The seemingly simple task of buying the official jersey of your favorite soccer team is not always so simple and is only becoming more difficult. The latest challenge to buying your officially licensed jersey is in navigating the industry jargon between authentic jersey vs replica jersey.
Admittedly this is ONLY a problem with some of the bigger clubs. The brands only bring in both the authentic and replica to the U.S. for their biggest clubs. For most teams the only option you have is with the officially licensed replica jersey.
The first difference and the one that will be immediately noticeable is the price. The authentic jersey runs about $50-$100 more than the replica jersey. Let’s take a look and see why they are more expensive to help you make the decision on which jersey to purchase.
Replica Jersey (sometimes called fan jersey/stadium jersey/official jersey) – The replica jersey is the same in style and appearance as the ones the players wear on the field. They are 100% official and endorsed by both the brand and club. These jerseys usually have a looser fit (more of a traditional polo or t-shirt cut) and frequently have minor alterations in terms of technology integrated in the jersey (one of the main reasons replica jerseys are less expensive than authentic)
Authentic Jersey (sometimes called the match/game or on-field jersey) – The authentic jersey is the exact same jersey that you see the players wearing on the field. They have the same applications for the brand and team logos, the latest technology used to keep the jersey as lightweight and the player as comfortable as possible, and the added small details that make the authentic jersey just a little more refined.
The most common differences that you can look for between replica and authentic jerseys are:
Team Badge and Brand Logo – These applications are frequently different between the replica and authentic jerseys. The replica jersey usually has an embroidered badge and logo. The authentic jersey badge and logo are increasingly screened or applied onto the jersey. The 2 main reasons for this are first, the screened or applied logos keep the authentic jersey as lightweight as possible; and second, the embroidered look has a more substantial feel and tends to jump off the jersey making it easier to see and making a bolder statement. Perfect for the fan.
Jersey Cut and Fit – Don’t be fooled into thinking that the authentic jersey will pull on just like a replica. They do not! Face it professional soccer players are usually fitter than the average soccer fan so the authentic jersey could be your toughest critic that you have gained a pound or 2. Authentic jerseys have a slimmer cut in the body and usually fit closer to the upper arms on the sleeve. If you want an authentic jersey it is best to order 1 size larger than you normally wear.
Material – The material that the jersey is made out is usually different. All the top brands have various levels of their polyester and polyester blend materials used for jerseys. The latest technologies that help with moisture wicking, compression bands, and ventilation areas used on the authentic jerseys while the replica will have a more standard material that is used for the entire jersey.
Small Details – The authentic jersey frequently has some additional embellishments to speak to the history of the club and the pride in players wearing the jersey on the field. The inside of the back of the collar or a tab underneath the collar will sometimes have a motto or icon related to the club. The sleeve cuff, collar, waist, etc sometimes have an element that give the jersey a more refined look. And to give a final seal of approval the official tag is sometimes in a different color on the authentic jersey.
OK, all that being said talk is cheap so let’s take a look at some examples from some jerseys. (NB – for all the images the authentic jersey is on the left of the image and the replica on the right) Below you’ll see up close the Nike 2017/18 FC Barcelona, adidas 2017/18 Real Madrid, PUMA 2017/18 Arsenal and New Balance 2017/18 Liverpool FC jerseys.
We start with the overall cut of the jersey. As you can easily see, the authentic jersey has a more tailored look in varying degrees for each brand.
The team badge and brand logo are not always different, as is the case on the Liverpool jersey. However, with the Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal jerseys you can see how the authentic uses the applied logos while the replica has an embroidered logo.
The construction can be different as well. For example, authentic Nike jerseys with Aeroswift technology feature mesh panels, knitted zones and expandable lateral stripes.
The authentic adidas jerseys, with adizero technology, feature micro-perforations on the back to enhance air circulation.
PUMA has developed PowerCELL technology and ACTV internal tapes that provide micro-massages in specific areas of the skin and hold the jersey in place.
New Balance authentic and Replica jerseys are very similar construction-wise. However, the breathing technology is truly applied on the player version, as you can see with the moisture-activated laser cut vents in the under-arm regions and some specially placed mesh zones.
Most jerseys come with some printed text – usually on the lower front – that indicates which technology is applied. Player/Replica versions are as follows: adidas adizero/climacool, Nike Aeroswift/Dri-FIT, PUMA PowerCELL/DryCELL and NBDry for both New Balance versions.
And you can learn what to expect from a certain jersey based on the brand that produces the jersey. Most brands stick with a consistent template for details and changes between the authentic and replica jerseys that they sell.
Why did you decide to buy an authentic rather than replica jersey, or vice versa? Were you happy with the decision? What would you recommend others purchase? Send us pictures of your official soccer jerseys.
Note: This was originally posted in October, 2014 with the Nike 2014/15 Brazil National Team home jersey, Puma 2014/15 Arsenal home and cup/third jersey and the adidas 2014/15 Colombia National team home jersey.