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In 1845, the New York Knickerbockers became the first organized baseball club. Four years later, at a meeting held April 24, 1849, the club adopted an official uniform: blue woolen pantaloons, white flannel shirts and chip (straw) hats. Though the straw hats were abandoned a few years later, the Knickerbockers retained blue and white as the team colors for decades to come.

It is likely that the blue-and-white color scheme was more than just the result of a random decision on the part of the Knickerbockers. As late as the 1860s, baseball clubs were more than happy to associate themselves with well-established, manly organizations, such as fire departments and volunteer military companies. Indeed, early baseball uniforms often looked identical to those worn by these other longstanding fraternal clubs. At the same time, however, antebellum ball playing organizations consciously chose to distance themselves from lower class, disorderly, juvenile or small-town clubs. These less respectable groups tended to wear uniforms highlighted by bright red, and thus the color was shunned by up-and-coming baseball clubs seeking to present themselves as respectable, gentlemanly organizations.

The choice of wool is also telling. While cotton would have made for less expensive and more comfortable uniforms, the fabric was at the time associated with work clothing, not fashionable and respectable dress. By donning wool uniforms, early baseball clubs distanced themselves from the working class and aligned themselves with organizations of a higher status.


On September 10, 1846, one year after the Knickerbocker Club was formed, Elias Howe patented his sewing machine. The advances in sewing would eventually allow for mass production of clothing and, of course, baseball uniforms.


Return to Timeline: 1849-1900


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