While the cap has grown from the baseball world to become a multi-sport, multi-million dollar industry and the scarf will always hold a special place in the world of soccer, the jersey has become the ultimate signifier of sporting allegiance for fans. Jerseys, in many ways, have become an integral part of communal fandom, as fans of particular teams can use them to identify each other. This can be simply when they are walking down the street, into a sports bar or going to the stadium. They'll instantaneously feel an immediate connection to other people despite knowing nothing else about them.
While some teams are more liberal in changing their jersey designs or colors than others, they should also serve as a crucial connection to the history of the team and all the great players of the team’s past. An important part of the game day ritual and fan superstitions for many, jerseys do not only unify fans, but also connect them with their favorite team's glory eras, whether past or present.
The days of blank jerseys have largely ended, with few teams offering them anymore. Instead, jerseys now often come with the name and number of one of the team’s star players, past or present. Increasingly, however, personalized jerseys are rising in prominence, as fans seek to live out their dreams of playing for their favorite team, or wish to have a jersey that will outlast their favorite player’s tenure on their team’s current roster. In a state like New York, with several different teams in the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL (as well as the Giants and the Jets, who play in New Jersey but retain their New York names), there lies an opportunity to compare jersey prices in North American sports. This article will also, however, analyze how teams use jerseys to connect to their own histories. As customizable jerseys were the only constant across each sport, home custom men’s jerseys will be the standardized choice in this comparison.
10 New York Yankees (MLB): $203.99
No, you have not accidentally skipped to the end of this list. And yes, you are reading it right. The Yankees had the cheapest jerseys of any of the ten teams on this list. The Yankees. The team synonymous with wealth, prestige and success. They’re the ones with the cheapest jerseys. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one.
The Yankee pinstripes are iconic, and one of the most enduring jersey designs in North American professional sports. Embodying the team’s rich history and 27 World Series Championships, the home uniform has remained almost identical since the 1930s, worn by everyone from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to Reggie Jackson, and on to the present day with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees were the first team to use numbers on their jerseys, but have refrained from using names on any official jersey throughout their team’s history (even the official personalized options, which is the most likely reason for the lower price of the jerseys). Love them or hate them, the Yankee pinstripe home uniform is unmistakable and synonymous with success, which makes its place at the bottom of this list so shocking.
9 New York Mets (MLB): $267.99
While the Mets have existed since 1962, and won two World Series championships, the team has often been overshadowed in the media by their Yankee counterparts. When it comes to jersey prices, however, it seems the Mets were finally able to come out victorious, pricing their customizable jerseys over $60 higher than the Yankees. The last few years have not been kind to Mets fans, but the team has had some truly great players in its time, like Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Mike Piazza. The jersey itself is clearly recognizable in its design, but is most interesting for the history inherent in its color choices. The choices of blue and orange paid tribute to New York’s two former baseball teams: blue for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who moved to Los Angeles before the 1958 season, and orange for the New York Giants, who moved to San Francisco that same year. In a city with a rich baseball legacy, the Mets have succeeded in carving out their own sizable share within it, and are a proud and enduring part of the New York sporting landscape.
8 T6. Brooklyn Nets (NBA): $299.95
Though the Brooklyn Nets have only recently moved from New Jersey, the franchise had also existed in New York as an ABA team, led by basketball legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving, from 1968-76, and briefly as an NBA team before moving to New Jersey in 1977. Playing in the brand-new Barclays Centre, and partly owned by hip-hop and rap icon Jay-Z, the franchise has sought to move away from its roots and used the move to re-brand the team through a radical jersey change. Relying on a black and white color scheme, the new jersey is a radical departure from earlier designs, but undeniably stylish and timeless. If the team, whether with its current nucleus of Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, or under a completely revamped roster in the future, can achieve success and win championships, expect to see this jersey all across not just New York, but the United States.
7 T6. New York Knicks (NBA): $299.95
The Knicks are one of the NBA’s iconic franchises, and its early 1970s iteration won the team’s only two championships, with Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, a young Phil Jackson, Jerry Lucas and Willis Reed on their roster (Reed’s heroic effort to play through a badly hurt leg in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals is arguably one of the sport’s greatest moments). From those years to the Patrick Ewing-led teams of the 90s, through a brief bout of Lin-sanity and the current roster including Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire; the blue, orange and white have remained the same, even as the jersey itself has undergone several, mostly minor, changes. Along with the Lakers and Celtics, the Knicks jersey is one of the most recognizable and important in basketball, and an important part of New York’s cultural sporting legacy.
6 T6. New York Giants (NFL): $299.95
The Giants have won four Super Bowls in their history, two with Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and Bill Parcells, and the other two with Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. While the earlier iteration had red edging around the numbers, sleeves and collar of its jerseys, both eras are defined by the royal blue and white home color combination, which has been a part of the team’s appearance since 1954. By reducing the current jerseys to those most basic elements, the team has captured a look that embraces its history but looks contemporary. While the team may now play in New Jersey, the Giants blue and white will remain an important part of New York’s sporting life (not to mention a constant reminder to Broncos and Colts fans that Eli still has more Super Bowl rings than his brother Peyton).
