Eye On Apparel: Home Run Style
At their most basic function, sports uniforms help fans to identify players. Without uniforms displaying a player’s name, respective team colors and logo, and jersey number if applicable, it would be impossible to understand what is happening on the field, court or rink, especially from a distance. But on a larger scale, sports jerseys represent the essence of a team, motivating players and creating a sense of unity.
For fans, branded team clothing representing the team and bearing its logo and colors becomes sought-after merchandise they’re proud to wear.
“When it comes to recognition of the team itself, the uniform is the most critical part of building that team comradery,” says Michael Brugger, president of Fully Promoted, a distributor in West Palm Beach, Florida. “When people are in uniforms, they tend to perform better than if they are in regular street clothes or something they provided themselves. It’s like when you put on a costume, you get into character. When you put on the uniform you get in that character and bring all the energy you need to win the game.”
Some uniforms are so powerful that even non-fans recognize them. Take, for instance, the white and navy blue pinstriped uniforms worn by the New York Yankees; a jersey that’s hardly been updated since the team formed in 1903 and stands as one of the most-iconic of all time, topping every media site’s list of most-recognizable sports uniforms worldwide. Then there’s the slew of sports teams with signature colors whose uniforms make them easily recognizable, from the Los Angeles Chargers’ powder blue to the Denver Broncos’ orange crush look and the old creamsicle-colored jerseys of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And mirroring team colors are cheering fans wearing jerseys and other memorabilia to show their support.
“A good uniform is one based on the area of the country, and also the colors of the team,” Brugger says. “Your players want to be able to feel good in that uniform and it’s easy from a distance to look at a uniform and say, ‘that looks good.’
“But what makes a good uniform is you want the players to feel great in that uniform. The way the fabrics feel, the types of uniforms they use and wear, when you’re talking to a client, it has to fit with that area. We work with a lot of traveling leagues, and these leagues may play in the Northeast, and they may also play in Florida, so [where your team travels] is an important question when you’re determining a uniform to fit with that team.”
Brugger adds, “Speaking of that, it’s not uncommon that our player uniform will be slightly different for the fans, because when it comes to teams selling uniforms to them selling in the stands, it has to be something [fans] will want to buy and wear also.”
The global sports market is projected to nearly double in size to $708 billion in 2026, up from $355 billion in 2021, according to the Sports Global Market Report 2022 published by The Business Research Company. What this boost in popularity means, in part, according to Allied Market Research, is that consumers are growing more health-conscious and thus becoming interested in fitness activities like team or individual sports. According to pre-pandemic data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly six in 10 (57%) high school students, or 8.6 million students, played at least one school or community sport in 2019. Likewise, in the same year, nearly one-fifth of U.S. adults (19.3%) exercised or participated in sports or another active interest, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Know your client and what their needs are,” Brugger says. “If they want everything with personalization on the back, that’s a lot of detail, and that’s a fun project. There’s nothing more rewarding than going to the local event center and seeing all those uniforms you put on all those happy players, but you have to know what you’re doing ahead of time, because there are drop-dead dates that you can’t miss.”
Sports jerseys and related memorabilia, like varsity jackets and tennis skirts, influence mainstream fashion and will continue to do so. But way before these trends hit the runway, the most important part of a uniform’s construction isn’t its customization, but its fabrication. Uniforms can’t enhance players’ performance, but they can support comfort with details such as moisture-wicking and odor-repellent fabrics and finishes, and also their confidence.
A hot trend in teamwear is the use of full-color uniforms—a style that Brugger describes as the standard in Europe and Australia, particularly with soccer, but one that’s starting to influence teams in the U.S. in a non-traditional way. “That, for me, is a trend that I didn’t see coming,” he says.
But regardless of style, durability remains an ever-important marker when considering sports uniforms, and making sure the uniforms fit the right type of event. “You can’t just provide a regular shirt,” Brugger says. “For a sports player, it has to be something that’s going to survive running into another player, sliding into a plate, potentially getting kicked—all those things come into play, so the fabric has to be tough.”
