World Baseball Classic uniform rankings: From the instantly iconic to the unfortunate

As Deion Sanders once said: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”

So dress like a champion today.

The World Baseball Classic puts 20 teams from around the world on an international stage. It’s the perfect time to show off national identities on the chest of their uniforms. Some teams are better at it than others.

Allow us — a small cabal of The Athletic MLB writers and editors — to present a rigorously determined, genuinely-voted-upon order of the WBC’s best sets, from caps to stirrups.

And to the first person in the comments who sincerely asks why we’re doing this: You will be awarded a Great Britain jersey as a booby prize. (Note: You won’t, really. These jerseys are pretty expensive.)

1. Mexico

(Jennifer Stewart / WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Personally, I celebrate the entire catalog. The primary colors on the main uniforms pop. Red and green are so bold. That makes the lighter alternative look like a perfect changeup. The distinctive monogram M on the caps has become instantly recognizable. Straight fuego. — Marc Carig

The hats, man. They’re just so good. Every different color variation I’ve seen of it has been solid. It’s a new classic. El Tri has some of the best uniforms in international soccer every year and the baseball squad continues that tradition. I love a national sports uniform identity, especially one that is different from red, white and blue. — C. Trent Rosecrans

Even the warmups are unreal. (Chris Coduto / Getty Images)

It’s all perfect. The M on the cap takes from the 1968 Summer Olympics logo when the games were in Mexico City. That same ’60s vibe echoes on the alternate blue kit, with another echo to the Games. Jamming red and green together in a set can get tricky. A wrong turn and suddenly you’re standing in one of those gaudy pop-up Christmas shops in the mall with priced-to-sell Alf tree decorations. Wisely, Mexico’s unis pick a side. The home version is primarily green, the road set mostly red and the blue is one of the best baseball sets going in any league in the world. Here are your WBC look champs. — Nick Groke

2. Australia

(Richard A. Brooks / AFP via Getty Images)

Green and gold — despite being a perfect combination — is a historically underrepresented color combination in baseball. So the Aussies get bonus points right off the bat. But what elevates the look is the clean lettering on the jerseys and the sick lids. Oh, man the lids. — MC

Off the top, the caps are the best in the tournament. But never mind all that anyway, because these uniforms tell a story.

The stars around the A on the cap and the design within the boomerang on the jersey are meant to represent the Aboriginal concept of Jukurrpa. The “Dreamtime,” as it loosely translates, is a 65,000-year-old idea of a beginning that never ends, the dawn of time that carries on, an “everywhen” that still lives. “I’m extremely proud of this one,” Australia captain Tim Atherton said. “Past, present and future. It represents the indigenous culture going back to the Dreamtime, to the youth of today, and our future leaders. I’m a player who’s been on this team for many years. I’ve been a learner and a listener, and now I’m the one doing the teaching. It’s a flow of energies.” — NG

3. Japan

(Kyodo / Associated Press)

While I don’t know that Japan has a national identity across all sports, Samurai Japan has it with this uniform. It does seem odd to me that “Japan” is used so much — both across the chest and with the J on the hat — when Japan refers to its country as Nippon. I’d love some use of kanji on the hat, even if the two characters for “Nippon” aren’t the most dynamic. It all works on its own, but it just seems like there’s a missed opportunity. — CTR

This was my No. 1 pick. The piped outline, the curved font across the chest, the dimensional pinstripes, the glossy belt, the subtle nod to tradition that could also pass as 2023 streetwear … that’s the stuff. — Kaci Borowski

The script really hits. Every version is a bold statement. And the chain-striping on the home cream-whites is a cool curveball. From a distance, it looks like classic pinstripes, then up close you can tell there’s more going on. I’d only vote for one change: “Samurai” instead of “Japan” on the home set would be very cool. Lean into the nickname. But that’s a minor quibble. — NG

4. China

(Eugene Hoshiko / AP Photo)

Maybe my favorite cap in the whole damn thing. The dragon scale details on the shoulders (above) are awesome. And that underlay on the back is very, very cool.  — KB

Cool color scheme. Cool dragon. ’Nuff said.  — Kamila Hinkson

(Kenta Harada / Getty Images)

Dragons rule. — CTR

5. Netherlands

(Gene Wang / Getty Images)

The crown plays, particularly the center placement on the unis. As do the pinstripes. As does the splash of orange. I had these ranked higher, but the top of this list features tough competition. — MC

