Opening day is right around the corner, and plenty of baseball fans will filter into stadiums across the country to root for their home team. These same spectators will inevitably snatch up jerseys in the team pro shops—if they’re not wearing them already. While these fans will almost certainly never grace the batter’s box themselves, they continue to don jerseys as both a symbol of support and a style statement to boot. These uniforms, vintage and current, are a time-honored tradition tracing back decades in both the ballpark and on the street.

What these fans might not consider, however, is why they’re wearing their jerseys, or how the current MLB uniform rose to prominence. Much like their fans, teams began wearing matching garments as a sign of unity—using synchronized colors and logos as a signifier to teammates and fans. While the present day uniform has evolved to accommodate modern technology and aesthetic tastes, it was far from a sudden shift. The story spans generations, charting how the league finally arrived at the intersection of form and function.

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