Friday, March 19, 2010

You get what you pay for

I have a white Blackhawks game jersey that I bought several years ago from the United Center. I love that jersey, but I have wanted a red game jersey - a customized red jersey - for some time. But the cost has been prohibitive, and every time I get excited about supporting a player, he ends up getting traded.

Well, recently had a good sale (free name customization, which usually costs $55), and so I ponied up and bought the customized Reebok Chicago Blackhawks premier home jersey (base cost $114).

Personally, I think the customization of the jerseys is one of craziest fees that fans end up paying. The game jerseys are already pretty expensive, and then websites (or the "bricks & mortar" stores) charge an additional $50-75 to customize the jersey. It's not like there's puppies and unicorns in the back room, sewing numbers and name swatches on. It's done by machine; I've watched it be done in the store. I can't imagine those pieces of fabric actually cost $50 to produce, nor is the amount of electricity used by the machine anywhere near that much. (Heck, my average electric bill for my entire apartment is less than what they charge for personalization.) That's some serious profit margin.

But what is a fan going to do otherwise? I would bet that if customization was a lot cheaper - say, in the $10-20 range - a lot more people would "upgrade" their jerseys, or folks who want a customized jersey but who are put off by the price would buy one. But if you're already dropping a couple hundred for the jersey and have to put another $50-75 on top of that, chances are good that you only own one jersey, and maybe it's customized.

Due to the sale, I guess they had a lot of back orders, because I was originally told I wouldn't get my order until late April. It arrived yesterday, and ... well, to call me "disappointed" is a bit of an understatement. The jersey fabric is ok, but what's really disappointing is that all the various patches (front, shoulders, back numbers, back name) are all iron-ons. And what amused me more was that the iron-ons are designed so they look like they have stitches. Only the front team logo is stitched. Also, for a size 2X, it is not as generously cut as the more expensive version of the jersey is.

I get it - team jerseys are the ultimate cash cow. But to charge $114 ($169 if personalized) for this sad quality? Just say no. This one is definitely getting returned, and then I guess I will save up for a quality game jersey.

* * *
UPDATE 3/28 -- even if you get an active team roster player and not your own name on the jersey, it's considered "customized"/"personalized", and you cannot return it. Buyer beware!!

So if you think you want a customized jersey, but you're not sure how the jersey fits, or what the quality is like, I would recommend buying the blank jersey, getting it, trying it on, etc., and then returning it and exchanging it for a customized jersey.

About two weeks ago, when I wrote this post, I was comparing the quality of the new Reebok jerseys to old jerseys. I felt like the 2X was tighter than it used to be and the adhesive for the team emblems seemed stiff. The jersey just felt odd on me.

So this weekend, I pulled out all three hockey jerseys I own, to do a size and quality comparison.

First, the shoulder sizing:

Red = new Reebok/RBK "replica" jersey, XXL
White = older CCM XXL jersey (2004? 2006?)
Blue = new International (in this case, Suomi) team jersey 3XL

The neck holes are roughly the same size. I would say my favorite collar style is actually the new Reebok; it looks fairly sharp with the NHL logo at the bottom and accommodates a shirt underneath (be it button-up, turtleneck or other) quite nicely. The International jersey is squared slightly at the front, which looks and feels nice. I usually wear a Nike Dri-FIT mock-collar t-shirt underneath my hockey jersey, which has a nice thin fit, and I'm never overly hot wearing layers.

The shoulder seams on the International jersey (blue) fall about 2" below the curve of my shoulder. The CCM (white) jersey shoulder emblems lie about an inch below my shoulder curve, so they look good with their placement on my biceps. The RBK (red) jersey shoulder emblems are directly below my shoulder curve.

Length comparison: for this photo, I lined up the shoulders to see the difference in width/length along the hips. As you can see, the new Reebok (RBK/red) jersey, although the same size as the CCM (white) one, 2XL, is significantly smaller - a good 3-4" worth of material. The International jersey is 3XL, so it is reasonably larger than the other jerseys, but it also has the nice extra length and also the extra tail material. (My only complaint about the 3XL jersey is that the arms are super-long too, so I constantly have to shove the sleeves up my arms.)

