Ranking MLB’s all-time greatest uniforms
The Major League Baseball uniform has been getting a modern makeover since the league joined forces with Nike in 2019, most (in)famously at last year’s All-Star Game and the launch of the City Connect series. With that evolution — and our recent ranking of the Top 100 MLB players of all time — a take on the best uniforms in baseball history seemed fitting.
What qualifies as good fashion is subjective, but I wanted to find uniforms that pushed the boundaries of style without looking gaudy (stares intensely at the orange alternate Miami Marlins jerseys from 2012 to 2018) or have stood the test of time through the generations.
As teams look toward the future of on-field fashion, these 20 uniforms, from the classics to the throwbacks, provide some of the sport’s most memorable reference points — and might serve as inspiration for your favorite team’s next look. (If you’re looking to make your own list, the Baseball Hall of Fame has a great resource worth checking out.)
20. 1977-80 Seattle Mariners
What made it so great: The Mariners nailed their first uniform with a simple V-neck featuring the trident M and colors Seattle should consider bringing back on a more regular basis: royal blue and yellow. The uniform’s hat adds to a design that doesn’t try too hard to stand out. The Mariners ultimately changed their logo under owner George Argyros because he believed the upside-down trident was bad luck. Believe what you will, but the team had averaged exactly 100 losses per season wearing the original version of the logo, and didn’t do much better after a redesign that still featured the upside-down trident. The M’s, in fact, have had multiple unlucky stretches in franchise history wearing the trident.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Bright, bold and complementary colors pop. Aside from attempting a return to the pullovers of the ’70s and ’80s, these Mariners uniforms stood out on the baseball field without looking obnoxious. A slightly modernized take on these might rank even higher among the sport’s top uniforms. Curses aside.
19. 1998-2006 purple/teal Arizona Diamondbacks
What made it so great: Arizona pivoted to a sedona red design over the last couple of decades after pressure, sources say, from the league to move toward a more distinctive color from its original purple and teal design. Though polarizing, these uniforms continue to stick out. The Colorado Rockies are the only team in the sport to use purple as one of its main colors, but the combination from the original Diamondbacks uniforms is more memorable.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Purple and teal rock as a color combination. The wave of nostalgia for ’90s fashion is bringing back the appeal of teal in sports team uniforms and logos — similar to the retro New York Islanders, Vancouver Grizzlies and Anaheim Ducks colors.
18. 1980-1991 powder-blue Montreal Expos
What made it so great: The Expos boasted one of the sport’s best uniforms during their heyday, but their powder-blue edition with stripes jumps out from the pack to the point that the Washington Nationals bring them back from time to time. The meaning behind the logo has been the source of some debate — with interpretations including “MB” for “Montreal Baseball,” “ELB” for “Expos League Baseball” — but the official team explanation described a stylized “M” for Montreal, a lower-case “e” for Expos and “b” for baseball.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Powder-blue has made a return to baseball as a dominant color among alternate uniforms (see the Blue Jays, Royals, Phillies and Cardinals), but Montreal’s red, white and blue hat would be a nice touch on a baseball field today, too, as more teams — like the Brewers and Orioles — lean into multicolor-panel caps. A little mystery is fun, too.
17. 2021 City Connect Miami Marlins
What made it so great: These uniforms were a highlight of Nike’s City Connect series, which debuted this past season. More so than the Marlins’ typical uniforms, these jerseys and hats felt like Miami, especially with their connection to the Havana Sugar Kings. The shade of red differentiated itself from the rest of what’s typically seen on a baseball uniform, combined with a distinctive font.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: To lean into what makes every city different. Some uniforms feel like they were designed in a lab, cut from a generic template, but Miami’s felt both nostalgic and modern for a team with a checkered history of jerseys.
16. 1998-2000 Tampa Bay Devil Rays
What made it so great: Designs from the ’90s are coming back into vogue, and these are as ’90s as you can get. They definitely aren’t the most timeless, but Tampa Bay — which dropped the “Devil” from its name in 2008 after complaints from some fans and an ownership change — leaned hard into a certain aesthetic in a way that epitomizes ’90s sports uniforms, with their bold gradient and lettering.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Lean all the way in! Since fashion is cyclical, these will go out of style again, but seizing upon the design trends of the moment can leave a distinctive memory in the minds of fans. In recent years, the Rays have started incorporating this retro look back into their uniform cycle, and other teams should follow suit when they have the chance.
