Certain sports uniforms are nothing short of iconic. The Montreal Canadiens’ blue, white, and red jersey is more than a simple uniform in Quebec; any football fan can identify teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on sight alone. Few teams’ signature looks, however, can compare to the New York Yankees‘ famous pinstripes.
Even the most treasured traditions, however, all have a starting point. So why did the New York Yankees start wearing pinstripes?
The early history of the New York Yankees
These days, the New York Yankees are one of the most famous franchises in professional sports. When they started out, however, they were neither called the Yankees, nor were they based in New York.
The Yankees actually began life as the Baltimore Orioles in the newly formed American League. The team struggled, though, and eventually moved north to New York City; in 1903, they settled in Manhattan’s Hilltop Park and became known as the Highlanders.
In 1913, however, the Highlanders moved across the Harlem River into the newly rebuilt Polo Grounds. Since they were no longer playing in Hilltop Park, the club’s name fell out of favor; they adopted their previously unofficial nickname, the Yankees, since they played in the American League, unlike the New York Giants.
Under that new banner, the Yankees started growing into the club we know today. They famously acquired Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox prior to the 1920 season; before long, he was slugging home runs and lifting the Yankees into the limelight. A few years, the team would move into the original Yankee Stadium and, from there, the rest is history.
Why do the New York Yankees wear pinstripes?
One theory says that the New York Yankees started wearing pinstripes to make the bulky Babe Ruth look slimmer. While that’s a great story, the club actually started wearing the iconic pattern before the Great Bambino came to town.
According to a 1912 New York Times article, the Highlanders started wearing pinstripes that season. The choice, it seems, wasn’t motivated by aesthetics; it was simply the style of the time.
“When manager Harry Wolverton’s Yankees trot out from their clubhouse on April 11 to open the season with Boston, Hilltop fans will see their favorites togged out in uniforms closely resembling those worn by the Giants last season,” the article read. “The fad for the pin stripe in baseball toggery, introduced by the Cubs a few years ago, has reached the Hilltop, and the home uniforms of the Yankees this year will be of that design. The home uniform will consists of white shirt and pants, with black pin stripe and “N.Y.” on the left breast; a white cap with a blue monogram, and blue stockings with maroon stripes.”
The interlocking ‘NY’ has a backstory of its own
While the New York Yankees’ pinstripes might be iconic, their solid blue caps with an interlocking NY are just as famous. Unsurprisingly, that logo has its own backstory, too.
According to the team’s official website, the NY logo was first created by “Louis B. Tiffany for a medal to be given by the New York City Police Department to Officer John McDowell, the first NYC policeman shot in the line of duty.” One of the Yankees’ original owners, Bill Devery, was New York City’s first police chief; he added the logo to his team’s caps and jerseys.
While the Yankees cap evolved a bit during the franchise’s early days, the New York Yankees uniforms have remained more or less the same since the 1930s. That consistency, combined with a winning history, has made the club’s pinstripes and interlocking NY one of sport’s iconic looks.