WORCESTER – With the debut of the Worcester Red Sox at the brand new Polar Park, the Worcester Art Museum wanted to get up to speed.
Its new exhibit, “The Iconic Jersey: Baseball x Fashion,” which opens June 12 and runs through September 12, is inspired by the arrival of the Worcester Red Sox in town, the exhibit curator said. , Erin R. Corrales-Diaz, who is also the Assistant Curator of the Museum of American Art.
“Absolutely. As one of the city’s cultural leaders, WAM really wanted to celebrate this monumental occasion,” she said.
But the exhibition is more than just a walk in the park. “The Iconic Jersey” is described as the first museum exhibit to focus specifically on the evolution of baseball jersey design and their impact on national culture at large.
“The Iconic Jersey” has 37 garments that include historic and contemporary baseball jerseys. There are also 50 other works such as baseball cards and baseball guides that help “put in context what we are looking at,” Corrales-Diaz said.
A baseball jersey worn by Jesse Tannehill of the Boston Red Sox that is featured in “The Iconic Jersey” appears to have a modern design. The top right front of the jersey has an image of a red sock with the heel and foot extending to the left side. The sock bears the inscription “BOSTON”.
In fact, the year is 1908, and the team just changed their name from Boston Americans to Boston Red Sox.
However, the new design change was a bit too much for some observers, Corrales-Diaz noted. “It really is a beautiful piece of clothing. But this new branding was not seen very favorably by the Boston press. It was seen as garish and was scrapped the following year.”
Logos take shape
From the early days of baseball to the mid to late 1840s, early teams didn’t have much visual identification, but that would change over time.
The New York Knickerbockers adopted the first baseball uniform in 1849. Seeking to professionalize and add credibility to the sport, other teams followed by developing the parameters of uniforms and clothing for their ball teams. .
A team’s name and city were markers, as well as stems in some cases (the New York Yankees, for example, in 1915) and colors.
Great care has been taken with graphic elements such as lettering. The Boston Red Sox began wearing uniform numbers on the back of their jerseys in 1931. Teams had different uniforms for home games and games played on the road.
Logos “slowly crept around the middle of the 20th century,” Corrales-Diaz said. There was a more identifiable visual branding or interaction with the cartoon mascots.
“Of course that has changed. It has constantly evolved,” she said.
The Baltimore Orioles, formerly the St. Louis Browns before moving to Baltimore in 1954, are a good example, she said.
The jerseys had the lettering “Orioles”, which would be changed to “Baltimore” and then back to “Orioles”. A few years ago, the jerseys had a bird on the shoulder, and the bird itself, also seen on the team’s baseball cap, has gone from realist to cartoonish, Corrales-Diaz said.
Baseball jerseys have evolved in a definite direction when it comes to their wearability.
“This is a major change. The design is moving towards player comfort and how it can improve player performance,” Corrales-Diaz said. Early uniforms included woolen flannel and ties or bow ties, “things that on hot summer nights are not quite ideal.”
The traditional baseball jersey is collarless, button-down and short-sleeved. However, the jersey has changed from wool to a polyester that is supposed to be “super stretchy and breathable” for players. And “from there it went from polyester to high tech fabrics,” she said.
While jerseys were becoming easier for players to wear, they were also clothing that fans were starting to adopt for themselves.
Replica team jerseys began to “creep into fan culture in the 1970s,” Corrales-Diaz said.
Wearing a replica of the team jersey is a way for fans to express their identity and also their belonging to a municipal entity.
“To show that they belong to the community, you have fans making their own jerseys,” Corrales-Diaz said. One interesting discovery she made for the show was a father who made his own swimsuits for him and his children which they wore to games.
“It really takes off from there. The 80s is really kind of free for everyone,” she said.
“Then Major League Baseball realizes, ‘Hey, this is really marketable and should be regulated,’” Corrales-Diaz said.
Meanwhile, does the jersey have your name on the back? Are you showing the world that you have such knowledge that you put on the wool flannel jersey of a team that no longer exists? For fans, “there are a lot of decisions to be made about which jersey to wear,” Corrales-Diaz said.