15. 1975-1986 Houston Astros
What made it so great: The Astros went bold with a tequila sunrise of orange, yellow and red across the torso as part of a larger trend in the 1970s to stick out, as color television sales surpassed black-and-white sets for the first time. From the fonts to the colors to the oversized star, not to mention the countless photos of fireballers like Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott and J.R. Richard tossing heaters in them, the jerseys left enough of an impression to inspire the Astros’ redesign when they moved to the American League in 2013.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Don’t be afraid to experiment. The Astros’ sunrise color scheme was far from typical and, for that reason if nothing else, lives on in baseball lore.
14. 1972-1983 yellow Oakland A’s
What made it so great: Credit A’s owner Charlie Finley, who ran the team when it debuted its yellow jerseys in the ’70s, designed to pop out on television. At the time, the idea of catering uniforms to TV seemed radical, but many teams soon followed suit (see the Astros above).
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Think about your audience. Finley’s approach could be adapted to the game today amid the growth of social media — similar to the explosion of television. With social media becoming the dominant method in how young fans consume sports, teams should be keeping a similar mindset in creating the looks for the next generation by keeping modern fashion trends and colors in mind.
13. 1983-1990 New York Mets
What made it so great: Lots of teams wear pinstripes, but the Mets made these unique in the 1980s with bold racing stripes down the sides. The franchise played some of its most iconic games in these pullover uniforms, and between Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, some of the team’s most iconic players wore them, too. Because most of the Mets’ uniforms throughout their history are variations of a similar design, the memories associated with these help push them up the rankings.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Here are a pair of lessons: Small touches (those racing stripes added to the more classic pinstripes) can make a big difference, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Mets have retained their iconic look through the years, changing up the silhouette to match with trends of the era, but have avoided a radical redesign for good reason.
12. 1944 satin Brooklyn Dodgers
What made it so great: With all of the technology used in the fabric of modern sports uniforms, imagine seeing a team pull out a jersey made out of satin. While they weren’t the first team to do so, that’s what the Brooklyn Dodgers did in 1944, with a pair of matching pants. At the time, the Dodgers wore the uniforms so they would be easier to see in stadium lighting, which was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Players complained about the comfort, which is why teams — including the Boston Braves, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals — eventually abandoned satin.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Sometimes experiments and risks are worth taking, even if they don’t always work out. The Dodgers wore a throwback uniform in 2011 made out of mesh that was an homage to these jerseys — and they looked great. While we’ll likely never see satin again as part of a baseball uniform, Brooklyn certainly pushed the boundaries of what a jersey could be.
11. 2020-present yellow/brown pinstripe San Diego Padres
What makes it so great: For years, Padres fans clamored for a return to the team’s iconic brown and yellow color scheme, and the team gave them exactly what they wanted. While the team didn’t go back to the very same design they wore in the ’70s and ’80s, the modern approach the Pads took in updating their uniforms has been a success.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Go modern with a whiff of nostalgia. There’s an understandable tendency for uniforms to be either white, blue or gray, and the reintroduction of a brown-yellow color scheme makes the old-new Padres threads feel fresh and gives the team a unique look as it fields one of its most exciting young rosters in recent memory.
10. 1972-78 red cap/pullover Boston Red Sox
What made it so great: The jersey Carlton Fisk wore in his iconic World Series moment deviated the most from the classic home look Boston has donned for most of franchise history. Aside from last season’s Boston marathon-inspired City Connect jerseys, the Red Sox have rarely strayed from the designs that make their uniform iconic. And while that has served them well (as we’ll see later in this list), the decision to experiment with red hats and a pullover uniform during the TV-inspired ’70s design era makes one of baseball’s biggest moments — Fisk’s homer against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1975 World Series — instantly connected to a certain era in the team’s history.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: It’s OK to veer away from tradition. During the initial rollout of City Connect, many teams hesitated at creating jerseys that departed far from their traditional home and away looks. Boston was not one of those teams, but the franchise also serves as a great example for how a team can create a memorable uniform design that feels distinct and unique without abandoning its identity.
9. 2021 City Connect Chicago White Sox
What made it so great: The Chicago White Sox took one of the biggest risks in the initial City Connect collection, and it paid off. The black pinstripes were instantly memorable. The gothic font might have been divisive, but it was distinct. A personal favorite: the decision to go with “Southside” on the front of the uniform.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Take risks. When Nike and MLB teamed up for the City Connect series, this was exactly the type of uniform the league expected from the collaboration — one that pushed baseball fashion forward.
