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An iconic baseball film and the clothes that defined it

How the clothing of “The Sandlot” influenced the film and a generation of kids.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

“The Sandlot” taps into the true essence of being young. The iconic sports film represents a carefree spirit, friendship, and simpler times. Set in suburban Los Angeles during the 1960s, the movie oozes with nostalgia. Anyone can relate to summers with your friends, being outside, and enjoying baseball. For this ragtag group of baseball misfits, their individuality shines throughout the film. But one overlooked aspect of the movie is the role that fashion plays throughout the film. The simple, mid-century style perfectly represents the time, and the outfits still permeate a generation that grew up with these characters.

The group is a single unit, sporting a “uniform” without wearing matching jerseys or socks. Their simplistic, working-class attire was an effortless silhouette for children of the middle class. Their jeans were rugged, cuffed, and worn. Jeans at that time represented the rebellious nature of a group — and the movie leans into the youthful hijink aspect of being a kid. Those jeans were often paired with a nonchalant top: horizontal striped t-shirts with muted tones, unbuttoned baseball jerseys, or two-tiered summer shirts. This movie is a snapshot of small-town America (or what we always wished it would be). The outfits enhance the yearning for an opportunity to experience unapologetic youth again. Grab your most beat-up clothes and go play ball.

The worn-in jeans and simple tops created a canvas that allowed their personalities to be represented by other aspects of their outfits. And when you think of a baseball uniform, the hat always stands out. There is a central focus in this movie about hats and individuality. “Smalls” starts the film wearing a fishing hat with a comically oversized brim. The brim perfectly represents the outsider that Smalls is to start the film. The shy, new-in-town, nerdy kid, rocking a brim that could block any ray of sunshine that so dared come near his face. Smalls’ transition in the film — from nerdy homebody to baseball equal — begins when Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez gifts him a new hat after suggesting he ditch his khaki shorts and short-sleeve button-up for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The Yankees’ iconic interlocking NY makes an appearance on “Ham” Porter and others, while Kenny DeNunez rocks a clean 1942 Kansas City Monarch cap. Of course, the player that was always destined for greatness — Benny — sports a classic blue and white LA Dodgers hat.

But in the pivotal scene, the defining moment of the film, when Benny is tasked with pickling the beast, his shoes become the story. The worn-out, everyday, canvas shoes sported by ‘The Jet’ were not enough for this special occasion. He needed a shoe guaranteed to make any kid run faster and jump higher: the PF Flyers. The black canvas with the subtle white and green logo — those shoes fresh out of the box felt ready for action — and were the epitome of cool. The complete look of Benny: fresh shoes, crisp hat, and an understated pant and top resonate beyond a 90’s coming-of-age film. It is an aesthetic that still echoes within fashion circles today. Blue-collar brands such as Levis and Carhartt are at the forefront of everyday wear. Essential, logo-free basics are the baseline for any good wardrobe.

As fashion trends come and go, I have found it interesting that style has reverted to a look that I wanted to mimic when I was a child, based on a movie that had been set in a period 30 years earlier. There is a fine line when attempting to pull off a look that appears both unintentional and tasteful. Somehow the production of a 90’s cult classic was able to mix baseball history and time-period staples to create a movie that still pulls at the heartstrings for a generation of kids.