Authentic or knockoff — NFL jerseys

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There are three tiers of authentic NFL jerseys, including game (left) and limited (right) jerseys. Each jersey has distinguishing features. (Addie Blacker)

Marketplaces for buying NFL jerseys are full of knockoff jerseys, especially with the NFL switching sponsors from Reebok to Nike. Though knockoff jerseys can save you money, there are noticeable differences that distinguish them from authentic jerseys. It’s important to know what to look for so you know what you are getting.

The NFL logo on the center of the collar will always be made of thin rubber. (Addie Blacker)

The most notable difference between an authentic and knockoff NFL jersey is the NFL logo on the front of the neckline. Nike purposely made this patch with a rubber material that is difficult to copy, and it seems as if no knockoff has been able to replicate it. Before you look any further at a prospective jersey, look at this tag. Knockoff jerseys will likely have a cloth NFL logo sewn onto the front of the neckline or some sort of vinyl. If it is not made of a thin rubber, it is not a Nike authentic jersey.

Jersey sizes are printed inside the neckline on the back of authentic jerseys. Rather than having a tag that could rub up against your neck, Nike decided to place the sizing on the collar itself. Depending on what jersey you are after, sizing will either be printed or stitched directed on the collar.

Authentic NFL jerseys have a tag on the sleeve featuring a football field background on the inside. (Addie Blacker)

The Nike price tag attached to current authentic NFL jerseys is another easy way to spot a knockoff. All Nike NFL jersey tags look the same. The tag has a black shell and a picture of a football field on the inside. If it has a different tag, then the jersey is a knockoff.

When it comes to name and number stitching, you may need to do other research before buying a jersey. Every team has its own font, cuts and coloring for their name bars and numbers. Knowing your team’s font and cut could save you from mistakenly buying a knockoff. The game jerseys players wear have stitched name bars and numbers, but many authentic Nike jerseys simply have vinyl. This makes them less costly to produce, but they are nonetheless legit.

In addition to font and cut, how the name bars and numbers are stitched or heat-pressed onto the jersey is also of importance. Nike makes three tiers of jerseys — game, limited and elite. Game and limited jerseys will have the name bars and numbers stitched right onto the jersey. The bars and numbers are fabric, not silicon or plastic. The elite jerseys are a silicon vinyl that is heat-pressed onto the jersey. There should be no air bubbles on the name and numbers, and everything should be aligned.

The two most premium authentic NFL jerseys have the name bar and number stitched directly onto the jersey rather than a vinyl heat press. (Addie Blacker)

The three tiers of authentic Nike NFL jerseys each have their own pros and cons. The game jersey is the most expensive, costing around $250, but they are the same as the jerseys the pros wear on the field. Limited jerseys, the second most premium option, run about $135 and offer a jersey that looks the same as the elite, but there are differences in terms of fabric and the feel when worn. These are the most popular jerseys for fans who avidly watch football but don’t feel the need to be wearing a game jersey. The lowest tier of authentic NFL jerseys are the Nike elite jerseys, which have some key aesthetic differences — mainly the heat-pressed name bar and numbers — but will only cost $100.

Saving money by purchasing a knockoff may be your style, but you will be surrendering some key physical features, making it more likely that you will stand out in a crowd. Be wary when searching for jerseys on marketplaces and be sure to do your research before making any purchases.

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