Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
Associated Press

The Oral History of the Houston Astros “Tequila Sunrise” uniforms

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The uniforms the Houston Astros wore between 1975 and 1993 are perhaps the most polarizing uniform in baseball history. Some call them the “Tequila Sunrise” uniforms, others refer to them as the “Rainbow” uniforms. You know which ones I’m talking about, though: the ones with the orange, yellow and red stripes and the big blue star on them.

From 1975 through 1979 they wore the same uniforms at home and on the road. In 1980 they got a more muted road number, with the stripes only appearing on the shoulders. Beginning in 1987 they eliminated the body stripes all together, going with shoulder stripes on both uniforms. Starting in 1994 the least vestiges of the design were eliminated. Only in recent years have they brought it back, and then only as an occasional, special occasion alternate.

When discussing those uniforms — and others, including the bright ensembles worn by the A’s, Pirates and some other teams — most people just roll their eyes and say “eh, it was the 70s.” That’s a pretty good explanation, actually, but today Paul Lukas of UniWatch has the story of how those Astros uniforms actually came into existence. It’s in the form of an oral history, with Lukas talking to the designers of that famous kit.

Short version: the Astros were struggling, both on the field and financially, and wanted to freshen things up. They hired the giant ad agency, McCann Erickson, to come up with something. A graphic designer, tasked with coming up with something “different,” cut up a bunch of colored paper and arranged it into stripes and just went from there. Fun note: he had a Texas sunset in mind when he put it together, making the moniker “tequila sunrise” a bit inapt. Also, there were some changes from initial prototypes, however. The star was supposed to be white and the cap was radically different:

I liked the white star, but it was not to be. It was a good thing that cap wasn’t used, because the star-H designed that was actually used, and which is used again today, is one of sports’ best logos.

Anyway, a fun read about a unique uniform from a weird time.