Editor's Note: NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will examine one hot-button baseball topic each day in December. On Sunday, he looked at which current players could be the considered the best ever at their position when it's all said and done.
Baseball is the best of the major North American sports at setting fashion trends. Football and hockey have their moments, but their players are far too concealed with facemasks and padding. Many fans wouldn't even recognize some of their own team's players.
The problem with basketball is that it's too sheep-like. When the one-sock-up, one-sock-down thing hit playgrounds, everyone was doing it. Black shoes found their way onto feet in the late 1980s, but within seven years or so you would be hard-pressed to find a high school or college team without all 12 players sporting that look. Baggy shorts? You had to have them the very second that Michael Jordan did (except you, John Stockton). Now, the NBA is just a mish-mash of bad tattoos.
Baseball offers many more opportunities for its athletes to be seen as individuals. Players have a lot of time to analyze their gear, their appearance and what they might want to change. Every player, no matter the position, will find himself in a moment when all eyes are on him, allowing for maximum exposure to those who blaze new trails. Additionally, the down times between pitches allow for camera shots close enough to see a clogged pore.
That allows us to become very familiar with our baseball heroes, and for them to have a platform upon which they can showcase a new look. With that in mind, we ask, what is the best fashion trend in baseball?
Thanks to the San Francisco Giants' World Series win, we know that beards are back in play. Giants closer Brian Wilson gained national notoriety for his fake-looking real beard, splashed across televisions throughout the postseason run. Wilson immediately challenges Bruce Sutter and Johnny Damon in his Red Sox years for the best beard in baseball history.
But is the beard the best thing we have going for us? It just might be. The flat-brimmed hats are too inconsistent — some players go all out, keeping the thing as stiff as a board, while others have a little more curvature. Either way, it just doesn't look right. Baseball hats are supposed to have some arch to their brims, simply for sun purposes. Maybe that's an old-school mentality, but that's the way it should be.
Thankfully, the Barry Bonds tether-your-pants-to-your-cleats look did not last, but the sight of a stirrup remains a rare one, save for Juan Pierre and a handful of others. The baggy pants might be here to stay, unfortunately for those of us who grew to love the game in the '70s and '80s and relished pulling on the stirrups as tight as can be before a Little League game. If and when this look comes back and is used by the majority of major leaguers, that will be the best development the game has seen in decades. If someone wants to add the handlebar moustache, we're all for it.
And so it goes. The baseball world, because of the visibility of its players and the many dollars they have to make themselves look different on a daily basis, will always see guys setting new trends. Wilson has taken the torch in his bearded crusade, which should last for another year or so before another fashion trend comes along.
As long as it's tasteful, functional (Wilson feels that the beard intimidates) and worn well, it will work. If it's new and a bit racy, there may still be a following. But there is a limit. The second they put CC Sabathia in something like this, we've gone too far.
What is the best fashion trend in baseball? Leave your comments below.
On deck: Which players should be part of the 2011 Hall of Fame class?