Andy Arias, better known as @rallycap_andy in the Twitter-verse, is a self-proclaimed “mahoosive sports tweeter and jersey enthusiast/snob.” He agreed to share some tips with the MLHS community on the fine art of spotting authentic jerseys versus knock-offs when considering a purchase.
First and foremost let me say this: I understand. Buying a jersey isn’t cheap and if there is the possibility to save a few bucks of course you’re going to take it. A quick check online at the Maple Leafs Shop and you’ll find out that a replica jersey with your favourite player’s name on the back will cost you around 200 dollars. An authentic? North of 300. You love your Leafs, but paying rent this month sure would be great too. So you Google “Cheap Leafs jerseys” and you get all sorts of options. But how do you know if what you’re looking at is the real deal?
Make no mistake about it the counterfeit jersey business is HUGE. There are all sorts of moral reasons whether or to not buy one (you can decide that for yourselves), but if you’re looking for some tips on how to spot a fake then you’ve come to the right place.
1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Without a doubt, the BIGGEST tip I can give you concerns the price. I’ve seen fakes that claim to be authentic go anywhere from the 30 to 100 dollar price range. Your bank account will love the savings but NO ONE is selling what the pros wear on the ice at a few HUNDRED dollars off. The temptation to call yourself the best bargain hunter of all time is great I know … but trust me, that is NOT what is on the rack at Real Sports.
2. Location, Location, Location
Where are you looking? Are you IN a shop? Real Sports? Pro Hockey Life? National Sports?Â Or on the website of a long-established, reputable dealer such as River City Sports or Ice Jerseys? Chances are you are just fine and are buying official merchandise. Flea Markets, Craigslist ads, websites offering cheap jerseys or somebody’s basement? Your Spidey senses should start to tingle.
I should qualify this by noting that I have bought a jersey via Craigslist … but I went in prepared and I knew what I was looking at. Questions to keep in mind are: What is the seller/ad actually telling you? Are they pointing out the fight strap right away or perhaps that the tags are still on and showing you the hologram? Does the hologram actually act like a hologram? While these are all key things to look for in an authentic jersey, keep in mind they are also the first thing counterfeiters like to show off and promote in their advertisements.
(On a personal note, if an ad on Craigslist or Kijiji makes a point of saying a jersey is “High Quality” it’s a red flag for me.)
3. The Look.
Finally we get to look at the thing! It REALLY helps if you have or at least have had access to a real Leaf jersey. You’ve got to feel the materials themselves and see the colours. That being said, if you look carefully you can separate the fakes from the real thing just by looking at the pictures.
I’ve included a few examples below to help you spot the most common differences between authentic and inauthentic jerseys (click the thumbnails for a larger view).
The Leafs‘ *new* third jersey (above) is a popular knockoff. How to tell?Â The first thing to take note of is the colour: Fakes are often a shade or two off from the authentic brand. The logo itself is often slightly different and — most notably — the material on the logo, letters and numbers will seem shiny and have a tendency to bubble and crease. Take note of the styling of the “C” or “A” if the jersey has one. Flip the jersey over, and you will often also find the Reebok insignia is very small on the fake and that the “pro stitching” is off-centre.
The home jersey (above) is also a popular seller in the knockoff trade. Here we see an example where the colour is much better reproduced. But there are still a few ways to tell it is inauthentic: Aside from the aforementioned creasing effect on the logo and number/letters, you can see the logo is slightly misshapen and the stitching on the numbers/letters is rather poor. You can also clearly see stark differences in the shoulder patch — a dead giveaway for this jersey.
Another oft-seen fake — and one of the better-produced ones — is last year’s third jersey. Admittedly, I find this jersey the hardest to tell the difference with as the front logo (not pictured) and the shade of blue used on the arms/shoulders are pretty much spot-on. But as in most cases of jersey fraud, the giveaway will almost always be the quality of the material used for the numbers and letters.
To recap, the key things to watch out for are:
- Colour shades
- Material used on letters & numbers
- Shape of logo & shoulder patches
- Quality of stitching
- Centering of nameplate & player number
Other things to be on the lookout for include:
- Spelling mistakes
- Lettering / numbering font
- Size of the logo / shoulder patches / manufacturer’s label
- A white collar on the away jersey (when it should be blue)
- Whether the hologram reflects properly
- Randomly-awarded letters. How long has Kessel been an assistant captain?
4. The Deals Are Out There!
In the end, it really is up to you and your wallet, but know that when it comes to getting the real thing there ARE deals to be had. I bought a Sundin jersey for $40 dollars at National Sports because he had already retired. Last year’s third jersey is on sale at most major retailers for about half of what it cost a year ago … and is thus actually cheaper than most knockoffs.
Many retailers offer clearance sales on a regular basis.Â Be sure to keep an eye on the websites of established retail outlets such as Real Sports,Â Pro Hockey Life, National Sports, River City Sports, Ice Jerseys, etc for online and in-store discounts.
Here’s hoping I’ve helped you in your quest to make a wise purchasing decision before you unwittingly commit a major fashion faux pas this season. If you have any doubts about a jersey you own, or one that you’ve seen, I am only a tweet away.