I really do hate it when I'm wrong. Lucky for me and those around me, it's an extremely rare occurence! But today, it happened. At the gym while on the treadmill, I suddenly looked in the mirror and realized that my lululemon pants were incredibly baggy, saggy and losing all elasticity. As I looked on in horror, I realized that they were indeed sliding off of my sweet ass while running! And I was going commando, FYI, so this was indeed a crisis!
"WAIT A MINUTE!" shouted one of the voices in my head, after I turned down the Kelly Clarkson on the pod, just as the other voices stopped screaming, "SINCE YOU BEEN GOOOOOOOOONE!"
"These pants were expensive and they are supposed to last forever and I've only had them for a few months!" I continued, incredulously, in my internal monologue.
"But you have washed them at least twice a week since you got them!" chimed in yet another voice."The wear and tear of the laundry has really taken its toll!"
"AHA! This is why those baseball players need to wear durable, indestructable polyester afterall," another voice said, as a lightbulb went off over my head, right there on the treadmill.
"Oh my goodness, can you imagine if players wore Lululemon pants and they got all saggy and baggy and looked so horrible like this?" yet another voice asked.
"HEY! You better stop running pronto or you're going to cause a scene here, while you're busy with this idiotic internal monologue!" said the final voice of reason, as I pictured the pants falling down and getting tangled up around my ankles, causing me to go shooting off the back of the treadmill, which is my biggest fear — probably bigger than the fear of being seen bottomless at the swanky Equinox Soho.
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But it did get me thinking about the "Sports & Fashion" chapter in GameFace, where Chris and I asked the burning question: Although some leagues seem to have evolved and incorporated high-tech fabrics into their uniforms, why are baseball players — the boys of summer — still wearing double-knit, polyester pants? Why do they have to wear this hot, itchy, heavy fabric for a good five+ hours per day, 162 games per season — many of which are played during prime sun hours?
I mean, come on people! We have laptops, cell phones, Hot Pockets and all sorts of modern conveniences — why the polyester!? To help us get to the bottom of this unsolved mystery, we tapped into some experts in the illustrious pages of our book, and this is what we found out...
The first person we turned to was Paul Lukas, the mildly obsessive mind behind the Uni Watch website. In his daily blog known as Uni Watch, Lukas chronicles every detail of every uniform on the planet — from font size to stitch color and from the underbill of a player’s hat to the cleats on his shoes. Every day, he documents even the most minute of changes in unis on his site UniWatchBlog.com, and he periodically files lengthier trend pieces for ESPN.com. To be fair, he describes Uni Watch as “The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics,” so he knows he’s a bit on the fanatical side. And he’s not alone. His site receives 15,000 hits per day — meaning he has quite a few fellow uniform fanatics ...
After quite a fascinating interview, which you'll have to read in the book, I did finally ask Lukas my burning question, he said:
“Well, the fabrics are certainly not as hot as the wool people wore in the 1950s.” It was in 1970 that the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team to sport the solid-polyester double-knits that we have today, he continued. That was nearly 40 years ago, we thought. We still wondered why these guys were sporting polyester, when we can hop over to Lululemon and get the most fabulous yoga pants that are lightweight, stylish and wick moisture away? Well, Erica wondered about that while Chris looked out the window. “The double-knits are lighter, easy to clean, less expensive,” he told us. “But I’d like to see them in natural fibers. I hate the way synthetic fibers look. I don’t care if they’re comfortable. I want them to look good.” It reminded us of that Seinfeld episode when George talked Steinbrenner into letting the Yankees play in cotton. (Unfortunately, the unis shrunk after one washing, and tore as the Yankees played.) In his blog, Lukas does cover the ill-fated attempt by the White Sox to wear shorts in the first game of a 1976 double-header (the players hated them, and changed into pants for the second game), as well as the Minor League Hollywood Stars pin-striped shorts worn for warm-weather games for two seasons. (Guess no one thought about sliding?)
That's all Lukas had for us. But we still had a few remaining questions about sports uniforms and fashion. So we headed straight to the source — directly to the very people who manufacture these uniforms. We headed to Majestic Uniforms in Bangor, Pennsylvania — population 5,319.
Driving through the rolling green hills of rural Pennsylvania, you certainly don’t feel like you’re heading to the place where most MLB uniforms are manufactured. You feel like you’re driving to some cute B&B or to a gun convention. But pulling into the driveway of the Majestic headquarters, we were impressed. We were equally impressed by Nicole Capobianco, the Director of Club Outfitting ...
After a really cool interview (seriously), we thought we’d ask Capobianco for her take on why ballplayers wear the damn polyester pants ...
“It’s about durability,” she said. “Each player is issued two road jerseys, two home jerseys and two alternate jerseys, so the fabric has to be durable and withstand not only running and sliding, but also the laundry.” You mean to tell us that one of the main reasons they’re stuck in polyester is it’s the only fabric that will stand up to Tide?! “Yeah, that and another reason is that baseball is tradition-based,” she continued. “Anything too fashion-forward would not work. We’re still living in a double-knit world.” Capobianco went on to share with us some new fabrics being unveiled for on-field use — a Cool-Base TM jersey for warm-weather play, and a Therma-Base TM fleece warm-up jacket for those cold early-season or postseason nights. They were indeed innovative, but will only be used for jerseys and warm-ups. Not pants. Not yet.
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During today's fiasco, I experienced this overwashed/Tide phenomenon first-hand. I tossed those Lulu pants in the trash faster than you can say "overpriced and overhyped!" Inspired by Nicole, I also think that I might soon be living in a double-knit world over at Equinox, as well. If you happen to be in Soho and see an extremely youthful looking lady with a long brunette ponytail, wearing Manny Ramirez-type running pants, stop by and say hello! But please do not distract me so that my baggy Manny-pants get caught up in the machine — causing my terrifying treadmill nightmare to come true!