On Friday, two baseball mainstays released new versions of their existing product. For one, the Miami Marlins, it was the launch of redesigned uniforms, primary team colors, and logos to better represent the city they represent on the field. The other, New Era, released a limited edition clothing line collaboration with designer Eric Emanuel that reimagines baseball merchandise as resort wear for four MLB teams — the Yankees, Braves, Pirates, and Dodgers.
Both releases attempt to do one of the most difficult things for baseball: update some of the most traditional designs in all of sports for a younger audience without coming across as pandering or making a hideous traditional/hip mashup. If executed properly, it would hopefully inject some much needed excitement into the baseball merchandise market — not just the hats and shirts with a different font for the team name or some crystals thrown on the logo that companies currently present as the most creative alternatives for fans to represent their teams.
Surprisingly, or if you know the Marlins at all maybe not so surprisingly, New Era pulls this off far better than Miami was able to mostly because they actually pushed the limits of what baseball merchandise can look like whiles the Marlins didn’t go far enough to make the gambit worth it. They played their redesign safe, and ended up with a color scheme that allows people to see what a truly good neon version of their uniforms could look like while not actually delivering that satisfaction.
New Era’s collaboration with Emanuel — their first licensed apparel in North America so a big step for the company and their baseball offerings — uses neon pink, green, blue, and orange in simple designs that still feature the traditional logos for each team, just altered. A neon green script “A” for Atlanta on a navy satin hat, a Pirates hoodie and hat combo that takes cues from the Pittsburgh-hailing Wiz Khalifa’s usual look.
The goal of the collection was to make apparel that does not lean towards any gender, and it succeeds because of this. That freedom let Emanuel get as far away from the usual color schemes as he wanted without having to abide by an industry’s tendency to market a pink pair of team shorts specifically to women. The Yankees sweatshirts and shorts are neon pink with a navy script logo screen printed on them because he wanted them to look that way, not because they were crafted with a specific fan or fashion lover in mind. For all the fans, and all fashion lovers.
And all neon. These designs don’t leave traditional aspects of the four teams behind — every product has the traditional primary or secondary logo featured somewhere — but they move so far away from anything you’d expect out of baseball in every other aspect of the look that it strikes the correct balance between bringing fun to baseball designs and still being a baseball design. Just because you’re wearing neon blue terry cloth shorts doesn’t mean they can’t be an obvious baseball product.
In this, New Era found a way to have a lot of fun while still making sure the designs are representing the sport, not ignoring what the sport’s designs have to offer completely. After years of companies trying to broaden designs and make them more “hip” or “fun” to accommodate more female or casual fans, these succeed because it seems the designs came first and they’re so enjoyable it only makes sense that fans from all walks will follow.
The Marlins, on the other hand, clearly had a good idea in mind. The new team logo isn’t bad! The jumping fish stays, in a less abstract form than the previous design, and the script is clean and appealing. The neon pink and blue are in line with the “Miami Vice” look that fellow Miami team the Heat have embraced with their city uniforms and court design — both of which are as universally loved as an alternate uniform can probably be.
Yet with this neon plan, Miami didn’t go nearly far enough. The new look is being rolled out with flashy videos and an #OurColores slogan, a blatant attempt to get the local fans more involved by embracing what makes Miami special. This is a goal Jeter has outlined in every version of his plan to turn the team around — get locals attached to the team and fill more seats.
Through that lens, the effort was there. The campaign comes across as sincere and only a little pandering, and it does represent Miami in a way. But that way is further from the Heat’s unimpeachable success and close to watching a Florida sunset after taking a triple dose of Nyquil. Miam-eh Vice. The redesign’s accompanying video has multiple shots of neon lights and signs throughout Miami, but then the uniform falls short of matching that same spirit.
Apart from the blue alternate uniform — which is the best thing from this relaunch — the energy that should be emanating from these uniforms is just not there. They nailed the colors and then didn’t commit to using them other than in token touches in the logo. It’s closer to a botched gender reveal than a celebration of the city’s color and reputation.
Surely this stemmed from a desire to balance the style of younger fans more open to change with the preferences of the fans who have somehow kept their allegiance to the team over two decades of mostly losing seasons. But by splitting the difference, the team ended up with something that exemplifies neither. Instead of saying “let’s just go for it and hope enough of the fanbase loves us trying something different” they went for a half measure that can barely be classified as neon.
Incorporating new color schemes far from the traditional palette of baseball is hard, especially something that doesn’t appear naturally in uniforms like true neon colors of this ilk. But New Era cracked the code by fully committing and not letting baseball’s tradition limit them, but simply touch on the new and colorful direction.
The Marlins had one eye on tradition while designing the new logo and it shows. For a team so set on reinventing themselves in the hopes of turning the franchise around they didn’t go far enough towards the new. And it ended with only a hint at what could have been in a bright, neon-speckled city instead of an awesome new uniform unlike anything baseball has tried before.