5 T4. Buffalo Bills (NFL): $300.00
Buffalo Bills fans have endured a great deal in their time. The team lost four straight Super Bowl appearances from 1991 to 1994, though they are still the only team to ever make the Super Bowl in four consecutive years. The team last made the playoffs in the 1999 season (does anybody else still remember Flutie Flakes?) and since then have endured a carousel of different quarterbacks and head coaches. Fans have also sacrificed one home game a year to Toronto, amidst unsubstantiated but persistent rumors that the team may eventually be moved there.
But to make up for it, they have amazing home jerseys. The 2011 reversion to the royal blue, hearkening back to Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and Andre Reed, was a fantastic move. The new jerseys furthermore include just the right amount of complimentary red and white. While I am not a Bills fan myself, I truly hope that the patience of Bills fans is rewarded sometime soon. Because with jerseys that nice, they deserve to be able to wear them with pride.
4 T4. New York Jets: $300.00
Joe Namath’s leadership of the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III, over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, remains one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Since then, the Jets have made four AFC Championships, the latter two with Mark Sanchez as their quarterback, but have not played in another Super Bowl. Considering the recent career trajectory of Sanchez, Rex Ryan’s ability to coach the team to reach those games with Sanchez as his quarterback serves as a testament to his coaching abilities, no matter what your opinion may be concerning his controversial personality.
It must sting Jets fans, however, to know that they had both Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick on their coaching staffs in the 1990s, considering their successes since. Carroll was the Jets’ coach during the 1994 season, fired after just one year, while Belichick was Bill Parcells’ assistant and promoted to head coach after Parcells’ resignation, only to immediately resign and eventually accept the head-coaching role with the rival Patriots.
The Jets have sported their green and white jerseys for the past fifty years though, demonstrating remarkable continuity throughout both their high and low points. Continually donning the colors with pride and respect, the Jets remain one of the NFL’s more noteworthy franchises as they continue to try to duplicate the successes of Namath’s magical win.
3 T1. Buffalo Sabres (NHL): $359.95
The Sabres have, in recent years, chosen to return to the blue and gold designs and crossed Sabres logo connecting them to the 1970s, when they boasted the French Connection line of Gilbert Perrault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin. Though the efforts to restore those classic designs have been challenging at times (from 2006-2010, the team used blue and gold but created the now infamous Buffa-Slug logo, and their current alternate uniforms are a powerful argument against the existence of alternate uniforms), the results have paid off.
Dominik Hasek was undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever play the goaltending position, winning two Hart Trophies, six Vezinas and nearly singlehandedly leading the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, but the jerseys of his era, though not poor, lacked the appeal of the older design. Thankfully, they have moved away from those and it's too bad we never got to see Hasek flop around in the classic blue and yellow jersey.
The team currently sits at the bottom of the NHL standings, but perhaps with time, a new generation will rise to wear the jerseys with the same pride and talent as the French Connection once did.
2 T1. New York Islanders (NHL): $359.95
The third and final team on this list to use a blue and orange color combination, the Islanders can boast the most championships of those three, as the team won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, one of the greatest dynasties in the sports’ history. The roster of that team was filled with legends: forwards Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, defenseman Denis Potvin, goaltender Billy Smith, and coach Al Arbour, who are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. While the team has endured some rough years recently under the ownership of Charles Wang, the selection of John Tavares first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft has injected new hope into the franchise. Their recent woes, and the short-lived Fishermen logo (a gray-bearded man with a blue trenchcoat and cap) of the mid-1990s, have done little to help the reputation of the team. The team’s current jerseys are thankfully similar to those of the 1980s once again. With Tavares, the first player since Pat Lafontaine, in the early 90s, with a legitimate claim to the superstar mantle of Bossy and Trottier, hope has once again returned to Long Island. So don’t be surprised if there’s an upsurge in Islanders jerseys across New York in the near future (if they can ever figure out their goaltending issues).
1 T1. New York Rangers (NHL): $359.95
The blue, red and white of the New York Rangers jersey, with the team’s name going diagonally on the front from right shoulder to left hip, is as iconic to hockey as the Yankee pinstripes are to baseball. While hockey’s recent change to make the traditional white jersey the road uniform was controversial to some, the Rangers were able to go from strength to strength, changing from the white to the blue jerseys for their games in historic Madison Square Garden. The team has enjoyed the fewest Stanley Cup victories of any of the NHL’s Original Six, but the magical 1994 victory, punctuated by captain Mark Messier’s guarantee of victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and subsequent hat-trick in the game, remains one of hockey’s enduring moments. The Rangers jersey has undergone several minor changes over the years, but nonetheless brings with it a sense of class and of history, as all great sports uniforms should.