There seems to be no end to the madly excessive genius that Alessandro Michele has instilled in the house since 2015. If his first collection was poetic, romantic and dreamy, the aesthetic has evolved to an increasingly ornate combination of Renaissance art and pop culture influences.
At Gucci’s autumn/winter 2018 runway show, there were a million things happening as always. If you blink, you’d missed the heavily monogrammed Gucci briefcases done in collaboration with British lifestyle brand Globe-Trotter. Or the prints adorned on garments, thanks to Paramount Pictures. While the prosthetic heads carried by the actual real-life models grabbed headlines, it was the distinct Major League Baseball (MLB) team logos that took us by surprise.
You don’t have to be a loyal follower of the MLB or be an all-American guy to recognise the interlaid ‘NY’ logo of the New York Yankees or the ‘LA’ of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, you don’t even have to be a sports geek to know that these logos are part of one of America’s best loved sports. Chances are, you’ve heard of the team names being referenced in US sitcoms and movies; a product of a globalised world, if you will. It’s a smart move on Michele’s part—taking on something that’s deeply ingrained in a particular culture and society, yet instantly recognisable.
It’s somewhat ironic how something that represents an active sporting lifestyle—and for the most part, masculinity—is emblazoned on luxury fashion. The world that MLB lives in couldn’t be further apart than that of Gucci’s. Yet to Michele, the purveyor of gender-blurring fashion and merging incongruent elements, the pairing makes sense. Baseball shirts, caps, and jackets (or varsity jackets, as they are more commonly known), are no strangers to the fashion vocabulary after all.
Before we even were teased to a full-on MLB collaboration thanks to Gucci’s pre-autumn 2018 collection, New Era caps were the original de facto brand to kit out players and fans with MLB team logo baseball caps. Over the years, New Era has collaborated with fashion brands such as Kenzo and Yohji Yamamoto. But these usually involved none of the MLB properties. Gucci is quite possibly the first luxury fashion brand to collaborate with MLB at such a scale. And this is also probably because Michele himself is quite fond of wearing a New York Yankees cap; a definite contrast from his penchant for bejewelled brass rings and jacquard fabrics.
Does it take a fan or an avid follower of the sport to wear a Gucci x MLB piece? We say, most certainly not. There has been a democratisation of almost every facet of the world that we live in today. Just as how luxury fashion is no longer solely for the rich, famous and elite, so are sports and the other arenas that have both been appropriated and have benefited from fashion. The sought after T-shirts modelled after band merchandise, the proliferation and increased availability of previously skaters-only brands, as well as prominent artworks screen printed on garments, have made us appreciate these elements for their aesthetic values; without which, we probably would’ve stayed clear away from due to lack to interest.
The same goes for baseball purists. Aside from the aforementioned caps and team jerseys, this capsule collection with Gucci might just bring in a whole new demographic that probably wouldn’t have thought about buying a cap or a pair of loafers by Gucci. It sounds idealistic but you’d be surprised by how passionate sports fans can get. These are after all, the same people who would spend thousands of dollars on first tier tickets to games and have contributed to more than USD9 billion in revenue for MLB, in 2017. Basically, sports fans are invested in all aspects of the game.
It also helps that for a brand like Gucci, the connotations of sports being tied to stereotypically masculine behaviour is easily dispelled. The autumn/winter 2018 collection is—like any other Michele-stamped Gucci collection—genderless at best. And even when the ready-to-wear pieces take the form of flowy, ruffled dresses, they were paired with loafers or outerwear emblazoned with MLB team logos.
Gucci’s collaboration with MLB heavily features the New York Yankees logo in various iterations (including one spanning the front of a suit blazer). But the other three chosen teams—Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants—are interspersed throughout the autumn/winter 2018 collection. The logos are present across all categories including womenswear, menswear, bags, shoes and hats.
Will this be the next big thing in fashion? Will we see LA Lakers slapped on a luxury label’s coat next? Who knows. What’s for certain is that these kits are definitely made to be seen at the stadium stands, with a hotdog in one hand and a foam hand in another; definitely not for actual ball-playing.
This article was originally published in the September issue of Esquire Singapore.