They say that the clothes make the man. Indeed, the garments we drape about ourselves to hide our naughty bits and our otherwise awkward and silly looking bodies say a great deal about who we are, what we value, and how we want to be perceived. Like it or not, clothes say something about us that anyone who sees us can hear loud and clear.
It's for that reason that when the Astros new uniforms are unveiled later today, it will be more than just a merchandising event. We already have a rough idea, thanks to Major League Baseball's blabby merchandise arm, but we don't really know what they'll say to us until we see Jose Altuve come out in a children's small to model them for us all.
What we do know is what the great and not so great uniforms of the past and present have said about those brave men who sported them:
For one season, the Dodgers had both vertical and horizontal stripes on their home and away uniforms and looked vaguely like walking, talking, ballplaying waffles. It seemed to work for them, as they won 94 games and made it to the World Series (where they were beaten handily by Babe Ruth's Red Sox). By 1917, they only wore them on the road, and they were gone by 1918.
What They Say: We were too lazy to change out of our pajamas, so we just ironed on these giant Bs.
Bill Veeck did so many wonderful things in the game of baseball. Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, Max Patkin, Eddie Gaedel...the game was simply richer for having him in it. He even testified in favor of Curt Flood in 1970 in his suit challenging baseball's reserve clause. Unfortunately, the 1970s proved to be Veeck's undoing, and perhaps no idea (not even Disco Demolition Night) was worse that putting ballplayers in shorts.
What They Say: Our powerful legs cannot possibly be contained.
A terrible idea for a single season, these solid maroon uniforms looked like matching pajamas, or some poorly dyed prison jumpsuits.
What They Say: These effectively hide not only hide most of the bloodstains from our murder spree, but we have plenty of pockets to hide our cocaine.
Yes, the oranges all look ridiculous stacked on top of one another like that, but they're supposed to represent the trail of a rocket blasting through the stars. And speaking of rockets, by God, man, look at who's wearing them! Nolan Ryan and the criminally underappreciated J.R. Richard!
What They Say: We are so badass, we even manage to make this look good.
An interesting idea in its conception, but horrifying in its result. In 1998, the Mariners and Royals played a single game where they pretended it was 2027. Fans thought it was cute, so MLB expanded it for 1999 to every team in the league. Apparently, in MLB's vision of the future, no one had any sense of self-awareness or basic fashion sense.
What They Say: We have seen the future, and it sucks. Go back while you still can.
A tribute to America's service men and women, who get 50% off of Padres tickets every Sunday at Petco Park. Heroes deserve better than half off tickets to see San Diego and an alternate uniform, but since that's probably not forthcoming, they'll have to make do. At least it's a nice gesture, even if the vast majority of San Diego-based service people are Navy, and thus would have little use for the type of camouflage sported by the Pads.
What They Say: You can't see me (or my won-lost record)!
All of these past experiments should fill Astros fans with a little bit of trepidation, but from what we've seen, the new unis and color scheme look understated and sharp, the kind of classic design that a team could wear for the next 50 years if market pressures didn't inspire teams to change simply to sell more jerseys. But you know what would make those jerseys look even sharper? Put J.R. Richard in one and retire his number 50 already. All he did was become the most dominant pitcher in the National League and pitch through a stroke for the team while doctors and his GM insisted his symptoms were all in his head. If indeed these new uniforms are a nod to Houston's past, they should acknowledge that history in full and do right by it. Lord knows it will make them look good, in more ways than one.