A hundred years ago, the Negro National League became the first Black baseball circuit to last more than one season.
A century later, and just a month after it and six other similar leagues finally received “Major League” status from the MLB, Stall & Dean is celebrating the Negro Leagues with a series of limited-edition streetwear drops. Described as “a multi-collaborative, five-piece apparel capsule that is equal parts design, technology, education and fashion,” the collection will see the brand team up with five streetwear designers, as well as the augmented-reality tech company Arloopa and “notable personalities.”
The Negro Leagues have long been a part of Stall & Dean’s history. Originally founded in 1898, the brand is one of the oldest sporting goods manufacturers in America, according to the Smithsonian Institution, and manufactured uniforms and equipment for the leagues from their inception a century ago.
Decades after they disappeared—from the late ‘90s into the 2000’s—Stall & Dean said it spearheaded their permeation into pop culture, outfitting stars like Jay-Z, P-Diddy and Shaquille O’Neal with Negro League apparel. Now, as Stall & Dean works to revamp the brand and return to the forefront, according to collaborator and former creative director Mo’ Abrams, it is choosing to tell the story of these historic organizations.
The new collection will recount the history of these leagues, each piece telling a different story. Figures like the Emmy- and Tony-winning poet Black Ice will deliver these stories alongside unique AR experiences designed by Arloopa.
“The Negro Leagues have contributed many things to the game of baseball as we know it today,” Stall & Dean’s brand and business strategist Zaire Baptiste said in a statement. “It’s finally time to hear those stories, everything from stealing bases to wearing baseball helmets derived from the Negro Leagues, we are telling the stories that are not usually told.”
Self-described “avant garde brand” Mo’tour designed the first installment in the collection, a pair of black and grey sweaters. The design includes several patches, among them an all-black baseball with the words “Black Ball” on top.
“Blackball was symbolic of our Negro League players who had something in common with the white players of the Major League and for the most part they were quote-unquote ‘blackballed,’” Abrams, a designer at Mo’tour, explained in a video on Stall & Dean’s Instagram page.
On the right shoulder, the sweater bears a patch resembling a baseball scoreboard. “I wanted to enrich it with color, so choosing red, green and gold, of course that was symbolic for our Black brothers who weren’t able to transition to the Major League Baseball but yet they were still good in their time and their prime,” Abrams added.
The Blackball sweater became available for pre-order Jan. 15. It, like each installment in the label’s upcoming collection, will be limited to 100 pieces.