Twins honor past, greet future with new uniforms

November 18th, 2022

What’s the image that comes to your mind when you think of Twins baseball?

There’s no one answer to that question, because this franchise has now proudly called Minnesota its home for nearly 60 years. For those who were around to watch Harmon, Tony O and Sir Rodney, perhaps the memory is of the vivid script “Twins” accentuated by vibrant piping. Perhaps those who grew up going to games at the Metrodome with Mauer, Morneau, Santana, Nathan and Hunter identify with the pinstripes and the script “M” on the cap.

Different fans have vastly different core memories of these Minnesota Twins, a diverse array of sights, sounds and experiences that evoke nostalgia and pride in myriad ways across Twins Territory.

The challenge as the Twins looked ahead to their first full brand overhaul since 1987, then, was in how they wished to honor and celebrate that legacy that means so much to so many around Minnesota and the Upper Midwest — while also setting the direction for a decidedly modern, forward-facing new path.

“Inspired by the past; built for the future.”

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That’s the key refrain that kept coming up over and over again, as the Twins took their first step into their next era on Friday. They unveiled a new primary “Twins” script logo, the return — and transformation — of the “M” cap and a distinct “MINNESOTA” block script that came together into four uniform combinations that melded the old and new while establishing a commitment to home in the Twin Cities.

“We have such a core fanbase,” said Joe Pohlad, the Twins’ executive vice president of brand strategy and growth. “We have a 60-year-old franchise with fans that are very passionate about the Twins. Although we are trying to go somewhere new, we don’t want to throw out our past. And so, with that in mind, we wanted to hold on to that past, bring them along for the ride, and maintain some of those core values, not only of our fanbase, but also of our franchise, and bring that with us as we go into this future.”

Twins unveil their new uniforms
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The new look

There will be four all-new uniforms in the Twins’ rotation for the 2023 season: a home white set, a primary road gray set with pinstripes, a navy blue alternate that can be worn both at home and on the road, and, most strikingly, a cream alternate to be worn at home that will feature the club wearing “Twin Cities” across its chest for the first time in its history.

The home whites evoke the earliest era of Twins baseball at Metropolitan Stadium, featuring a sleeker cursive “Twins” across the chest in the style of the first iteration of the franchise’s logo — the era of Harmon Killebrew. This will now serve as the organization’s primary mark, accentuated by a navy blue number on the front. A navy blue name and red number adorn the back, while the sleeves and pants feature red, white and blue piping.

Home Uniform
The classic Twins pinstripes are back in the primary road gray set, which features the new block “MINNESOTA” script across the chest in navy blue and the new iteration of the “M” cap. The overall look serves as a nod to the road teams of the Metrodome era, spanning the two World Series championships and the Gardenhire teams of the 2000s. The pinstripes are more muted in their new iteration, and the piping remains a unifying element.

Road Uniform
The block “MINNESOTA” also features in the navy blue alternate jersey, which will pair with the “M” cap and can be worn both at home and on the road — a first in club history. It’s a darker navy blue — almost black — matching the hue of the cap to introduce consistency to the color elements. It can be paired with both the white pants (home) and gray pinstripe pants (road).

Alternate Uniform
And finally, the Twins are introducing a drastically new look with their second home alternate, a dual-color cream-and-navy uniform that will feature a script “Twin Cities” on the front of the jerseys for the first time. This will make them the first professional sports team in the region, they believe, to boast the moniker of the metro area across their chests.

Alternate Home Uniform
When the Twins went into the redesign process, headed by Minnesota native Matthew Wolff, they were determined to include a “Twin Cities” uniform in the group, emphasizing their connection to the cities that they’ve called home for more than half a century. Considering the Twins have yet to receive a “City Connect” from Major League Baseball and Nike (though one is set to come in a future season), the Twins wanted to grab that kind of regionally connected feel for themselves as part of their core uniform rotation.

“Whereas the ‘M’ cap goes very broad — you know, I think anyone even in the outer reaches of the state can appreciate and resonate with that — this one is kind of the most extreme in the opposite direction,” Wolff said. “We’ve had TC on our caps [for “Twin Cities”]for 60 years, but we’ve never spelled it out.”

A new ‘M’ for a new era

The “TC” of the Twins isn’t just the insignia of the local baseball team; it’s often used as a regional identifier on caps for Minnesotans in the Upper Midwest and around the nation.

As part of the Twins’ commitment to representing their state, they wanted to bring back the “M” for “Minnesota” as an alternate cap, one that harkens back to their initial distinction as the first professional sports organization to take the field bearing the name of their state, rather than their city.

“I think the baseball cap itself is sort of the pinnacle expression of sports and a sports team and civic pride,” Wolff said. “Because it’s an everyday item, right? You can’t wear your soccer jersey every single day of the year. But there are people that wear their team’s baseball cap every single day.”

Ultimately, they aimed to deliver an “M” that they felt would represent the region and distinguish it from other “M” logos around the country. They did so by introducing the North Star, as featured in the state’s nickname, as a simple, red, four-pointed diamond above and between the crests of a block white “M.” Significantly, they unified the two logos — the primary “TC” and the new “M” — by using the same new font to generate each mark.

“We wanted the ‘M’ to really feel like the sibling of the ‘TC’ mark,” Wolff said. “Whereas, you know, the ‘80s and ‘90s ‘M,’ didn’t really feel that connected to the ‘TC’ mark. So, that’s how we landed on this.”

