events in the track and field division of the Olympic games. The trend in track and field team uniforms has leant towards the tradition of the original games in Greece, which is to allow the body to move as naturally and freely as possible without any restriction due to clothing.

Baseball Has Always Favored Funny Hats.

It was in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846 that the first official game of baseball was played. The game was not even called baseball at first; it was referred to as ‘town ball’ or simply ‘base’. Alexander Cartwright organized that first game, and the Cartwright Knickerbockers formalized the rules and their baseball team uniforms in 1849. The white collared shirt, trousers, and leather shoes are recognizable, with the exception of the straw boater hat players wore to keep the sun off their faces out of their eyes. Caps were shortly switched out, and today batters take the precaution of wearing a protective helmet.

The moral here seems to be, where there is a will there is a way. Sometimes this requires a new way of thinking, as evidenced by the changes to fabric and design. Interestingly, athletic apparel has increasingly moved towards less covering but more protection. Ultimately the goal is to allow the athlete to do what they do best: play.

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