This morning, I went to a Major League Baseball (MLB) match - in Covent Garden. Such is the brilliance of VR. I've never been to a baseball match before, but store manager Luke confirms the authenticity of the atmosphere re-created in the film in between my 'wows' of approval as I was immersed into the spirit and atmosphere of a match at Petco Park, San Diego. The store feels like a cool fan hangout with memorabilia and merchandise intermixed. The jerseys have an oversized, unisex styling appeal and I threw on a few styles whilst wandering around the shop floor, trying to work out which graphics, colour and embroidery I liked most.
Wanting to dig a little deeper into the sport and technical aspects of the clothing, I asked about the differences between the commercially available jerseys and the ones the baseball players wear. Luke explains that the professional jerseys are a denser, more durable textile, developed to withstand a battering on the baseball field. I immediately want one. The professional jerseys are made by Majestic in a factory in Pennsylvania, featured in the film below, to individual player specifications.
I spoke to Rob Grow, Director of Product, based in Easton, Pennsylvania, to delve a little deeper into the design and functionality of the on-field jerseys. What unravelled was a fascinating explanation of the development of a Flex Base system which took over four years of research, design and development to move away from a warp knit to a double knit textile that can withstand 162 plus games per season and that is light, breathable, has stretch and is light and colourfast. The jerseys incorporate breathable mesh side-panels and an airbelt for reduce bulk and heat below the belt line. The pant (trouser) waistband incorporates silicon grippers and an inner leg cooling zone. Add to this the preference of each player in terms of fit and the result is a tailored, custom-fit uniform matching function and style. For all the tradition of the final look, the final garments are packed with technical development to enhance the function and look. Majestic are currently developing sensor-embedded apparel for athlete monitoring and performance analysis. Rob is clear that wearable tech is a huge growth area that's "really taking off".
Rob describes an approach to design and development akin to that of a fashion atelier. All 1800 MLB players are measured by team members from Majestic during spring training to determine the individual specifications of each player's uniform. The players all have preference over fit and length, so no two uniforms are identical. There is an in-house flat-pattern cutter who has been drafting the patterns for all players by hand for many years, and one-on-one meetings are held with the players to ensure they are involved in the process. The construction uses cut and sew methods and is carried out in the manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania.
We talk about the stylistic choices of players and fans and I am surprised to hear that players and fans alike admit to preferring competitors jerseys. The level of detail they go into about colour and detailing is somewhat of a surprise and definitely supports the idea that jerseys are as much a fashion choice as a sportswear choice.
Majestic is using techniques including sublimation print to create fashion-led versions of the on-field jerseys that appeal to a younger consumer and create collections especially for retailers with this in mind. It also uses sublimation print on the new Diamondbacks on-field jersey.
Browsing around the shop I consider the varying trim and embroidery details on the jerseys and the stylised curved neck and hemlines which put this merchandise into the styling stakes for baseball and mere fashion fans alike. I plump for a Miami jersey with "Techstyler 3" and take a late night warmup swing on my roof, just for fun.
Taking advantage of the growing consumer appetite for customisation and instant consumer gratification , the MLB pop-up offers name and number personalisation in store, in around 10 mins. They've also got a MLB snapchat cap filter, which I styled jauntily (thanks to Photoshop).
MLB is set to go global with expansion to Europe and an already thriving league in Japan. I'll be match-ready when it comes to London. Majestic MLB jerseys - more than a uniform indeed.
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