1930s Baseball/Softball/Basketball Uniform

This 1930s basketball/softball/baseball uniform was another lucky online find. I had no uniforms of this type and had been sort of looking, but was really happy when this one popped up in a @gem.search. If you don’t know about Gem, it’s a handy app that searches for vintage clothes and accessories across many sales venues. It saves a lot of time.

Anyway, how does one date such a utilitarian object? I start with the label, but there were none in either piece. I then turn to vintage catalogs that sold sportswear. A 1936 Lowe & Campbell catalog showed similar sets, with bloomers offered, but shorts predominating. They offered these uniforms in various fabrics including “colored khaki, a twill cloth in colors”. That’s an interesting way to describe the cloth, because I tend to think of khaki as a color.

Next I looked through my photograph collection and books on women’s sports. I noted that while most of the professional women’s ball teams of the 30s and 40s wore flashy satin, some wore twill like my uniform.

But it’s the details of the uniform that helped me settle on a date of the early to mid 1930s. The collar has the vestiges of the middy which was more popular in the 1920s.

 By the late 30s the side buttons were being replaced with zippers. Bloomers were replaced with shorts. The wide button tab of the top is another clue. This type closure was popular in the early 1930s, not just in sports clothing, but also in fashionable dress.

 Best of all, the shirt is the “Ted” style, which I have seen only in early 1930s catalogs. It was a clever innovation. It must have occurred to someone that the between the legs strap used in early 1920s women’s underwear would be handy to keep the shirt tucked into the shorts while playing.

This envelope chemise is from a 1920 Sears catalog.

But why was the shirt called a “Ted” shirt. It may go back to clothing manufacturer Theodore Bear, who in 1913 made a type of combination camisole and drawers and then named it after himself – the Teddy Bear. We still use the term today to mean a one-piece undergarment, but who remembers poor Theodore?

At any rate, I date this piece as early 1930s. As for which sport it was used in, I have no way of telling. Baseball and softball players of this era sometime expressed a preference for long pants, as sliding into base in short pants could lead to bad scrapes on the legs. Basketball was played in bloomers from the inception of the game in the 1890s. The first ones were below the knee, but they gradually got smaller, as you can see.

See the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog to read more about Teddy Bear.


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11 responses to “1930s Baseball/Softball/Basketball Uniform

  1. Vicky Loebel

    Fascinating as always, even to a complete non-collector. I suppose there are worse legacies than having your name travel into the future on a style of undergarment….


  2. jacq.staubss@yahoo.com

    Another “treasure”! The whole thing is remarkable-fabric/history – the crotch strap ?!?. What is that about? If one has no idea of even the term “Teddy”…???!!!???!


  3. Ron

    could be anything from badminton to basketball, but the ensemble smacks of a nautical motif ala the N’East coast or Catalina. vey stylish!


  4. How wonderful to finally find an explanation for teddies!


  5. Laura

    Love it! Such a cute outfit. I would loved wearing this as a kid.

    Dancers, men and women, add crotch straps to shirts to keep them tucked in on stage. Not the most comfortable innovation, but definitely effective.


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