Independence Day is right around the corner, which means MLB teams will be wearing stars-and-stripes-themed uniforms on July 2, 3, and 4. Some fans view the holiday uniforms as a worthy gesture of patriotism, while others see them as just another way for MLB to sell more merchandise. (It should be noted that proceeds from sales go to MLB Charities to support programs for service men and women, veterans and military families.) Either way, the tradition is now a standard part of MLB's Fourth of July look.
This season's stars-and-stripes jerseys are essentially the same as last year's, although there has been a bit of controversy regarding this year's caps, which were originally slated to have "We the People" printed on the caps' underbrims -- a historical and civic faux pas, because the phrase "We the People" comes from the Constitution, while Independence Day honors the Declaration of Independence. After this was pointed out, MLB removed the phrase from the caps.
MLB's use of flag-based cap imagery for the Independence Day holiday began in 2002, as a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Over the years, the star-spangled elements have evolved from simple flag patches on caps to more elaborate cap and jersey designs. Here's a look back at how that evolution has progressed:
2002-07: MLB players wear American flag patches on the sides of their caps. The flag patches are sewn on for the first few seasons but are later applied via adhesive, which leads to some issues when some players' patches come askew or fall off and are then reapplied in the wrong spot and/or upside-down.
From 2002-07, MLB didn't have special uni designs for Independence Day. Players just wore American flag patches on their caps. pic.twitter.com/QsqKkOZDJT— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
In 2006-07, American flag cap patches sometimes came loose, with players either not noticing or, in some cases, reapplying the patches upside-down. pic.twitter.com/8fI81Vqz7X— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2008: MLB introduces navy-blue Independence Day caps with the team logos rendered in star-spangled patterns. The blue caps fit in fine with some teams' uniforms and not so well with others.
MLB's first stars/stripes caps debuted in 2008. All the caps were navy blue, which worked OK with some teams' color schemes and not so well with others. pic.twitter.com/KqEckMPBRg— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2009: The caps change from navy to red while maintaining the flag-themed team logos. Once again, the color scheme works better for some teams than for others.
MLB changed the 4th of July caps from navy to red in 2009. pic.twitter.com/bEY8z62QlE— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2010: After dabbling with blue caps and red caps, MLB tries -- of course -- white caps. Some teams are assigned blue brims while others get red. With all three of America's national colors now having been used, the uni-verse wonders what design solution MLB will come up with for the following year.
MLB teams used white caps - some with blue brims, some with red - for Independence Day in 2010. pic.twitter.com/3ctUMlC8lK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2011: Answer: The 2011 caps feature a mix of red and blue caps with white front panels. As usual, teams with a lot of red or blue in their uniforms look OK. Other teams, not so much.
In 2011, MLB's stars/stripes caps were red for some teams, blue for others, with white front panels - fine if you're the Red Sox or Rays, not so great if you're the A's. pic.twitter.com/nUrw6N0JDG— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2012: The good news: no more trying to shoehorn teams into red or blue. Teams get to wear their standard cap colors. The bad news: The team logos on the caps are rendered in camouflage, which (A) looks sort of muddy on the field, and (B) makes no sense, because Independence Day is not a military holiday. But hey, they had to come up with something!
In 2012, MLB moved away from stars/stripes for Independence Day caps, and instead used camouflage team logos. pic.twitter.com/NCANPLAAws— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2013: The good news: no more camouflage. The bad news: MLB basically goes back to the 2010 template -- white caps with either blue or red brims, except the road teams get gray caps instead of white.
For 2013's Independence Day, MLB home teams wore white caps with either blue or red brims and star-spangled team logos. Road teams wore the same thing, but with gray crowns instead of white. pic.twitter.com/fuUSec6qPK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2014: Interesting format this year, as the American League teams wear red caps with navy brims, the National League wears the reverse, and the team logos are presented against the backdrop of a flag-themed star (which looks particularly odd for the Astros, whose team logo is already a star).
2014 Independence Day caps: Red for AL teams, blue for NL teams, flag-themed stars for all! pic.twitter.com/Bm49oAj2lh— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2015: MLB ups the ante by introducing Independence Day jerseys, which feature star-spangled graphics. As for the caps, they're back to solid red and solid blue, but with a sublimated flag pattern waving in the background.
After more than a decade of stars/stripes caps for Independence Day, MLB introduced matching jerseys in 2015. pic.twitter.com/sXLbUBBmN1— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 25, 2018
2016: The holiday uniform program hits a low point, as the jersey graphics feature a star pattern that's hard to discern unless you're looking from a few inches away, and the caps look surplus inventory from a carnival promotion. Woof.
Let's just say that 2016 wasn't the best year for MLB's stars/stripes uniform program. pic.twitter.com/P6BRFw8IYa— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 26, 2018
2017: MLB ups the ante again, decreeing that the holiday uniforms will be worn for the four-day Independence Day weekend, not just on July 4. As for the designs, the jerseys feature star-spangled graphics, the caps feature new "LiquidChrome" logos. Meanwhile, holiday socks are added to the mix for the first time, transforming the uniform into more of a costume.
MLB's 2017 stars/stripes designs were worn for the entire four-day Independence Day holiday, not just on the Fourth of July. pic.twitter.com/qh7pzCpm6i— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 26, 2018
Last year's MLB Independence Day uniforms featured stars/stripes socks for the first time. pic.twitter.com/kykJJgENMm— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 26, 2018
And there we are -- all caught up.
Paul Lukas wishes everyone a happy Independence Day. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.