I have always considered myself a “style” collector when it comes to jerseys. As I started adding knits to my exemplar library, I began thinking about this in a bit of a different light…that being what actually constitutes a style as opposed to a variation.
Definitions of “Style” include:
-a distinctive quality, form, or type of something
-a particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character
Definitions of “Variation” include:
-a difference or deviation in structure or character from others of the same group
In certain instances, the identification of a style or style change is easy to see when a particular style is only worn for one year. What else would these jerseys be called but “One Year Styles” (OYS). OYS are very popular across the board because they fit the collecting niche of style collectors, team collectors, and player focused collectors. This typically means that both supply is short and the demand is high. The funny thing is that OYS were probably phased out because of a perceived lack of appeal or acceptance at the time they were worn…let a few years or decades go by and they become prized collectables if you can find them. Some of my favorite one year knit styles include the pictured 1987 Mets road, 1977 Giants road, 1983 Rangers road, and the 1978 Padres road.
Changes in styles are very easy to discern when these OYS pop up. Unless the team reverts back to a previous offering, OYS present collectors with wonderful options and opportunities. For knits, one of my favorite convergences of time and team is with the Texas Rangers between 1982 and 1984. Once again, very easy to see what we are dealing with are clearly different styles. I have also always been partial to the Braves knits because of the change in color schemes and lettering. As a style collector, what I want is to be able to see a noticeable change in the uniforms from a distance as this makes for striking display appeal.
For teams like the New York Mets and their road jersey, even though the color schemes remain similar, do provide a nice contrast of variety between the use of both METS and NEW YORK. Additionally we are dealing with both button down and pullover offerings as well.
Now let’s begin to talk about variations. The Orioles road jerseys pictured, in my mind, show three styles based on fonts and color schemes. Both the road jerseys on the right are Rawlings products, the only difference being the inclusion of the sleeve lettering (EBW) on the 1988 Rawlings product.
Now take a look at the Milwaukee Brewers road jerseys. In this instance, I would say we have five different styles. Why five and not four? Because the presence of the “SULLY” patch in 1986 and the “HK” patch in 1988 are not the only differences. The 1986 road is a Sand-Knit product and the 1988 offering is a Rawlings product. In this case I would say that each represents that style of uniform produced by a different manufacturer. When you examine these jerseys closely, you will also find differences in the material and construction of the collars as well.
While there is no doubt about the first four Pittsburgh Pirates road jerseys shown as being different styles, what about the two Descente black pullovers? I would say the fonts are variations of the same manufacturer’s product, but the jersey bodies are constructed of different materials. It is this last point in my mind that makes then different styles and not simply variations.
For the Yankee fans reading this, I will apologize upfront, but as a style collector I just hate the Yankees. When you see these four jerseys on mannequins, all in close proximity…well it’s pretty underwhelming. There is really no change in design, color scheme, or construction (button down vs pullover). In the absence of year specific adornments for players or team personnel that have passed away, they changes are very subtle variations of font styles and alignment of lettering with respect to the button line. They are however, all products of different manufacturers and would be a different style of that manufacturer’s product.
But what about these Cincinnati Reds road jerseys? Is the presence of the Jackie Robinson patch on the 1997 offering simply a variation of the style? Normally I would say yes. Had Deion Sanders been the only Reds player to have the sleeves cropped close, almost a vest like design, I would have identified this a variation (1997 Robinson Patch) with a player customization. But as it worked out, the entire team opted for this alternation thus significantly changing the appearance or style of the uniform for the season.
There are other instances were a team makes a one year modification (not common to all teams) to their uniforms that I do not consider a style change as well. This involves those years when patches are worn to commemorate a cities hosting of the All Star Game.
I am making these distinctions as I add knit uniforms to my on-hand reference library. I wish I could buy everything, but I can’t. This year I have added just over 100 knits to my exemplar collection and I have been looking at this issue to help me screen potential purchases. I look for styles, combinations of sizes and manufacturers within a given year or period of time. When I have the chance to pick up a style that features a particular patch, I focus on those in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. The advantage to working along these lines is that I build a visually appealing library that other collectors can benefit from.
If you have particular thoughts on how you see the difference between a style and variation, I’d love to hear them. As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com