(Gene Wang / Getty Images)

I had these as my No. 1. While some may find the crown on the cap to literally be a hat on a hat, it totally works for me. While Netherlands is well known for its use of orange, I like that the Honkbal squad doesn’t overdo their national color like some other countries do. — CTR

As the Dutch prove every four years in the World Cup, bright orange can hit. But what’s even better is how that orange is deployed. Here, they are fitted in the stark navy-and-white pinstripes, then let the hat pop with orange. It’s like how the Tigers do it with their away uniforms. It’s so sharp.  — NG

6. Dominican Republic

(Brace Hemmelgarn / WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

I had these ranked higher than most. Perhaps it’s because I am biased by the knowledge of who will be wearing these uniforms. But they are fitting for a team that is probably going to kick your ass at baseball. The interlocking R and D on the caps are so well done that they’ve become iconic. — MC

7. Venezuela

(Rob Tringali /WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

There is a lot of red and blue in this tournament, so I appreciate the fact that Venezuela chose a more ’70s, jewel-toned palette for their uniforms. It somehow feels old and new at the same time.  — KB

Here I am harping once again on a national identity, and the maroon of Venezuela has certainly become that. I’m not particularly fond of the font used for the V, but I do recognize it immediately when I see it. — CTR

8. Colombia

(Chris Coduto / Getty Images)

The Red Sox should send an invoice to the fine folks of Bogotá for this odd Country Connect imitation. Nothing wrong with the look — it just feels so unoriginal. — MC

(Chris Coduto / Getty Images)

I love the Red Sox City Connects therefore I love these. — CTR

9. Panama

The whites are nice and clean. The hat works. What cost them spots in my ranking were the red jerseys that look more like a soccer training top or a cheap slow-pitch softball uniform. — CTR

(Gene Wang / Getty Images)

These are uniforms are hot. Simple, sure. But Panama isn’t screwing around and sewing on a bunch of wasted accouterment. They’re here to ball. And the red isn’t exactly red; it’s kind of sun-faded, which makes sense, because this team was out in the dirt getting better while other teams were in front of a mirror preening in their shiny new shirts pretending to give some MVP award speech they’ll never get a chance to recite. And the three-tone caps are sharp as all get out. Get out of Panama’s way. — NG

10. Czech Republic

At this point in the rankings, it mostly becomes a question of fonts. Czech Republic’s letter placement and font choice are a little bold and outside the box, which helps set apart what is otherwise a pretty traditional (but clean) uniform. I’m into it.  — KB

So, I’m a cap guy. I realize that baseball has traditionally preferred monograms. I’m old school. I dig it. But what I love about this look is the combination of letter form with a graphic, in this case shaping the CR into the shape of home plate. That’s Czech mate. — MC

I dare you to relax your eyes, glance at the Czechia hats and tell me you don’t see a “GB” instead of a “CR” and assume this is Great Britain.  — NG

11. Korea

(Kenta Harada / Getty Images)

Korea traditionally has good, simple, clean uniforms that stand out from those trying to do too much. They’ve gone in that direction here. The reverse coloring on the cutouts on the side of the jersey and pants are just way too much. I  hate it more than I should. — CTR

(Yuki Taguch i/ MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Unlike Trent, I like that Korea tried something new with the look, especially because the whole thing is built around something classic. There’s something about script lettering and a swoosh that just says “baseball.” — MC

12. Chinese Taipei

(Yung Chuan Yang / Getty Images)

I dig the placement of the monogram and the number on the front of the uniforms. Very clean. Same goes for the monogram itself. Very cool use of the negative space in the C, adding the seams to make it look like a baseball. — MC

13.  Israel

(Rob Tringali /WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The pinstripes plus the font of the country name are too much for me, sorry.  — KH

They have the best hat, of course. I’m a big fan of the font that invokes the beloved Blue Jays font. The pinstripes hold them back, but still a sharp kit. — CTR

I didn’t think it was possible to make the Blue Jays script look awkward, but the wider-than-usual stripes do the trick. — MC

14. Canada

(John E. Moore III / Getty Images)

When I saw this photo of Ernie Whitt and Cal Quantrill at an Arizona Coyotes game, I thought (read: was hoping) this was a soccer jersey or something. I do not like these. Also, why is the word “Canada” so small? Have we no pride? — KH

As I’ve said many times since my beat writing days, Canada is my favourite road country. This will always be true. So it pains me to say that these uniforms are weirder than serving milk out of a bag. What’s with the stripes? The small lettering? The overdone cap logo? This makes me want to splash a cup of scalding Tim Horton’s coffee on my face. I’m exaggerating. But not by much. — MC

(John E. Moore III / Getty Images)

How do you mess up this uniform? Well, there are tons of ways they did, that’s for sure. But the original sin is the hat. You go to Canada and the maple leaf is everywhere, including the most American of companies, McDonald’s. You go anywhere, you’ll see the maple leaf. It’s simple and iconic. All the work has been done for you. Red hat, white maple leaf. Done. Do that and profit. Hell, you can even mix and match with black thrown in.

