In the beginning, there was…nothing.
When we first started in the team sports business, now about 17 years ago, one of the hardest things to get a grip on was the prevailing styles of fastpitch softball uniforms. One reason was our complete lack of personal knowledge about the game as a whole (let alone its uniforms). Another reason was the sorry state of affairs as to fastpitch uniforms as an industry. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
Unless, by fastpitch, you meant baseball.
In short, it didn’t seem as though manufacturers bothered to pay much attention to making uniforms specifically for these athletes, who, as it happened, happened to be females. As such, fastpitch uniforms were re-worked baseball uniforms. A seam reconfigured here, a stitch switcheroo there and, wahlaa! that baseball uniform was perfectly suitable for fastpitch softball. Or so the male dominated team sports industry thought. It was an unfortunate, but undeniable truth.
My, how times have changed.
With the vast current, available options in fastpitch uniforms, that sad past is difficult to recall. Today’s offerings are invariably designed and manufactured with the female athlete, both youth and adult, specifically in mind. Many manufacturers, from Under Armour to Alleson, to High 5 and Augusta produce high quality, sport and gender specific uniforms within a wide variety of price points. It was a long time in coming, but we, as an industry, seem to have finally gotten it right.
The turning point.
It’s hard to believe (i.e., we’re getting old) but it’s been 12 years since Jennie Finch and TEAM USA won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Greece. The sport had, undeniably reached it’s zenith in mass market popularity. And, fashion being, well, fashion, the fastpitch softball uniform --with the beautiful and statuesque Ms. Finch as it’s supermodel-- had become all about style. She and her squad set the tone of dressing to the nines while fielding nine. Looking good was essential. But style itself could not win out.
Function wins over flash.
The Olympic afterglow on fastpitch burned out. A professional league sputtered. But the sport was ever more popular at the high school and collegiate level, whose national championships enjoy, to this day, continued TV success. Fastpitch uniforms, in terms of their style, have become more reflective of this more practical, attractive and sustainable model. Various sleeve cuts, from tank to raglan appeal to teams playing in a rich assortment of climates. Shiny shorts are still an option, but form and function more typically rule the day.