New York Mets pitchers Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard; Getty
We’ve entered peak baseball hair. Although long curls were prevalent in the ’80s and early ’90s, short hair has been the norm over the last decade or so. Even Johnny Damon, who had arguably the sport’s most famous head of hair in the 2000s, got a short haircut when he joined the New York Yankees (who are famously strict when it comes to players’ appearance) in 2005. But in the last couple of years, long, flowing locks have had a resurgence thanks to players like the New York Mets’ Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard and the Washington Nationals’ Jayson Werth. Fans are in full support; Syndergaard has even earned the nickname Thor, for obvious reasons.
Now, we have a lot of questions about this trend — Where did it come from? Is hat hair of any major concern? Don’t their necks get sweaty? — and here, we attempt to pinpoint where it started and why it’s all the rage, all of a sudden.
1. Baseball is just catching up with the times.
According to Jamie Lisanti, who put together Sports Illustrated‘s first-ever Fashionable 50 list, the long-hair comeback is a natural extension (see what we did there) of the long hair trend we’re seeing on celebs like Chris Hemsworth and Brad Pitt. “I think long hair on male celebrities — along with the rising popularity of the man bun — has had an affect on athletes,” she explains, adding that “we saw this happen with fashion, as more and more athletes are now concerned with what they wear off the field or court.”
The O.G., Johnny Damon, in 2005; Getty
Only two baseball players made SI‘s first-ever list, and Lisanti admits that “baseball is a little bit behind in fashion compared to other leagues.” She’s right: Basketball stars including Russell Westbrook and Amar’e Stoudemire have been sitting front row at fashion shows for years, while football players including Odell Beckham Jr. and Troy Polamalu have raked in endorsement deals with Head and Shoulders (the latter even had his three-foot-long curls insured for $1 million). Now baseball stars are getting in on the action; Syndergaard and DeGrom, who may be the sport’s most notable long-haired players at the moment, recently signed with Axe to promote their haircare line. The takeaway? Not only is long hair nice to look at, it can also be lucrative.
Jacob DeGrom and his bewitching hair; Getty
2. Long hair can be a lucky charm.
For some players, superstition plays a role in their looks. As DeGrom recently told PeopleStyle, “When I used to cut it in the minor leagues I felt I gave up runs afterwards, so I quit cutting it.” Lisanti compares this belief to hockey players’ beards. “Those with facial hair or long hair could feel sort of protected by it,” she says, but adds that ultimately the look probably has “more to do with appearance, with ‘flow.'”
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3. Long hair is strategic.
Long hair can be a useful distraction on the field — especially for pitchers. A hitter who faced DeGrom (and has evidently chosen to remain nameless) told the Bergen Record in March, “He’s got that hair — you can’t not look at it, it’s everywhere. It bothers me when I’m trying to pick up the ball out of his hand. All I see is hair.”
Zach Greinke in 2015, Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals, Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants; Getty (3)
It may sound anecdotal, but that’s not the only evidence: CBS Sports points out that Zack Greinke wore his hair long in his 2015 season (then with the L.A. Dodgers) — and had baseball’s lowest ERA in two decades (read: He had a really, really good year).
Andrew McCutchen in 2014; Getty
4. Long hair can also be charitable.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen both wore — and cut — his signature dreadlocks for a cause. “The perception of dreadlocks is pretty bad, but I just wanted to wear them to show you don’t have to be a bad person to wear them,” the center fielder told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2012. He eventually cut his dreads in March 2015, auctioning them off to benefit Pirates Charities.
So there you have it. Are you into baseball’s big hair trend? Whose flowing locks are you loving? Tell us in the comments.