The executives with Reebok and Nike certainly know what they’re doing. The same can be said for those who control apparel pricing in the NFL and NHL.
Go into any team store, Dicks or anywhere else that team apparel is sold and you will likely need to extend your student loans just to purchase a jersey. That is if you’re a jersey kind of guy. Personally, I’ve never gotten down with wearing jerseys to a game. I feel awkward when I’m in it and there is also the impending threat of a trade or free agency sending your player out of town. Blank jerseys are obviously safer, but not nearly as meaningful as one that looks like the duds worn on the field or rink.
An NHL fan is going to spend roughly $150 for a replica uniform and well north of $300 for an authentic sweater from the NHL. Football fans have a similar financial burden. There are three options that range in terms of quality and price from $100, $135 and $300 each.
Perhaps the biggest drawback for buying an NFL jersey is that fact that your cheapest option is little more than a $100 mesh t-shirt with screen printed numbers. The secondary product is closer in form to what is seen on the field and the authentic jerseys have all the bells and whistles as the on-field product (to a certain extent).
The issue here is the way the NFL jerseys are constructed for retail. The lowest replica, as previously stated, isn’t even close to being worth the investment. However, the authentic jersey is equivalent in price to an average television and that jersey shouldn’t even qualify as authentic.
One of the things the NHL has gotten right is that the replica jersey you can purchase for $150 bears many similarities to the jersey worn on the ice. There are obvious differences, but you still get sewn on numbers and the cut and fit is that of what a hockey player (bender or NHLer) would wear. The authentic could probably be taken off the rack and put on a player for a game if necessary. From the fight strap to the stretch paneling, Reebok EDGE uniforms are the same as you see on the ice each night.
NFL uniforms don’t mimic this. Now, football jerseys have become increasingly tight and have slowly lost their sleeves over the last decade or so. The hope to avoid holding and extra fabric to grab at has made football uniforms shrink into a variation of a belly shirt.
These changes have not been reflected on the retail versions, no matter if you’re buying price point or authentic. The $300 versions come with the mesh paneling, stitched numbers and flywire collars, but nothing else. The question fans need to ask is: why bother paying $300 for a jersey that isn’t even close to what you see Mario Williams wear each week?
Now, there is no need to have capped sleeves and skin-tight tailoring. But if fans are paying $300, they should at least have features that make the uniforms look closer to what is worn on the field. Simply shortening the sleeves and adding elastic would make the jerseys look more similar to their on-field cousins while also eliminating the ridiculous sleeves the retail models have.
At the end of the day, people will continue to buy jerseys regardless of how they look. It just seems unfortunate that the country’s biggest sports league can’t give their fans a product closer to the one worn by the players motivating their purchase.