You might have noticed players wearing black stickers or black paint under their eyes. This ‘black look’ is most common in MLB (Major League Baseball) players, but can also be observed among football, lacrosse, and softball players. While these black marks under the eyes might look cool, the actual reasons that players do this has little to do with style or aesthetics. So, why do baseball players put black under their eyes? This article will answer this question, as well as a number of other related ones.
Why do Baseball Players Put Black Under Their Eyes?
Baseball players, as well as other athletes, apply black marks under their eyes, in order to enhance their vision. The logic is that, the grease present in the eye-black can absorb the sun glare and any bright lights from the eye and cheekbone, which makes it easier for players to see the ball. Since black color can absorb a large number of light frequencies, it is believed that any excessive lights emerging from sources that we are not directly looking at, will be absorbed by the eye-black. In other words, putting the black color right below our eyes will help reduce glare and, therefore, enhance the definition and contrast of the object (in this case, the baseball ball) that we are looking at.
A lot of players apply eye-black even for night games, so as to keep the lighting in the stadium from momentarily blinding them as they try to track and catch the baseball ball. In baseball, eye-black is generally worn by outfielders responsible for tracking the ball during night and day games.
A second reason that players put the eye-black is to produce a war-paint appearance. Sometimes, players use the eye-black for promoting logos, tributes, bible verses, and more. Regardless of the reasons behind utilizing the eye-black grease, numerous players have made this an integral aspect of their on-field personality.
What Does an Eye-Black Contain?
Over the years, both amateurs and professional athletes have used a number of materials to prepare eye-black. Two of the most common eye-black materials are shoe polish and burnt cork. These days, though, most eye-blacks are made using charcoal powder, paraffin, and beeswax. The anti glare strips and stickers, meanwhile, are made of a fabric having a matte finish.
When did Players Start Using the Eye-Black?
Babe Ruth in the 1930s is one of the first professional baseball players to have applied the eye-black. Ruth started using the eye-black in order to reduce the glare and improve his vision during the day games. Not long after, Washington Redskins player, Andy Farkas, also started using eye-blacks. With time, this trend caught on, and an increasing number of players across different sports started using the eye-black to enhance their visual clarity during games.
An interesting fact: anti-glare devices are almost 2,000 years old, and were first used by Eskimos. These devices were goggles made using wood and ivory, and contained horizontal slots. The point is, coming up with ways to reduce the sun glare is nothing new.
Professional Players who Use Eye-Blacks:
As far as baseball goes, some of the most renowned players who use eye-blacks are Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia, Bruce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Aaron Judge.
The NFL, too, has a number of present and past high-profile players that use(d) the eye-black, including Tim Tebow, Ray Lewis, Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton, and Tom Brady.
Do All Sports Allow Players to Wear an Eye-Black?
Although baseball and football players often wear eye-black, this application is not permitted in every sport. Some of the sports that prohibit the use of eye-black include cricket, soccer, and rugby. Apart from that, you will hardly find any swimmer wearing the eye-black, since the grease will dissolve in the water.
Are Eye-Blacks Safe?
Yes, using black stripes and eye-black to enhance contrast sensitivity does not have any dangers or negative side-effects. However, dermatologists do recommend that you wash yours as soon as you are done with the game, in order to keep the pores clean. Putting the eye-black material on for extended periods of time can lead to slight acne or rashes.
Does Eye-Black Actually Work?
The theory behind applying black under your eyes seems pretty solid, but do these eye-blacks work? The probable answer is, probably. A study conducted by Patricia J. Pahk (MD) and Brian M. De Broff (MD) in 2003, compared petroleum jelly, commercially-available black stickers, and eye-black. The study revealed that the black stickers and eye-black do, indeed, help you better perceive differences in contrast. The same study also found that eye-black worked better than black stickers. While this study does claim that eye-blacks are effective, it is important to note that this is the only seemingly-legitimate study conducted on this topic, to date. In addition, the study had a sample size of just 46 people.
An experiment was also conducted in 2005 in order to measure the effectiveness of the eye-black. This experiment, conducted at the New Hampshire University by Benjamin Powers, asserted that eye-blacks did not play a role in reducing glare.
MythBusters ran their own experiment to see if eye-black played any role in reducing glare from the sun. The research verdict was that, while eye-black has no role in reducing the glare, it does increase your ability to distinguish between dark and light. For instance, if you apply eye-black during a day game, you will be better able to track the ball under the sun.
If nothing else, eye-black can at least help by making you come across as frightening and intimidating.
Our Final Thoughts:
Athletes – whether MLB or otherwise – have varying reasons behind wearing eye-black or black stickers. Some use it to improve their vision and reduce the glare, while others use it to intimidate their opponents – some athletes, of course, use it for a combination of the two reasons. Regardless of the reasons behind putting black under the eyes, it has become a very popular trend, which means that you can find athletes rocking the black look during baseball , lacrosse, softball, and football games.