NEW YORK — You can’t tell the story of ’90s fashion without the Starter jacket, a ubiquitous presence on the shoulders of celebrities and sports fans alike, for functional and flexing reasons. When the temperature dropped and winds picked up, the first line of defense was the satin sheen of the Starter “Bubble” jacket. And when the time came to impress your friends, that same jacket was the first fashion piece to be called upon.
The MLB teams of the decade were no different — you couldn’t look around an MLB stadium without seeing a slew of Starter jackets on players and coaches in the dugouts.
“When the Yankees were winning championships in the ’90s, this was the jacket, right,” said Carl Banks, former NFL New York Giants great and an early adopter of the Starter jacket. “This jacket was done for multiple teams and was popular in every city. But it was dubbed the ‘Bronx Bubble’ because this is the jacket the Yankees wore, and they would never take the field without a Starter jacket on.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the push to reintroduce baseball at the forefront of culture continued with the relaunch of the famed Bronx Bubble jacket, a collaboration between MLB and Starter. Hosted at the MLB Store in Manhattan, a number of New York sports and cultural icons were on hand to help usher in the new era of Starter. In addition to Banks, who has worked tirelessly to bring Starter back to its former glory, New York rap legends Jadakiss and Funkmaster Flex were there to celebrate the occasion.
For Jadakiss, the legendary member of the Lox and someone rarely seen without a fitted MLB cap, the Starter jacket is synonymous with coolness — an item that could never go out of style.
“My contemporaries know, the jackets, I said they were like Rolexes back in the day,” Jadakiss said on Tuesday. “If you got that new Starter, you came to school on Monday, you felt unstoppable. … When you see that ‘S’ and the star on your wrist, you made it where we come from.”
The relaunch of the Starter X MLB Bronx Bubble jacket, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebrations, has numerous colorways for three teams — the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers. Collectors’ editions for the Yankees and Mets are also released, adorned with a patch on the sleeve commemorating the 2023 Subway Series. In addition to their iconic primary colors, there are multiple styles for each team that appear in gold and silver. Brash and bold, it’s a representation of how MLB wants to reinvigorate cultural interest in the sport, while also recognizing the history that came before it.
“I think the legacy continues,” Banks said, trying to encapsulate what a Starter jacket could mean to a new baseball fan. “To continue to bring this type of aesthetic to the sports fan is important. I think the original vision of Starter was to make fandom a wearable experience. So this is what it’s all about — to be able to infuse passion into the sport.”
Tuesday brought a party atmosphere to the flagship MLB store, with DJs spinning as shoppers gawked at the jackets on the wall, and a special Jadakiss performance that brought out celebrities, fans and influencers to 6th Avenue.
Jadakiss spoke to reporters and did a joint interview with Banks prior to burning his way through his discography on stage. He pledged his allegiance to the Yankees for the Subway Series, chose a Frank Sinatra record as his potential walk-up song and gushed about the intersection between hip-hop, fashion and baseball.
“When you think of hip-hop, you think of fashion. … I can show you a bunch of nostalgic videos [with people] in this type of attire,” said Jadakiss. “I’m glad that the Yankees and Starter are now making one. … Growing up we thought jerseys was dope. Jerseys, hats, sweats and the jackets — they were just a part of hip-hop.
“I’m just happy to be here, Starter and MLB, I consider them like my family.”
Part of Banks’ motivation to bring the Starter jacket back to relevancy stems from his time as a New York Giant, and his early memories of the first time he wore the red “Giants” starter jacket outside. He tells the story of seeing Run DMC at a nightclub, and they call his name and excitedly show him that they’re wearing the same jacket as him.
Banks knew that athletes were the best ambassadors for the Starter jacket in the ’90s. Now, MLB’s brightest stars will have the opportunity to repeat history with a new generation.