It's interesting to note that the NHL rules list the max uniform size as 58 for regular players or 60 for goalies (roughly 3XL and 4XL), but fans almost never have the choice to buy jerseys or T-shirts in these sizes. I've seen fans wear some very tight jerseys in my time (and I'm talking about big & tall folks, not puck bunnies attempting to attract attention), and I have wondered why, in the face of a population that is proven to be increasing in physical size, sporting good manufacturers don't recognize that portion of the population. Even if you had to custom-order it through the websites and/or pay slightly extra (like $2-$5) for the 3XL/4XL sizing, it would be worth it.

The one thing I do like about the new cut of the jersey is the venting, which means the shirt will not pull/stretch as much when you sit down.

One change from the old manufacturer to the new is that on the old jersey, the shoulder emblems were embroidered patches, and then glued onto the uniform. The new shoulder patches are stitched around the edges, but it is flat printing on the design.

The new sleeve numbers and the name and numbers on the back of the jersey are designed so they look like they're stitched, but they're ironed on, too. Now, once you wear and wash a jersey often enough, the various emblems/numbers, etc. will eventually - eventually - soften up.

I haven't compared the premier jersey (you know, the $299 one) yet, but the premier jersey does come in sizes as large as 60, I have found on


  1. Sorry if this is a duplicate comment, I don't know if it took the last one because I wasn't logged in....

    Some jersey info for you. The NHL [and MLB, NFL etc] usually have 2 collections of jerseys with a few styles [home, away 3rd etc] within each collection. The 'Authentic Collection' is Reebok RBX Center Ice Authentic Collection. These are the uber expensive jerseys but IDENTICAL to jerseys worn by players. The patches & emblems are sewn on & the name [either roster player or custom] is sewn onto a nameplate sewn onto the jersey. The sizing is always numerical [men's sizing]. They don't have women's [NHL] authentic jerseys because they're the jerseys the players wear and [as of yet] there aren't any actuve women in the NHL. So I'd recomend trying on [any current RBK authentic on ice jersey] in a store [even if its a different team] to figure out what size you like best.
    The Authentic Collection [on-ice] jerseys ARE [as you said] very expensive. This is because they're made exactly the way the player's jerseys are made. I'm not going to justify the high cost, but I can tell you the materials themselves and the stitched names/numbers/emblems do drive up the price [not to mention the licensing fees that the NHL receives -- possibly the NHLPA as well for roster jerseys.

    Since the authentic jerseys are so expensive, the NHL works with [currently reebok] to create a less costly jersey that is [somewhat] more affordable. These lower cost jerseys come in M-L-XL type sizes, usually have applique or pressed-on letters/numbers/logs etc. By less expensive I mean about $150-$200 [about what you spent]. They used to be called 'replica' jerseys but that confused people as to their being 'officially licensed' [bother versions are licenced but when one is called 'authentic' and one is called 'replica' some consumers thought 'replica' meant fake or unauthorized when it was intended to just mean 'sort of like the real one but not as nice so we can sell it for less money']. The NHL started calling the lower cost jerseys 'premier replicas and eventually just 'premier' [again removing the negative association that comes to mind with 'replica'].
    If you really want to have a nice jersey you'l wear over and over you're better off spending the additional money and getting the authentic version. One positive about the extra money is that the authentic jerseys themselves actually have a resale value [assuming you don't spill all over them and take care of them, don't wash too often]. They're 'collectible' so even older or used jerseys can be resold to get some of the money back. If you really want to help out your investment, you can try to find a local signing of the player's whose jersey it is and get it signed [our team has an event every year where the players sign for $25 [each] and the money goes to charity. [you can get claude giroux's autograph for less money than it cost to have his name sewn onto the back]. Signature on an authentic jersey will have more value then a signature on a 'replica or 'premier' jersey.

  2. The [current] official jerseys are made by reebok [premier & authentic] so only one company supplys everyone. no competition means prices are the same. If a store has [dozens of] 'authentic' jerseys for the current design at less than $200, you need to wonder. stores have need to buy the jerseys outright so you'll see older, unpopular, or traded players on sale even lower than $100. That's the store taking a loss to get rid of them. Bargain for you. Some of the arena stores gave season ticket holders 50% off coupons that included jerseys, so they'd be about $150. That's still the team selling them a loss or cost to season ticket holders b/c of the whole lockout. If they're at the arena store & marked down like that, [& authentic] you might get a good deal on a genuine authentic.

