80s Padres serve up cheesy, spicy Mexi-mixPosted 5 April 2011 by Tex Connally
The 1980s began with many feeling a bit of sheepish remorse for the excesses of the previous decade. The San Diego Padres, like so many others, might have freaked themselves out a little in the 1970s — at least in terms of graphic-design chaos. The team spent the 70s changing its uniforms on a near-annual basis. In the 80s, the ballclub enjoyed comparatively more consistency.
The Padres introduced yet another new uni set in 1980. The ensemble was notable for two major changes. In an overdue move, San Diego retired the softball-style contrasting sleeves, a fad that had run its course.
More significantly, the Padres introduced orange as a tertiary color– as part of a new gold-orange-brown rainbow motif. Orange dominated the home letters and numerals. Orange trim showed up on the caps, where the “S” had aggressively sprouted serifs.
Sadly, the warm-colors rainbow clearly evoked fast-food Mexican restaurants. But the taco jerseys entered into immortality in 1984, with San Diego’s first-ever World Series appearance, a loss to powerful Detroit. Because the team captured its first National League pennant while dressed thusly, the chalupa ensemble remains the most beloved throwback among Padres fans.
During that ’84 Series, a national-television audience guffawed at the losing Californians’ enchirito shirts and multicolored caps. As Stray Cat Bryan Setzer sang on MTV that year, “He’s a real square cat, he looks 1974.” The Padres were out-of-style, 70s cheese-balls, still wearing Foster Grants and terrycloth polos, oblivious to the 80s shift toward sleeker looks.
The negative attention caused uniforms to be part of World Series talk for the first time since 1979, when the Pittsburgh Pirates wore their fabulous steampunk uniforms on their way to a title.
An off-season overhaul resulted in a new look for 1985. In a major change, the team dropped gold entirely, while keeping orange, now the secondary color. The caps went all brown, with the “SD” in a tightly-interlocked design that the team retains, slightly altered, to this day.
Dramatically, the new uniforms featured brown pinstripes. This previously un-Padre-like uni element appeared on both the home whites and the new road set, pale brown in color. The home jersey displayed “Padres”– now with a capital “P”– in a new custom font.
The away unis, in a possible emulation of San Francisco’s 1980s road gear, featured the new “SD” on the left breast of the distinctive cafe con leche ensemble. The khaki uniforms recalled the light-brown away sets of 1969-1972 and 1974-75.
The 1985 unis succeeded in integrating the signature Padre brown into an updated, post-1970s graphic style. The look had a couple of flaws, however. The brown caps with orange letters looked good up close, but the lack of contrast made them indistinct from a distance. And the new uniform font included an ill-advised, same-color drop-shadow, so the letters looked blurry on field. And in a dismissal of tradition, the new “Padres” lettermark replaced the classic “Swinging Friar” as the team’s primary logo.
The Padres themselves almost guaranteed the short shelf-life of this uniform, as forgettable season after forgettable season dragged on at the Murph. An undauntable Tony Gwynn, a bewildered John Kruk and a half-crazed Larry Bowa are among the cast of characters who wore these colors as the Padres enjoyed a surfin’ gotterdammerung in the mid-to-late 80s.
In 1990, San Diego played its last season with brown as the team’s primary color. Too bad for the Padres. If they had only held onto the Taco-Bell uniforms a little longer. The 1990s brought about a retro-70s craze among hip youth. Young San Diego fans could have worn the cheesy Mexi-rainbow with proud irony during the decade of ironic clothing, but it was not to be.
If you missed it, be sure to check out our look back at the Pads and their 1970s stylings.