While jerseys and shirts have been a part of the athlete experience for years, their influence in the fan experience has also been steeped in tradition, first being advertised to fans as early as 1971. According to Statista, American football jersey wholesale has been over $350 million in 13 out of the past 15 years. Basketball jersey sales have been upwards of $150 million each year since 2007 and steadily increasing. Considering the Pew Research Center says six in ten Americans follow professional and college sports, it is unsurprising that people are turning to one of the most expressive, creative, versatile, and underappreciated common fashion statements.
Sports jerseys are a very underrated level of expression that a person can use when they’re out and about. Looking at its most straightforward use, jerseys are perfect to wear to any sporting event, be it in a stadium, a sports bar, or even your buddy’s dorm room. It’s a nice way for people to know why you’re there and who’s a friend or foe of their supported side. Just as pleasant as wearing them for a game, jerseys provide a unique social experience when taking them outside a sporting context. In a college environment, it's regular when wearing an out-of-town jersey to have a total stranger strike up a conversation on the latest prospect the team missed. Jerseys provide a unique opportunity to bring people together.
Jerseys are also a great example of artistic expression, as jerseys find a way to either deeply affect the community they’re in, or are derived by the culture themselves. Take for example, the New York Yankees who have worn the same white home uniforms with navy pinstripes for over a hundred years. This staple of the Yankees and baseball itself has achieved icon status not only in the sport but within the fans’ wardrobes. It is hard to imagine the streets of New York without this design. On the flip side, you also have much more modern jersey and apparel designs. While some are purely aesthetic choices, in many more instances, designers meticulously look at the city’s culture and history, connecting design choices to the city. While this concept first took off running with the NBA’s City Edition options, a perfect example is the Boston Red Sox’s yellow City Connect jersey, tying the iconic Boston franchise to the equally significant Boston Marathon. Jersey design, and by extension those who choose to wear them, have a unique chance to connect with the city and culture around them.
A side note here is the fascinating versatility a jersey has as not only in-stadium and casual wear, but as a common quick Halloween costume as well. Every year you see not just one, but a multitude of people taking up a player from past or present for trick-or-treating or partying. We see them regularly in day-to-day life and yet once Halloween comes around we immediately know these people are in costume. While I don’t understand this phenomenon, I’m not going to blame someone for wanting to slap on an Allen Iverson jersey and pretend they can drop 40 without talking about practice.
With the design detail, wearability, and massive variation in styles, jerseys are certainly a statement that people will take notice of. That’s why when talking about fashion, these staples of culture should indubitably be discussed. So go ahead, grab that jersey of your favorite player and walk out into the world proud of who you support.