They understand that the old underlined cursive “M” that hasn’t featured on a cap since 2013 does hold sentimental significance to many around the region — but much in the way that this entire uniform set looks both to the past and future, they wanted their new “M” mark to represent that dichotomy.

“Of course, we could have just returned to the retro mark, and, you know, brought back the Kirby Puckett warm and fuzzy feelings from the old ‘M’ mark,” Wolff said. “But, you know, part of this process, we didn’t want to just look back. We wanted to look forward, too.”

The North Star element also figures into another element of the redesign as a unifying mark: There’s a new sleeve patch on the home whites and road gray pinstripes, in the shape of the state of Minnesota with that same red star placed at the location of the Twin Cities.

The process

The Twins’ behind-the-scenes work on a brand refresh got underway in 2020, unrelated to anything on the field. In terms of their brand evolution, growth and long-term planning, it felt like time, Pohlad said — and this represents the culmination of the two-year process that followed.

When the Twins last took the field, their wardrobe and brand marks represented an ill-fitting hodge-podge of mismatching hues, fonts and marks. No more of that; for the first time in club history, one person has been in charge of designing a cohesive motif that will carry through all elements of the organization’s branding.

Wolff is a New York-based graphic designer and art director who boasts a formidable array of soccer kits among his portfolio, spanning American and international teams and even a pair of 2018 FIFA World Cup designs for Team France and Team Nigeria. But he’s never had an assignment quite like this before – even casting aside the fact that he’d never before been hired by a baseball team – because this time, he’s actually a lifelong fan of the team using his work.

Wolff is a local kid, a graduate of St. Paul Academy and Summit School. He talks about how he and his brother would play catch at Kenwood Park and other locations around the Twin Cities, pretending they were Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor. He remembers watching Puckett as a kid; the Mauer years came when Wolff was in high school.

“Unfortunately, I was just a little bit too young to remember ‘91,” Wolff said. “There is a photograph of me in the Metrodome in ‘91. But I looked like more of a blob than a human being.”

The Twins wanted to emphasize their pride in being Minnesota’s baseball team — and they wanted that to show in a new brand that they hope will unify their state and their community, and serve as the look in which future generations of Twins fans will form their core memories of the team. What better way to do that than to approach a native Minnesotan?

Pohlad’s modus operandi in working with Wolff was to really try to push the envelope of what baseball uniforms and branding could look like at first — that’s part of what drew them to Wolff, primarily a soccer designer — before solidifying around the possibilities that felt most right about the direction of the franchise.

“We’re not a huge market team, and so we’re not going to have, you know, flashy jerseys that are not going to resonate with our broader Twins Territory, right? Which is really important to us,” Pohlad said. “So, our process was just, go as far as we can, and then slowly, over time, over the course of that year and a half, two years, just kind of work our way back and kind of take things off the table.”

They went through more than 2,000 iterations of possible “TC” logos and various jersey and fabric patterns, but they said it quickly became clear that they wanted to land on a look that respected the past and celebrated the legacy of the franchise, hoping not to ostracize any current and former fans while also bringing in a new generation of supporters. That’s part of why the primary home and road jerseys are reminiscent of old uniforms — they “feel Minnesota Twins, but in a new and modern way,” Wolff said.

The “TC” mark is iconic, they realized; they didn’t modify it too much other than some quality-of-life touch-ups for consistency and consolidation across the branding. The new “M” is their big step forward, and the element that Wolff is personally most curious to see unfold in the public eye.

“That is really designed to represent all Minnesotans, baseball fans, non-baseball fans, future baseball fans,” Wolff said. “With sports branding, it’s in my mind, I judge it based on its timelessness. The number of years it lasts is pretty directly correlated in my mind to its success. We didn’t want to do anything that was super on trend right now in 2022, 2023. We wanted to do something that could stand the test of time.”

Details you may have missed

• The new “TC” logo is slightly different in that it removes the serifs from the “T” in the old logo and renders the interlocking letters in the new font that also makes up the block “MINNESOTA” on the front of two uniforms and the names on the backs of all of the jerseys. It also centers the “C” a bit more effectively than the old logo.

• In fact, that new font was custom designed by Wolff specifically for the Twins, a first in club history. Before, they’d been using a somewhat generic font for the names and numbers on the backs of the uniforms. As a small homage to the serifs of the old “TC” logo, the jersey numbers of the new uniforms will be rendered with serifs.

• The core red, white and blue color scheme remains, but the hues themselves have been slightly tweaked with a more vibrant red and a darker navy blue — almost bordering on black — to accentuate contrasts and unify the color scheme, particularly with the caps. The Kasota Gold of the most recent color scheme is gone, as are drop shadows, outlines and the like, leading to a sleeker, more unified design.

• The piping on the sleeves and along the pant legs (on all but the cream alternates) is identical to the original piping element of the 1972 home jerseys, which the Twins also notably brought back as an alternate in ‘09, when Mauer won his AL Most Valuable Player Award.

• The new sleeve patch featuring the shape of the state of Minnesota with the red North Star placed at the Twin Cities will be worn on the left sleeves of the home white and road gray uniforms. The home and away navy alternates will feature a sleeve patch of the standard “TC” logo. The cream “Twin Cities” alternates get a special sleeve patch, featuring interlocking flags bearing the logos from Minnie and Paul representing, of course, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

• The introduction of the cream-colored “TC” logo worn on the cap for the “Twin Cities” alternate will mark the first time the Twins will take the field featuring a monochromatic “TC” emblem.