The History of Baseball Socks

The History of Baseball Socks

Baseball stirrup socks appeared in the early days of the sport, in the late nineteenth century. Players mimicked the look of cricket players by rolling up their pants and donning knee socks. In 1868, the Cincinnati Red Stockings established the trend by revealing their sock-covered calves. The team’s owner was said to have conceived the look partly to attract ladies to the games. The socks they wore were ordinary knee socks until 1905, when a Cleveland player named Nap Lajoie came down with blood poisoning after a spiking. The theory was that the dye in his socks entered his bloodstream, causing the illness.

The solution was to adopt a two-sock system: a so-called “sanitary sock,” plain white, covered with another sock in the team color. The oversock had a cut-out around the ankle, to reduce crowding in the cleats, and stirrup socks were born.

Baseball stirrup sock fashion stayed pretty dull (solid colors, small cutouts, intended to look like ordinary socks) until the 1920s, when teams starting wearing striped baseball socks. Teams played with different variations of color, different widths, and different numbers of stripes until the 1960s, when the Kansas City team of that time, the Athletics, adopted a colored sanitary sock—gold under a green stirrup. Into the ’70s, the history of baseball socks took another leap forward when players started pulling their stirrups up higher, making a much bigger cut and showing a lot of “sanitary sock” underneath. Frank Robinson, playing at the time for the Baltimore Orioles, is credited with starting the “high cut” trend. Robinson also invented a unique way of putting on his stirrups—taping them to his undersock, turning his pants inside out and then pulling them up. As they unfurled right-side-in, the pants held the stirrups in place and kept Robinson’s socks looking taut and terrific on the field.

The history of baseball socks continued to evolve, moving though a period where stirrups appeared only as patterns on the sanitary sock—a two-in-one. Starting sometime in the ’90s, players returned to long pants, hiding their socks (and their comely calves, sorry, ladies). Pendulums swing back, however, and some players returned to a more traditional, old-school look, wearing “high cuffs” with solid-colored socks. Others went back to the full-knickers-and-stripes look. Today, you may see players on the same team sporting different looks—some in full-length trousers and others going old-school with stirrups. Andrew McCutchen, playing at the time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, even went as far as to design his own custom socks in team colors.

Whether you’re inspired by baseball tradition or want to make a bold fashion statement of your own, you can find a baseball sock that suits your style at MK Socks.

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