8. 1977-1984 yellow/square cap Pittsburgh Pirates
What made it so great: The pillbox hat is an underutilized look and deserves to make a comeback. Pittsburgh has had several iconic uniforms in its history, including the vest of the Roberto Clemente era. These top them all not just for their design, but their association with the 1979 “We Are Family” World Series champions.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Player customization can be a good thing. Long before the recent trend of players using custom cleats and bats, Pirates team captain Willie Stargell instructed equipment managers to sew “Stargell Stars” onto caps as an award for exceptional play, similar to the traditions of college football.
7. Chicago Cubs
What makes it so great: From the logo to the pinstripes, this is one of the classics. The Cubs have worn a variation of their current jersey since 1957. All the “lovable losers” who wore this uniform during the Cubs’ 108-year World Series title drought — and the players who wore it when finally winning it all in 2016 — makes it part of the fabric of baseball lore.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: A timeless logo goes a long way — especially if you can keep it fresh without losing its essence. The Cubs’ rounded C dates back to the turn of the last century, though after an angular iteration dominated for a few decades, a more modern version appeared in 1937. By 1979, it had slowly evolved into what we see today, with its thicker outlines. The home uniforms have gone through a handful of small tweaks throughout the Cubs’ history, but the logo persists as the constant that makes these memorable.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
What makes it so great: The Cardinals’ logo across the front remains one of the best in all of sports and is a common thread through so much of the team’s history, dating back to 1922. So many greats, from Stan Musial to Albert Pujols, donned these jerseys — and the franchise rarely deviates from the look. And why should it?
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: The jersey design does something most don’t: It incorporates baseball equipment with the team name. While the choice of perching redbirds on a baseball bat had the potential to look tacky, St. Louis’ logo is anything but.
5. 1972-75 Atlanta Braves
What made it so great: Beyond being the uniform Hank Aaron wore when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, this look doesn’t deviate from the team’s cursive logo but remixes the colors in a way that has become iconic. The shoulder paneling makes it especially unique. Throw in a multicolored paneled hat, and this was as good as uniform design got in the 1970s.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Similar to the Red Sox uniform from the ’70s, this doesn’t stray too far from the team’s iconic color scheme, but still feels fresh nearly a half century after it initially debuted. It’s among the best-looking throwbacks in baseball, worn this past season with typical flair by the World Series champs.
4. Boston Red Sox
What makes it so great: What can you say about a uniform that has been worn by Boston legends from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to David Ortiz to Mookie Betts? The lettering on the front is instantly recognizable and the Red Sox remain one of the few teams in sports that does not put last names on the back of home uniforms.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Some intricate designs can do the trick, but Boston’s uniforms shine through for their simplicity, and thus have remained fashionable across multiple decades and trends.
3. 1982-1986 White Sox
What made it so great: The White Sox have had their fair share of uniform flops — most notably their shorts — but Chicago also boasts one of the boldest and best designs in baseball history. From the pullover tops to the “SOX” font across the chest, these jerseys embody the finest of the over-the-top design trends of their era. Best of all, the White Sox landed on this uniform through a design contest voted on by fans chosen from about 1,600 submissions.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: There’s a definite appeal to the timeless looks of many baseball uniforms, but the White Sox decided to go all-in on the design aesthetics of the era, similar to the choices they made with their bold City Connect uniforms. That can backfire, but these definitely didn’t.
2. New York Yankees
What makes it so great: The Yankees’ logo is one of the world’s most recognizable, and the uniforms the team wears are no different. The logo appeared on a New York City Police Department Medal of Valor, designed by Louis Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. It is believed, though there is some disagreement, that it was adopted by William Devery, then one of the team’s owners and a former chief of the NYPD. No matter the era, you know a Yankees uniform when you see one. The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles wearing essentially the same uniforms.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Timeless design may not always be the most flashy, but its longevity is undeniable. Plus there’s this: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the Yankees purportedly made the bold choice of swiping a logo from the police.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
What makes it so great: These are classics for a reason. The Dodgers have had the same basic uniform look dating back to their days in Brooklyn, aside from the change from the “B” to the “LA” on the caps, and the names added to the backs in 1972. The Dodgers script, the red numbering and the clean white look remain one of the most pleasing designs in all of sports.
What today’s uniform designers could learn from it: Timeless design with a twist takes the crown. The Dodgers have a similar appeal to the Yankees, with all of the icons who have worn the uniform. But the splash of color with the red numbering — which they’ve now had for 70 years — makes these jerseys the top dog in baseball.