Sporting events offer myriad opportunities for teams to be noticed and draw attention to supporting businesses, too. Different branding opportunities for team wear include:
Uniforms for home games, away games and “other” team uniforms, such as those worn for professional photos, team ceremonies or meet-and-greets.
Branded team apparel for fans, such as t-shirts featuring the team name and jerseys just like those worn by the players themselves.
Opportunities for sponsors to have their logos featured on team uniforms; for recreational sports teams in particular, local businesses from auto-body shops, to delis, landscaping businesses and everything in between can support teams and have their own branding featured, garnering more business for them and more local team support.
The lightweight, high-performance Cutter Jersey creates a flattering silhouette with contrast sleeves and side color blocks. Made from 100% polyester, it’s designed to be tucked in and stay that way with a longer length and features wicking pinhole mesh underarms. Available in 25 colors, shown in black and gold.
Augusta Sportswear Brands / PPAI 187246, S5
Adorn players in a classic-style baseball jersey with a look that resembles the pros with the Short Sleeve Full Button Baseball Top. Pinpoint-stretch mesh made from polyester and spandex, the jersey is moisture-wicking, odor-resistant and releases stains easily. Available in 13 colors, shown in cardinal.
A4 / PPAI 304796, S3 / www.a4.com
Your standard raglan tee with a unique detail that makes you look twice, the New Era Sueded Cotton Blend 3/4-Sleeve Baseball Raglan Tee features a rib-knit V-shaped inset at the neckline. Sueded for a soft hand, it’s available in five colors, shown in royal heather and white.
SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / www.sanmar.com
The Running Singlet is a great way for runners to advertise their teams, causes they are running to support and sponsors. It’s available in complementary unisex and women’s styles; the unisex shirt, made from Ultrawick, has a loose fit, and the women’s shirt, made from polyester and Lycra, is fitted. Both styles feature a sponsor-friendly side panel.
Hidden Bay Sports / PPAI 575019, S1 / www.hiddenbaysports.com
No matter what the scoreboard reads, football players will be proud to show up in a custom Huddle Stretch Polyester Dazzle Jersey. The jersey features a full-length polyester mesh body with a mitered V-neck collar and a contrasting body, side and collar inserts. Available in 19 colors, shown in royal and white.
Champro / PPAI 669316, S1 / www.shop.champrosports.com
Keep wearers warm during chilly, early-morning tennis sessions with the Women’s Generation. Also a great choice for golf teams, the full-zip jacket is made from polyester and spandex, and features a self-fabric stand-up collar, hip pockets and dyed-to-match spandex, mesh underarm insets. Available in 23 colors, shown in black and mango.
Antigua Group / PPAI 133110, S6 / www.shop.antigua.com
A fashionable polo with a unique, textured finish, the Men’s Mirage Polo is also functional. Made from a breathable polyester fabric that’s also snag-resistant and offers UPF protection, it features an attractive gradient sublimated print on the front and a standup collar to keep wearers looking crisp all day. Shown in navy heather.
Stormtech USA Inc. / PPAI 260245, S4 / www.stormtech.com
A safe solution designed for movement and activity, and one that can be customized to suit any sports team, is the Adulting Value Wicking Crew Neck Tee. Available in unisex sizing, it’s made from 100% polyester that’s snag-proof and wrinkle-resistant, and also features moisture-wicking protection and stain release. Available in 13 colors, shown in kelly.
BLUE GENERATION / PPAI 174655, S11 / www.bluegeneration.com
Sports athletes and those with active lifestyles will appreciate the comfort of the 4-5001 socks. These low-cut performance socks, made from a blend of cotton, spandex and nylon, include knit-in logos, up to three colors. A mesh top offers breathability while arch support adds stability. Available in 40 colors, shown in red.
SPORTS SOLUTIONS, INC. / PPAI 471503, S1 / www.nosweatspecialties.com
Give players and diehards something they can wear to support their team both on and off the field, with the Structured Solid Active Wear Cap. Made from polyester, the cap is moisture-wicking and offers UV protection, and features a stretchable hook-and-loop closure. Shown in navy.
Cap America, Inc. / PPAI 111597, S10 / www.capamerica.com
Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.