On Wednesday, December 4, the Texas Rangers unveiled new uniforms. In and of itself, that’s not a particularly exciting event—there are new uniforms of some variety every year, and christening a new stadium, like the Rangers will be doing in 2020, is a particularly apt event for a refresh.
However, what the Rangers revealed was far more interesting. While their home whites, road greys, and alternate blues and reds were changed up, the Rangers also debuted an all-powder blue uniform for the first time in decades.
There are few things quite as specifically Major League Baseball as the powder blue road uni. Their history is long and storied, but the gist is that they started to flourish in the 1970s, when the flamboyant style at the time converged with a desire to pop off the screen of them newfangled color televisions. The Rangers were one such team that adopted all powder blues. Many of these teams didn’t incorporate powder blue into their core color scheme, and simply utilized powder blue as a way to be trendy and sharp.
Powder blue peaked in 1980 and 1981, when 42% of the league utilized all-powder blue uniforms of some variety. The 1980 World Series also featured two teams with powder blue uniforms for the first time in history.
Powder blue fun fact: The high-water mark for powder blue road uniforms came in 1980 and '81, when 11 teams wore the blues. (As a bonus the 1980 World Series featured two blue-clad teams — Royals vs. Phillies — the first time that had ever happened.) pic.twitter.com/F4iubLLC5T— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 30, 2018
Afterwards, the fad—for it was a fad—came to a close over the next decade. By 1991, the Kansas City Royals and Montreal Expos were the only holdovers, and in 1992 there wasn’t a single MLB team with an all-powder uniform.
What’s interesting about the Rangers, though, is that their adoption of the all-powerful Powder Blue Uniform is merely the latest step in a long march towards a cerulean takeover of Major League Baseball. Earlier this offseason, the Minnesota Twins revealed their own powder blues. In previous years, teams like the Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies have all worn all powder blue throwbacks. And about a decade ago, the Royals and Tampa Bay Rays began to incorporate powder blue jerseys into their uniforms and color scheme.
Why is this happening? Two reasons come to mind. First, as I previously mentioned, powder blue uniforms are a uniquely Major League Baseball experience, and therefore a unique part of the teams that sported them. They’re a visual callback to specific memories and moments. Remember the Pine Tar Incident? If you do, you can also probably remember what George Brett was wearing. Powder blue, of course.
The second is due to a pop culture phenomenon dubbed the ‘nostalgia pendulum.’ Generally speaking, pop culture tends to channel the thoughts and aesthetics of whatever time it was roughly 30 years ago. It’s largely why George Lucas’ Star Wars films, conceived and born into the world in the 1970s, were so influenced by 1940s war documentaries and action serials. It’s largely why Back to the Future, a 1985 film, spends much of its time in 1955. And it’s why Stranger Things, Thor: Ragnarok, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION are so tuned in to 1980s aesthetics. We’re still in prime 80s nostalgia, and I’d guess that the nostalgia pendulum is why such a starkly retro look is now cool again.
But regardless of why this is happening, I think it’s a huge missed opportunity for the Royals not to capitalize on it. Unlike many of these other teams*, powder blue is a core part of the Royals’ identity. The team was founded in 1969 and started wearing powder blues shortly thereafter. They then wore them for longer than any other team, only switching away when it was clear they were starkly no longer in vogue. Kansas City then began to incorporate powder blue into their main color scheme again less than two decades later.
*All of them. It’s all of them. Other than Montreal. RIP.
The Royals are a powder blue team moreso than any of these other teams. They wore it for longer and it is already in their everyday uniform set as their crisp afternoon home alternates. For them not to bring all powder back when it is clearly becoming A Thing again is profoundly disappointing.
So do the right thing, Kansas City. Make some noise, John Sherman. Bring the all-powder blues back this season. Show Major League Baseball how it’s supposed to look.