Sport

Boston Red Sox ‘push the envelope’ with Marathon-inspired blue-yellow uniforms

The Boston Red Sox, known for their traditional white uniforms with red lettering and the iconic “B,” are unveiling their first jersey without any red at all.

As part of Major League Baseball’s first major jersey collaboration with Nike — which became the sport’s uniform supplier in 2019 — the Red Sox unveiled the yellow and powder blue uniforms on Tuesday.

Inspired by the Patriots’ Day holiday and the Boston Marathon, the jerseys feature a marathon bib patch with 617, Fenway Park’s area code, on the left sleeve.

The radical design for MLB is part of Nike’s first venture into designing alternates for baseball, known as the City Connect series, meant to push the boundaries of uniform design.

“It was front and center and this is why we did this deal. You take two iconic brands and you put them together and you have one and one make three,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said. “This is what we expected and this is what we wanted. This is the plan we always set out for.”

The City Connect series will start with seven teams with scattered unveil dates: the Red Sox, Miami Marlins (May 21), Chicago White Sox (June 5), Chicago Cubs (June 12), Arizona Diamondbacks (June 18), San Francisco Giants (July 9) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (late August).

Every MLB team is expected to have a City Connect series jersey by the end of the 2023 season, with teams working individually with Nike to create a uniform that’s connected to the personality and community of each city.

Since taking over as the uniform supplier for the NFL and NBA, Nike has pushed for similarly radical uniform design changes in baseball, with the City Edition uniforms creating a wide variety of looks in the sport. Nike presented Boston with 10 different concepts in early 2019, with Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman and executive vice president Troup Parkinson landing on the Patriots Day concept.

Grossman said that when the Red Sox learned of the sport’s partnership with Nike two years ago, they reached out to tell them that they wanted to push the boundaries regarding their uniform design.

“We wanted to be at the front of the line. We told them that we would love to collaborate in any way you see fit,” Grossman said. “That was two years ago and that point, they said they were going to do the City Connect program that if we’re going to do this, we are all in and even though we are a traditional historic franchise, we want to do something completely different.

“We want to push the envelope and be bold in this.”

While Grossman initially felt hesitation about unveiling a Red Sox jersey without the color in the team’s name, he felt the connection to Patriots Day and the marathon presented a unique narrative that justified the decision to move forward with a bold design. The Red Sox will wear the yellow and blue uniforms for the first time on April 17 and 18 against the White Sox before wearing their traditional Patriots Day uniform featuring the Boston Strong patch first unveiled after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.

“This was the one where we felt right from the get-go that this was the one, but it was also like, ‘This is a Red Sox jersey that doesn’t have red or anything on it,'” Grossman said. “We asked ourselves if we could do this and it felt like the time to do this. There’s never a better time than now. It pushes us as an organization, pushes baseball and I think the way we’re launching it, we thought it would allow us to get into different neighborhoods of Boston that are pushing culture in Boston because that’s part of what this is reflective of.”

Nike senior designer Wil Green said that Nike found inspiration from the finish line of the marathon while designing the uniforms, which feature a stencil-like font across the front of the jersey.

Grossman acknowledged that many baseball traditionalists may not like the vast departure from the team’s traditional jerseys, but that they’re also not intended for the “traditionalist.”

“We understand that for traditionalists, this may not work for them and we’re OK with that,” Grossman said. “We get it. This is not meant to replace our crisp whites. That’s not what this is about, but it’s about connecting and having other people look at us differently, especially younger more diverse crowds. We embrace that and it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate that and that’s what this represents.”

The unveiling of the City Connect series falls in line with MLB’s strategy in recent years to expand baseball logos onto trendy streetwear. Garden said the City Connect series is an attempt by MLB and Nike to push baseball uniforms into the world of fashion.

Grossman said that the City Connect series provides baseball an opportunity to grow its audience among casual fans and become a part of daily lifestyle culture.

“When you see this convergence and for us and the sport, we want to be more part of the lifestyle,” Grossman said. “We do as a game, but getting outside the white lines of the diamond, that merch and hats are part of everyday culture is essential to growing the game just as the game itself.”

With baseball entering the third season of a 10-year deal with Nike as uniform supplier, Grossman expects the City Connect series to be the beginning of a series of design changes to the baseball uniform.

“We’re going to see more experimentation not only with colorways but I think as we get into this relationship as an industry, the creativity around the design itself is going to be something that will be interesting to see,” Grossman said.

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