“Rooting for the Clothes”: The Materialization of Memory in Baseball’s Throwback Uniforms
Department of Writing and Communication
NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture
At their essence, sports jerseys function as symbolic materializations that foster a constitutive identity and unity between fans, players, and cities or regions. When new teams are created, often the team logo and uniform are the first manifestations of the team’s identity. These designs are so important that many franchises consult with professional marketing firms on new designs intended to connect with new fans and maximize merchandizing streams.1 Furthermore, when teams acquire new players, the first act as a new member of the team often involves a ceremonial press conference that is opened by the new player donning the team’s jersey (a similar practice takes place during amateur drafts for new players). The jersey thus signifies both an identity and a membership while existing as a transformative object with its own magical provenance: the wearer, whether on the field or off, defers their individual identity for the sake of a team. As such, jerseys are constantly put in place as performance pieces, as when uniforms are raised to arena rafters to give enduring presence to their greatness, or when city statues are draped in team jerseys to unite the citizenry. These uniforms come to symbolize more than just a team; they can become transcendent icons that represent a city, even a country, and its enduring memories.
Andon, S. (2013). “Rooting for the Clothes”: The Materialization of Memory in Baseball’s Throwback Uniforms. NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, 21 (2), 32-55. https://doi.org/10.1353/nin.2013.0028