Tigers show their stripes in head-to-toe Zubaz gear. (Torii Hunter / Instagram)
Major-league baseball players, when jetting between cities, always dress like the millionaires they are — swanky suits, big-bucks ties, the works. If they’re to be seen by the public, they’re to be seen dressed to the nines.
But late Sunday night, the Tigers changed things up, and opted instead to wear head-to-toe Zubaz gear, the casual — and, to some, gaudy — clothing line made popular in the 1990s.
Good thing, too. The Tigers plane ended up having mechanical issues that grounded the team until Monday afternoon, so the players, while lounging at the airport and eventually on the bus back to the Boston hotel, at least were comfortable.
“Some of us didn’t brush our teeth, some of us haven’t showered, some guys just stink,” said Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, shortly after arriving at his locker in Cleveland a couple of hours before first pitch Monday night.
“But we’re bonding.”
The Tigers, long before they were an MLB-best 27-12, were having plenty of fun. During spring training, Torii Hunter kissed an alligator. Bryan Holaday, wearing a woman’s swimsuit, posed for a picture with supermodel Kate Upton. There was an allegedly high-stakes basketball tournament, too.
And then, recently, came Zubaz, garb known for its wild, colorful zebra stripes. Its slogan is “Dare to be Different.”
New Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain got the ball rolling there. He has a good friend, WWE wrestler Mojo Rawley, who is a long-time Zubaz customer. Chamberlain inquired about it, and soon was calling Zubaz’s corporate offices in Minnesota to place an order. The pants were the first to arrive at Comerica Park. The Tigers took to them so quickly, they soon were asking what else was for sale.
And on Sunday night and early Monday morning, there were the Tigers, all over Twitter, wearing the company’s pants, sweatshirts and ties. It’s been a phenomenal boon for the business, which has resurrected, following a mid-1990s bankruptcy.
“We love seeing this,” said Dan Stock, Zubaz president. “No. 1, the team’s hot. You can’t beat that. They’re the most superstitious athletes out there. We’re glad they’re winning!”
Interestingly, Zubaz has had promotional ties with the Tigers for the last four years. Few noticed, of course. It took for the Tigers players to buy in — and say as much on Twitter and Instagram — to really make a splash and catch the fans’ attention.
Miguel Cabrera, during a recent live interview with MLB Network, not only wore Zubaz, he also brought several Tigers teammates into the camera shot, all wearing their stripes — some in an interesting manner, like Anibal Sanchez, who rolled up his shirt and turned his pants into short shorts. And just like that, social media was abuzz.
Even some fans have been seen at Tigers games embracing the craze, an affordable craze at that. Hats retail for $35.95, pants for $29.95, shorts for $24.95, flip-flops for $19.99, and so on. Comerica Park’s D Shop doesn’t carry the line, but is looking into it.
Meanwhile, in the Tigers clubhouse, flying high these days with 11 consecutive road victories, don’t expect the clothes to go out of style anytime soon.
“I did not expect it to be this big, by any means,” Chamberlain said. “We’ve enjoyed it, we have fun with it, and if it helps out beyond that, great. I just know, we are traveling comfortably.”