    Try your local sports collectible store if u know what to look for [numerical men's sizing, sewn on patches / nameplate 'Center Ice' tag etc]. My dad has a collectible store, so people come to sell jersey collections [sometimes new w/ tags] & he buys them cheap so he sells them pretty cheap. [A few times I tried to explain he was selling them TOO cheap b/c new ones are so expensive. Sometimes he lets me buy some and I'll try to get them signed by the player & resell them. [He had a new with tags crosby authentic jersey & I managed to get $125 for it on eBay. Less than 1/2 price for the person who bought it & more than my dad wanted for it in his store -- win win for everyone]. Local hobby stores are buying them second-hand from collectors, not direct so they don't pay what a sports apparel stores would. They're usually sold 'as-is' so u need to know what to look for. Also if you know what to look for, you can find decent some on eBay [if your educated on what to look for] U just need to be careful & find out a lot of info. here's a lot of jersey buying guides out there but I wouldn't stick to them word for word. A lot are written by people who only own [or have only seen] the current year jersey, so things they say to look for may not be applicable to older authentics. The jerseys won't have 'years' explicitly on them but there's a lot of jersey databases you can use to figure out what year a jersey is from. Reebok is always ading advances in their technologies, teams redesign the jerseys [a lot], there's special edition jerseys [winter classic] and often they'll be certain patches on the jersey specific to a year [remember the authentic jerseys are what the players wear, so this year for example the Kings have a stanley cup champions patch on their jerseys, authentic collection jerseys sold this year will have that patch [if they're authentic collection]. No patch means it may just be last years, you have to match it up to what they wore. Reebok wasn't always the NHL's manufacturer and I think a while ago not all the teams may have had to get their jerseys from the same manufacturer [baseball sometimes has different teams using different manufacturers for the same year]. Make sure the player whose jersey you're buying was on the team at the time the team wore that jersey design. The patches should be sewn on [ask to see pics of the INSIDE of the jersey... some of the newer 'premier' [meant to look nicer] are ironed on & then machine stitched along the edge to give them a nicer look [and keep them on better]. The actual sewn on patches will have the zigzag seams on the inside of the jersey. The nameplate and letters on the namplate will be sewn on as well. [I've seen where people have bought blank authentic jerseys and later gone & had a name ironed on -- still authentic but not probably something you want to buy... they just didn't get the lettering done the way it should have been.]

  3. Sorry for the long commen...I'm sitting in a pile of these things researching them for my dad [boring baseball & football ones unfortunately ... no hawks] and came across your article so I thought I'd share.

    BTW on the sizing.... The authentic jerseys are WHAT THE PLAYERS ON THE ICE WEAR [sorry that's the rbk 'slogan' they have on all the tags. Since the players don't wear over sizes 58 or 60, the 'Authentic jerseys' don't come in sizes over 58 or 60 [or women's or kids etc etc]. The 'premier jerseys ARE actually available in the larger sizes you mentioned, so you can get 'jerseys' in 2x, 3x [maybe 4x] but they'll only be the lower cost alternative 'premier' or 'premier replica' jerseys. [To be fair, once you start sizing either larger for plus sizes or smaller for women's / kids, you've got to resize the patches, lettering, nunmbers etc. Since there's really strict standards for the sizes of these things, in order to be 'authentic' they've got to maintain all of the authentic standards. [Being a curvy woman I totally get where your coming from, but authentic = authentic so.... Actually the eblem on the front of the jerseys is so super-annoying over [as fergie calls them 'my humps'] I prefer just wearing women's jersey style tees... which appraently [at] can HAVE ANYTHING IN THE WORLD written on the back of them EXCEPT the last name my favorite goalies.
    If you want to see what sort of interesting things CAN go on the back of [non-jersey] custom apparel at you'll live what I wrote here....


Thanks for your viewpoint!

Please note that anonymous comments are moderated in order to prevent spam.