Major League Baseball’s quest for the crown of cool will be on full display Tuesday when its best players strut their stuff in a red carpet extravaganza at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market ahead of the All-Star Game.
The fan-friendly event is as much a tribute to baseball’s iconic venue in street style, from game-exclusive hats and jerseys to classic jerseys, as it is an indication that MLB is becoming more fashion-forward. as a gateway to new audiences. and bow to pop culture.
«MLB gave me a stylist for this game,» said Corbin Carroll, a 22-year-old Seattle native who became the Arizona Diamondbacks’ breakout rookie. «The outfit is cool. Definitely not something I would choose for myself, but I’m kind of excited to show it off.»
Because like many Gen Zers, which includes those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Carroll described his off-duty style as more casual than couture: «Athleisure, not too many logos, simple, a good fit».
But it’s no coincidence that MLB is selecting the young mixed-race player as a style ambassador for its All-Star Red Carpet Show.
The league has suffered for years from the same audience problem. There’s a perception that baseball is so ingrained in American tradition that it can be a boring game aimed at veterans, meaning white fans, who still record scores by hand in the stands.
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«Sometimes perception becomes reality, but it’s never been accurate. Look at the youngsters — they’ve always been here,» said Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer. «We always want to attract the younger fans. It’s the foundation of any business.»
So MLB has been trying to spice up its image for years, watching in amazement as the NBA’s cultural dominance grew alongside the basketball stars who have established themselves as style kings among celebrity athletes, along with their sneakers, suits and street clothes.
The NBA is the No. 1 brand preference for Generation Z across all sports institutions, said Brandon Brown, a professor of sports management at New York University, in part because the game and its smart players are so tied to the culture of the game. urban hip-hop and themselves. -representation: things with which this generation identifies so much.
Since Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. himself, with his signature and very ’90s baseball cap, there hasn’t really been an MLB player seen as a cross-cultural superstar who could make a splash. only with his outfit. Brown said.
«He (was in) a lot of different outlets to speak to a multitude of audiences,» Brown said. «MLB is probably still looking for its next superstar in modern culture.»
Today, baseball officials also want to encourage their players to shine in the same way, knowing that the ticket for loyal fans can be found off the field, perhaps in a highly publicized red carpet extravaganza created to appear on social networks.
«It’s a really important event. The players enjoy it too,» Garden said. «It’s to highlight our best players and bring them closer to the fans.»
Among the league’s most forward-thinking players: Mariners star Julio Rodriguez, 22, whose outfit for Tuesday’s red carpet was handcrafted in Italy and pays homage to Seattle. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year works with a personal shopper.
«It’s something that’s going to connect very well with the city of Seattle, and I feel like it’s going to represent what the whole city is about,» Rodriguez said. «What do you think of when you think of Seattle? You think a little bit about the trees and the lakes and all that stuff, the beautiful summer. So, it will go towards that.»
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The look, complete with a pair of signature Alexander McQueen sneakers, was designed by Ethan Weisman, the founder of Pantheon Limited Custom Clothiers. Sports fans have certainly seen Weisman’s look before. He’s the man behind Ezekiel Elliott’s flashy tuxedo short in the 2016 NFL draft.
Garden said MLB’s forays into fashion aren’t really about merchandising revenue, since its high-end collaborations with the likes of Gucci don’t sell in volume.
«There are very limited numbers. It allows us to reach a very specific part of the fan base,» Garden said. «It’s a closer association with non-traditional brands.»
It’s such a coveted supply that some players have even called the front office to request a piece from MLB’s limited-edition Gucci collection, Garden said.
So, lest you believe the inelegant rumors, there have actually been many brief stops in baseball history with fashion.
There have been official collaborations with brands ranging from preppy Ralph Lauren to niche streetwear label Supreme. Baseball’s long-established role as a fashion inspiration is due in part to its pioneering sale of replica league jerseys. It was a socially conscious decision to celebrate the league-wide number 42 jersey on Jackie Robinson Day.
And arguably, the strategic licensing of the world famous New York Yankees logo, to borrow the words of iconic rapper Jay-Z, «has made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.» In fact, MLB’s fashion efforts are a big part of its international marketing plan, with France’s affinity for fashion tipping lately to break into the broader European market.
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«What they’re tapping into is a kind of cultural capital that’s not financial. It’s about the fans. It’s about nostalgia,» said Erin Corrales-Diaz, a Toledo Museum of Art curator who wrote a book about the jersey. baseball and the The influence of sport on fashion. «Fashion has always been a part of the sport, even if it hasn’t always been articulate.»
Even so, the MLB may still have a lot of work to do, as several All-Star players acknowledged that they weren’t quite on top of the fashion before Tuesday’s show.
The Diamondbacks’ Carroll flashed a sheepish smile describing her first time working with a stylist and her first time walking a red carpet event.
«I might be more nervous about that than the game,» Carroll said. «It’s definitely not my world, but I’m going to try to enjoy it.»