Here is a little something to tide me over. I started this series before the 2011 season about the many, many uniform changes that the White Sox have undergone in their 110 year history. I got as far as the late 1940s before life and the new baseball season caught up with me. I have no real excuse as to why I didn’t continue after the season or at all in 2012, but I didn’t. Seeing however, that the most exciting news thus far from the White Sox is the re-signing of Dewayne Wise and additions to the coaching staff, I figured that a blog with Sox in the title should at some point cover the White Sox. The good thing is that I still have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to the White Sox and their clothes. The period from 1949 until the present is quite possibly one of the richest periods of White Sox uniform design history. Hell the 1970s alone will probably be a post all its own.
1949 is a watershed year for the White Sox and their uniforms. As you can see it is very similar to the current uniform and by the time we get to the end of the decade the uniform will be even more like the late twentieth century version. There are some important differences too, but first 1949 which is such a transitional garment that it deserves a little more scrutiny. First the links to the past, the cap still has the “C” as the logo, but instead of keeping with the block font of 1948, it is more of calligraphic style. Matching that style, the “SOX” on the jersey also has a more scripted look. At first glance on the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit website the 1949 kit looks black and white but when looking up details, specifically the hat, the primary colors are clearly navy blue and white. Perhaps the team was looking at the clubs dominating play in the AL through the 1940s, namely the Yankees and closer to home, the Tigers. Throughout the decade the Yankees were the dominant force, but the Tigers did manage two pennants and a few second-place finishes. Another reason for the change might be the awful season that the White Sox had in 1948, the second time the team finished with more than 100 losses. Nothing says fresh start more than a new set of duds.
The introduction of the Old English SOX is the most significant change to the uniform, if for no other reason it became the standard logo of the club from 1949 until 1975. After a bit of an absence it returned in 1990. Other than that, the 1949-1950 uniforms are pretty basic. The home kit is all white, except for the logo, no piping, no other detail. The away uniforms are the traditional gray with a block Chicago across the front. The home outfits look a great deal like the Tigers, sans the piping and the away shirts look a great deal like the away shirts worn by the Yankees. It definitely was a transitional look for the team and by 1951 a bolder look came about that would be made famous by the 1959 World Series team.
The 1951-1963 might be my favorite design, at least a close number two. With a few alterations to the socks over the years, the uniforms were very consistent. The home style is particularly good. The navy blue of the past is exchanged for black which was such a great choice. No other AL team was using black as a primary color. Actually every team but the St. Louis Browns, who naturally chose brown, were using navy blue in their color scheme. 1951 also saw the re-introduction of pinstripes to the White Sox and this wasn’t the norm either with only the Yankees and Senators sporting the modern flair. I must admit I would love to get my hands on one of the patches all the AL teams wore in 1951 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the American League.
What really makes the 1951-1963 look work is the subtle use of red in the design. The Old English Sox, the cap logo and the stirrups all have red highlights, a really eye catching effect. If I could make any changes to this look I would coordinate the hat and jersey logos, making them both Old English. The two different fonts are distracting and really hurt the uniformity (ha!) of the overall look. I would also do away with the pinstripes. I know the White Sox introduced stripes to their look in 1912, the same year that the Yankees did and that the Yankees did away with the stripes for a few years. But face it pinstripes belong to the Yankees, especially by 1951. It is kind of like when a band does a cover of a song that just outshines the original or is better than any other covers of that song. Just because that artist didn’t write it or perform it first doesn’t make it any less associated with the more well-known or better version. For example, John Prine wrote Angel of Montgomery, but Bonnie Raitt performs it the best. Even so, I don’t hate the stripes, but just feel they are a bit derivative.
Looking at the entire league during this span, 1951-1963, the uniforms really are a testament to the times. Other than the individual logos and the three teams with stripes, the uniforms are remarkably similar. They are a perfect representation of the 1950s and the culture of conformity. The colors are the corporate palette that dominated American business and male fashion for the early cold-war period. Black, blue and the travelling all-purpose gray are the only colors that were in use. There is only a splash of red in some of the designs, but all the caps for the teams are dark, much like the standard fedora of the day. Baseball, the national pastime, looked like the corporate game. No one looked too different. No one stood out. In an era of fear and anxiety about a communist invasion or nuclear attack, the calm, steady clean cut appeal of baseball was reflected in the clothes they wore.
It wouldn’t be until 1962 that the Kansas City A’s finally broke out and made red a primary color of one of their uniforms that this conformity would be broken. As far as the White Sox were concerned, the 1960s through the 1970s would bring radical changes to their uniforms. Love them or loathe them, the next era of White Sox fashion is definitely the most diverse, bizarre and divisive among the fans.