In many ways, Derek Jeter seemed to exist outside time: the Yankees shortstop, sharp and elegant and effortless and winning, both on the diamond and off, could have slotted into a dozen different Yankees teams over the years. It’s only when you look at photos from his whole career that you realize the deep and unique ways he was a product of his time, with a sense of style simultaneously timeless and of its moment. That’s one reason he’s on the cover of our February issue—and (along with fellow inductees Allen Iverson and Deion Sanders) a member of the inaugural class of the GQ Sports Style Hall of Fame.
You can’t really talk about Jeter’s sense of style without talking about the pinstripes: his uniform, and the way he wore it. Boxy Yankees fitted perched on his head. Pants tight, even after it became fashionable to wear them baggy. Black high-top spikes, and a wristband on his left arm. There are vanishingly few ways to stand out on a baseball field; there are, somehow, even fewer paths to doing so on the Yankees, who still forbid long hair and beards. (“The Boss,” Jeter says of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in his Style History video, “was big on rules—he’d call down and have guys shave between innings.”) And yet Jeter conveyed something all his own: a crispness, a kind of style that colored inside the lines, that spoke quietly but wasn’t less expressive for it.
Things were similar off the field. Jeter, coming of age in the ‘90s, wore outfits that at first aged curiously, and in recent years have begun popping up in the cooler corners of downtown New York. Flowy trousers and tucked-in tees. White sneakers. An impressively restrained color palette. (Dare we suggest there’s something of The Row in his baggy “leisure suits” and vest-and-pants combos?)