A black hat with a red maple leaf? [Insert Phillip J. Fry take my money.gif here]

Yet you have this abomination. I’m not even mad, just disappointed. — CTR

15. United States

These were sick … in like 2002. Also, I miss the dark gray roadies. That was a cool fad. — MC

(Norm Hall / Getty Images)

The uniforms are fine. And I’m good with them using the same ones every year. But what keeps it from being a classic is the hat. It’s just, so … early aughts? I mean, simplify, simplify, simplify. Solid blue cap. Red and/or white interlocking U and S. That’s it. Not hard. C’mon. Someone hire me. — CTR

(Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

The S in USA on the jersey looks like that holiday ribbon candy that nobody knows how to eat. And the hats are the dumbest in the entire tournament. Someone should hire Trent. — NG

16. Nicaragua

(Jared Blais /WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Here’s a fun fact from the folks at Wikipedia: Nicaragua has one of three flags of a sovereign state to feature the color purple. I bring this up because there seems to be ample opportunity for more creativity. Instead, we get blue on white, which is nice but boring. Same for the block N on the caps. Also, the lettering on the jerseys looks a bit elongated for me. — MC

I had it higher than this because I always err on the side of traditional when it comes to baseball uniforms. This is an err, but on the right side. — CTR

17. Italy

(Gene Wang / Getty Images)

I wanted to like these more. That hat is a bit unremarkable, for me, but I respect the effort on the jerseys. However, the lettering combined with the piping makes the whole thing kind of illegible, which is a bit of a non-starter if you’re trying to say something nice about a look. — MC

Italy, home of Valentino, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabanna, Versace, Gucci, Pucci, Moschino, Missoni, Ferragamo and Fendi. Dressing well is the national identity. And yet here we are. Please don’t disappoint me in 2026. — KB

18. Cuba

All the red, white and blue uniforms get a big ol’ meh from me. I ranked Panama highest of the bunch because of the orange-y color. And I gave Cuba major points for the très weird gradient. Is it nice, per se? Probably not. But it’s different. — KH

I look at these uniforms as the Texas Rangers Conundrum of the international stage. Are they a red team? Are they a blue team? Somebody got cute with the gradient and decided that Cuba would be both. The result is putrid. — MC

(Yung Chuan Yang / Getty Images)

I had Cuba higher, not because I think it’s a good uniform or because it looks good, but because it is iconic. The color combinations scream Cuba. Even before the WBC, Cuba had an international baseball identity with the red or blue pants. It’s still here, even if all the rest is messed up. It feels a lot like a European soccer team that has a basic identity but has to mess it up every year in order to sell new jerseys. Gradients never work on baseball uniforms. Just stop trying. — CTR

19. Puerto Rico

(Kelly Gavin /WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

There are a few things here that give me pause. The font, for one. The sort of hard-to-identify silhouette of El Morro castle is another. And I appreciate a big swing … but why would you put the focal point of your jersey — in this case, the blue waves honoring Puerto Rico’s island landscape — on the part that goes inside the pants? Why would you do that? (Please don’t make me talk about the aforementioned pants.) Credit to the team for an adventurous idea, but I wish the execution was better. Excited for the blond hair, though.  — KB

20. Great Britain

Just put GB or the flag or something on the chest. If you’re not going to be able to control the spacing across the placket, just go with something on the chest. Really, it’s not hard people. It’s just not hard. — CTR

(Caitlin O’Hara / WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

These are definitely not the worst uniforms in the WBC. They’re totally fine. They’re like PG Tips, which is just Brit-fancy Lipton in a different box. Drinkable but staid. These should be tied for 15th with eight other teams. — NG


(Top image: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photo of Xander Bogaerts: Gene Wang / Getty Images; Photo of Shohei Ohtani: Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images)

2023-03-10 10:08:05