Over time, the caveman look was slowly phased out. Wild hair was shaved and trimmed, and bearskin clothing was eventually traded for Hugo Boss. Most likely, this change was spearheaded by women who were unwilling to deal with a smell and style that didn’t compliment their J Brand skinny jeans and Marc Jacobs pumps. The result: the modern man.

Consider athletes more of an interim step. They tackle other men all day, lift weights and hit each other with sticks. Seemingly relics of an age gone by, how do they manage to synthesize their extracurricular pursuits with an era where dress style means fitted blazers, Ray-Bans and mousse?

The answer is: Most don’t. But those that do still manage to look pretty good.

Traditional athlete attire consists of sweatpants, a T-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt, all in various shades of gray and blue, and all stamped with a bold “YALE,” the name of a sports team and the University’s crest. Athletes are required to wear Yale attire in the varsity weight rooms and are generally at Payne Whitney several times a day. What that means, Alex Munns ’07 said, is that during breaks from the gym — like, say, for classes — it’s most convenient for athletes to keep on the jock ensemble.

“I like being comfortable,” Munns said. “More often than not you’re going to find me in pants and a sweatshirt.”

But despite the preponderance of sweats, some athletes flaunt their fondness for J.Crew. They have the pastel polo, the Top-Siders and even those shorts with the little crabs on them. They’re typical Yalies. Only bigger.

Consequently, there are various levels of style within the athlete population, and the sports team makes — or at least plays a part in decorating — the man. The crew and lacrosse teams are generally regarded as better-dressed, while the hockey and football teams are not quite up to par, said Ford Stevens ’10, a baseball player.

“Most football players don’t give a crap,” Stevens said. “Every day it’s a Yale football T-shirt.”

Stevens conceded that he had seen the paradox known as the well-dressed football player, embodied, for instance, by a figure known only as “Big Joe” from the ninth floor.

“The better-dressed ones wear looser, more urban clothes,” Stevens said. “Maybe they have a nice earring.”

On the other hand, the well-dressed crew guys tend to be straight-up Greenwich, down to the pretty-boy boarding-school look — at least according to members of their own team.

“Crew is better-looking in general,” said Brendan McCook ’10, a member of the crew team.

But if the crew team is Pingry-preppy, sailors and polo players have the Exeter look down to a tee. Traditionally, these prepsters employ sea-swept hair with the use of gels, even miles away from the ocean, and, other than riding boots, Dockers are effectively the footwear of choice. A prepster never dies: Years down the line, these “athletes” will sport the WASP look, though by then, they will be popping an Armani collar and committing white-collar crimes.

But just like the rockers and hipsters of Yale, maybe athletes’ clothing choices are more conscious than we give them credit for, a deliberate attempt at solidifying an identity within a sport. Perhaps we should embrace the true person inside the XXL zip-up, and as Colin McCarthy ’10 said, know that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”