Beyond team identity, the baseball jersey has become a pop culture art form or a way to wear and make social commentary. The “The Iconic Jersey” exhibit features a Black Lives Matter jersey from MIZIZI, a streetwear brand representing the African diaspora that has been worn by protesters across the world. “Mizizi” means Swahili for “roots,” Corrales-Diaz said.
“The iconic jersey” is divided into three sections, she said.
Team identity key
“The Modern Jersey” looks at both the major changes in fit and fabric brought about by technological advancements to small changes in graphics, logos and colors, highlighting the importance of these developments in capturing identity of the team.
Among the highlights of this section are never-before-seen items from the RJ Liebe Athletic Lettering Company, which began creating their elaborate, circular chain-stitched lettering in 1923, and continues to supply letters and other materials. for uniforms from major manufacturers.
Corrales-Diaz said one of his biggest surprises in finding and setting up the exhibit was “The sheer number of hands that go into making any of the garments. There are so many different people involved. ”
Lettering can be hand drawn and sent to a company to be sewn mostly by hand, she said. “Making clothes. There are so many layers.”
The “Experimental Design” section of the exhibit looks at when designers experimented with ideas like zippers and bright colors, Corrales-Diaz said. This was especially true in the ’70s and’ 80s. An iconic design from this period is the Houston Astros’ ‘rainbow’ sweater.
“Off the Field” goes “beyond the baseball stadium to the streets,” she says, and looks at how baseball jerseys permeate popular culture, and how fashion designers take it and use it as a source of inspiration. inspiration for the design of the parades.
The section also shows the role that 1990s hip-hop artists such as Ice Cube, Notorious BIG and Outkast played in bringing the jersey to streetwear styles, opening the door for the jersey to be incorporated into mainstream fashion, as well. than important collaborations between designers. , artists and activists within broader political and social movements.
“’The Iconic Jersey’ takes the ‘formal’ language and concepts we typically apply to individual works of art and, by applying it to baseball jerseys, helps come up with new ideas and ways of looking at a sartorial item. people take it for granted, ”Corrales-Diaz said.
“All of these jerseys, whether made for players or for fans, reveal an extensive design process in which a designer considers fabrics, fit, shape, colors, branding and logos. When we choose to put one in, we do more than just join the team we have chosen. We also embrace design, a set of aesthetic choices that help define who we are and how we view the world, ”she said.
A two-year process
Corrales-Diaz added that it took a little over two years to put together the exhibit, which is pretty good considering a pandemic occurred just as the ball was spinning.
All the time, “We were definitely thinking of different audiences,” she said.
“One of the challenges was to make it accessible to baseball fans and those who had never been to a baseball show before.”
“The Iconic Jersey” could suit both.
Does “The Iconic Jersey” include a Worcester Red Sox jersey?
“You talk,” Corrales-Diaz said.
“When I talk about the show, I use the Worcester Red Sox as a good example.” From an artistic point of view, you can “immediately see its affiliation,” she said, saying the Worcester Red Sox are a subsidiary of the Boston Red Sox when looking at the jersey.
“You can read this jersey the same way you can read a painting canvas and see a strong connection.”
Based on what exhibit visitors pick up, they will hopefully be able to see the link as well. “It makes you look at these everyday objects in a new way and makes the art museum less spooky,” Corrales-Diaz said.
The exhibit is accompanied by a scholarly catalog written by Corrales-Diaz which is available at the museum store for $ 34.95 and can be ordered by email at [email protected]
Associated programming in conjunction with “The Iconic Jersey” includes a talk by graphic designer and author Todd Radom as part of the monthly program for the third Thursday of the museum’s main series titled “Baseball by Design: A Look at the Rich Visual History of Our Past. -national time “at 6 pm June 17th.
WAM will also present a screening of “The Other Boys of Summer,” a documentary on racism, segregation and civil rights in America, told through the lives of Negro League baseball players, at 6 pm on July 15.
The Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $ 18 for adults, $ 14 for people aged 65 and over and for students with ID. Admission is free for museum members and children aged 0 to 17.
Entrance is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month. Parking at the museum is free. Entry is only by timed ticket, which must be purchased in advance at worcesterart.org.