An Expert’s Guide To Buying A Jersey

Jersey Collage

I have a lot of jerseys.

“Too many jerseys,” some might say.

“Not enough,” is what I often reply.

Buying and wearing a jersey is a blend of appreciation, fanfare, and trust. It’s a big decision. But fear not sports fans, it is I, Ben Wong, expert of the athletic thread, here to guide you on your journey to uniform greatness.

1. Sport and Context

This is the first level of jersey purchases. Consider your sport carefully, and your purpose for purchase.

Ask yourself this crucial question:

Where will I be wearing this? 

If your answer is a casual setting, than basketball jerseys and soccer kits are the way to go. A basketball jersey can be rocked while partying, mowing the lawn, eating goldfish, working out, and of course, while playing basketball. Soccer kits are the same, generally accepted in any casual setting: barbecues, class, the grocery store and so on.

Expert’s note: NEVER wear a matching shirt and shorts combination of any team. As much as you or I would like to believe, the majority of us don’t actually play for the team. We are not professionals.

Wearing Kobe Bryant’s #24 with matching Lakers shorts, NBA socks, a purple shooting sleeve, and whatever new Kobe’s Nike just restocked to the YMCA to play in the all-age-Wednesday-lunch-hour-pickup game does not make you Kobe Bryant. It makes you a damn fool.

The wonderful twitter account @wankersfullkit nails this perfectly. Don’t be a wanker.

Football jerseys are worn once a week, during a specific part of the year. So be careful with this one, you better make it count. Additionally, football and baseball jerseys are more expensive than other sports. Price also factors in here.

Hockey sweaters should only be worn in cold weather climates, where you can wear them basically whenever you want. If you decide to wear a hockey sweater in warm weather (and you are not taking part in a music video from 2004), we should legally be allowed to hip check you at any point or fight you on the street. The only exception is if you’re a legitimate fan stuck in a warm weather city on a game day. To you, we tip our cap (wrong sport, I know, work with me here).

As for you soccer junkies, you’ll have to tell me what’s the deal with buying kits. I have only one, and it’s a Liverpool Mario Balotelli, alternate black kit. How’d I do? And I’m looking at a USA DeAndre Yedlin next. Yay or nay?

2. Check Your Fandom

Again, more questions.

Which of your teams are you the biggest fan of? 

Are you a bigger fan of a specific athlete than you are of a specific team?

For me, basketball is a sport where I can spread my wings a little bit. I am a fan of the players, more than I am of the teams. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I am a die-hard Sacramento Kings fan, and that my beloved hometown franchise has not exactly been a juggernaut for about 90% of its existence.

Because the Kings are often so terrible, I don’t feel bad about rolling with sick jerseys from other teams.

I have a Kevin Johnson 1990’s Phoenix Suns jersey because he’s the mayor of Sacramento, kept my Kings, and I go to school in Arizona. And I like small guys who throw down ferocious dunks. It’s a pretty solid combo.

In that same vein, I own a New York Knicks St. Patrick’s Day Nate Robinson jersey, better known as “that one from the dunk contest.” More on that here.

Of course, there is a limit. I proudly own a Chris Webber 2002 Sacramento Kings jersey and proudly put on for my city when sporting that beauty in public. I also own a Tyreke Evans Sacramento Kings jersey, albeit I’m less proud of that one.

With baseball and football however, my fandom for my team outweighs my fandom for anybody individually.

And lastly, you won’t catch me EVER sporting a Los Angeles Lakers or Dodgers jersey, or a Seattle Seahawks jersey. Ever.

3. Is it on the banned jersey list?

Here is the banned jersey list: the list of jerseys you should never buy and can justifiably look down upon with great disgust.

Any 12th fan jersey of any kind ever. Cool, you’re a huge fan of yourself. Why don’t you just not watch the game and pat yourself on the back for four quarters. Or look in a mirror and make “model” faces. Or go through your Facebook profile pictures. Get over yourself.

Any #69 jersey worn by anyone other than the family and friends of a very unfortunately numbered offensive lineman. Keep all that over there, away from my football.

Any jersey of a player that’s the classic example of a body type opposite of yours. Fat guys, this means no Spud Webb or Mugsy Bogues for you. Sorry. Short guys, don’t let me catch you in a Yao Ming or Warren Sapp jersey. Asian short guys, I’m especially sorry. It looks like we’re stuck with Jeremy Lin for now.

No custom-my-last-name jerseys, provided you’re an adult. See first banned jersey. Also, this suggests that you don’t really like the players very much. As far as kids go, DREAM AWAY CHILDREN!

Any sleeved NBA jersey. This might be my own personal vendetta, as I hate these with the burning passion of the 6th layer of Dante’s Inferno, but I have yet to see a sleeved jersey that looks good. If whatever new performance fabric Adidas threw together in a godawful mix this time doesn’t look good on Kyle Korver, Blake Griffin, JJ Reddick, or whoever the supposed hot guys are in the NBA, it probably doesn’t look fantastic on you.

4. The Perception

Another question. What will the world think of me when they see me wearing this?

Here are the definitive jersey translations. If you see somebody wearing any of these players, they’re probably (blank)

Scary/Stay Away From My Daughter/Sister/Mother type-person: Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth, OJ Simpson,  John Rocker, Pacman Jones, Jonathan Dwyer.

No stand-up guy ever has rocked the jersey of a famous athlete criminal.

Crazy: Dennis Rodman, Michael Vick, Bill Romanowski, Ron Artest, or Adrian Peterson (at least right now).

Guy who can’t kick my ass (keep in mind I’m not exactly terrifying): Ted Ginn, anything pink, Chris Conte, or any of the banned jerseys.

BADASS: James Harrison, Lawrence Taylor, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, Charles Oakley… you can make up your own for this one. Also any University of Miami jersey or any jersey of a guy that played at The U.

Cool guy who’s down to chill: Ochocinco, Nick Young, Barkley, Shaq (especially Magic Shaq), Nate Robinson, Ricky Williams (and maybe not just chill), Big Papi, Barry Sanders, and Jalen Rose.

Knows his team: Any punter or long snapper.

Played some line in high school, never made it past junior college: Any offensive lineman.

Chinese: Jeremy Lin jersey, especially if it’s a factory mistake reject with Knicks spelled wrong or a custom with “Linsanity” on the back.

5. The Contract

This is the most underrated element of buying a jersey. Before buying, check the contract of the player. You don’t want to spend some of your hard earned income on a guy’s jersey, only to have him leave in free agency or be traded away in a couple of months. The worst is having a jersey of a guy who blew up somewhere else after he left your team. (Randy Moss – Raiders, Chris Webber – Wizards, Barry Bonds – Pirates).

I’ve had only a single one-year jersey tragedy in my life, a San Francisco 49ers Terrell Owens. He went to the Super Bowl the next year while my Niners went a magical 2-14.

So look it up!

You are now ready to purchase a jersey. Good luck, stay with the gameplan, and may the force be with you.


Benjamin D. Wong

Expert of the Athletic Thread, except soccer and rugby and a lot of other sports.


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