You see it all the time at the mall, the rack of 50%-off officially merchandised NFL jerseys... and like the Pied Piper’s call to the children of Hamelin, you are drawn to the rack filled with the jerseys of those who have left the team through free agency, trade, or who have just busted and gotten the axe.
For years now the racks around Chicago have been kept busy, with home and road stylings in the name & numbers like those of Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett (two different Bennett’s in fact).
Now, at least around here, the racks are filled with Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery jerseys.
You have to look though, because you never know when you will find a gem like a Matt Forte or a Robbie Gould, players who have left but who’s jerseys remain cool to wear.
Jersey “coolness” is hard to describe, hard to quantify, but there are certain ones that are always cool and others that should just be donated to the homeless.
I never advise burning or destroying perfectly functional clothing, there are people in need who will be happy to wear it not caring one little bit who’s name or number is on it. A couple of years ago when the Rams moved out of St. Louis, I saw pictures of angry Rams fans making bonfires out of their Rams gear, including people throwing perfectly good usable coats into the flames just a few blocks away from homeless shelters that could really have used those coats to distribute to people who didn’t have one. What a waste.
It is ALWAYS cool to wear old jerseys for players who have retired after successful Bears careers. In fact, many times it is hyper-cool to do so. My wife, for example, is most likely to show up at any Bears even wearing either her Thomas Jones (didn’t retire a Bear, but was stupidly traded so close enough) or her Matt Suhey jersey. Both always work, every time. Thank you to Stephanie Rosen for modeling our sample jerseys today.
Me? If I am going retro (since I am a big guy, 6’3 and ample) I will go either Fridge or Richard Dent. Both outstanding choices for all occasions. If I’m feeling slightly more modern, I will go Brian Urlacher or Olin Kruetz. I also can go with one of the old standbys that is ALWAYS appropriate, George Halas or Sweetness.
The list of players that will always be cool isn’t endless, but it’s pretty big. Charles Tillman will always be cool. Johnny Knox will be cool. Devin Hester? Always cool. Patrick Mannelly? You know it.
Then there are those guys who’s jerseys are not going to work... Martellus Bennett? Nope. Shea McClellin? Nice guy, but nope. Khaseem Greene? Sam Hurd? I could keep going on, you get the drift.
There’s one more type of jersey out there that is “so very no” it might just be yes if you are the kind of trendsetter person who can pull off ANYTHING... the rare, old mega-bust jersey. Try this one, show up at a game or a tailgate in a Cade McNown jersey. If you’ve got the personality to pull it off, that one may well work for you.
Cedric Benson? You are on your own on that one.
SO... when is it time to make the commitment? When do you go ahead and swipe the card? Here are some guidelines.
First, let’s talk about what NOT to do.
Avoid buying the jersey of guys in their rookie deals at LEAST until their fifth year option is picked up, and ESPECIALLY if a guy doesn’t get to keep his college number. Numbers are special to players, they identify themselves by their numbers. I have a friend who has played semi-pro ball into his 40’s, he’s been #78 since grade school. He even signs his name with a #78 at the end. It’s a big deal. A perfect example of why you don’t buy a first rounder’s jersey is Kevin White. Not only has he not lived up to his draft status, he’s also switched from the horrible #13 to his college #11. Obviously, it’s still not safe to buy a White jersey.
Avoid buying white colored jerseys (they stain).
Avoid buying jerseys at full price at the stadium... it’s the most expensive place you can shop.
So when is it OK to pull out the ole wallet and buy some new threads? I asked your WCG staff what their thoughts were, and here’s what they said:
I've learned this from personal experience: make sure they're under contract long term. My latest addition to my Bears jersey collection was an Alshon Jeffery jersey that I got last year. I also had the misfortune of getting a Brandon Marshall jersey the year before he left, too. As of now, none of the Bears jerseys I own are worn by current players.
Also, don't be risky when making your decision on which player's jersey to buy. I went to the store in the Nike headquarters back in 2014 (I met Andre Johnson there, by the way), I decided to get a jersey. However, they didn't have any Bears apparel in the store. I narrowed it down to two choices: Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel, the latter of whom had yet to play a down in the NFL. After much thought, I chose Wilson. He is now among the best quarterbacks in the league, whereas Manziel is currently without a job. This means that I would recommend against getting a Mitch Trubisky jersey until after he actually plays in the NFL.
It's best to get as much mileage out of your jersey, so to speak. You don't want to buy a jersey that you won't wear two years from now. There are some exceptions - legends like Walter Payton, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher come to mind as timeless classics - but you should play it safe when picking a jersey.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.
I would never buy the jersey of a current player. Actually, I've never bought a player jersey of any sport, but if I did, I would go with a throwback.
Once a current player passes the "I will tell my grandchildren about him" test, you can buy his jersey.
Just before training camp 2013, I wrote a guide to buying the jerseys of current Bears, with each jersey ranked on a 0-10 scale of safety. Here's what I came up with:
Lance Briggs: 8/10 (I gave Peanut the bump because he's the best in franchise history at his position, and there were more Briggs jerseys circulating at the time than Tillman ones)
Devin Hester: 7/10
Mannelly/Forte/Cutler: 6/10 (Though I didn't say it explicitly in the story, I think I was holding back on both Forte and Jay because they were still in their prime, and I didn't want to see either guy end up on a division rival like what happened to me with my Marcus Robinson jersey. It's fine now, but there were a few seasons where it sucked walking around in the jersey of a current Viking, and I didn't want that to happen to fans with #22 or #6.)
"A Few Good Years"
Julius Peppers / Brandon Marshall: 5/10
"Beware A Temporary Popularity Surge"
Henry Melton / Tim Jennings: 4/10
Martellus Bennett / Corey Wootton: 3/10
Kyle Long: 0/10
Explanation in article: Fans are hoping for the best for young Kyle Long. But Bears first round draft picks don't make reliable jerseys, whether they be offensive linemen (Marc Colombo, Gabe Carimi) or otherwise (David Terrell, Cedric Benson).
I just bought a Kyle long jersey to replace my Alshon. I like having a current player. It's always a risk but in this case he's awesome, he plays the same position I did, and most importantly, wears the same number I did. While #17 didn't work out, I would still wear my forte or Hester jersey, which I got early in their careers.
I may have come around to the historically great players only. I'm not really a huge jersey guy anyway but after sending all my jerseys to the goodwill after a few years, and I'm one case, I never even got a chance to wear it, I will stick to players that aren't going anywhere.
I typically wait for the first contract extension. I no longer have any current Bears jerseys because Cutler was cut and Alshon walked. I bought my Alshon jersey after 2013 thinking he was a slam dunk for a contract extension. I'm just going to go a season or two rotating between my Luckman, Urlacher and Kreutz jerseys before thinking about any current players. Obviously you can't go wrong with a Long jersey.
(Biting back a joke about having a Long jersey for a Long time)
I no longer buy jerseys. It is difficult for me to reconcile wearing the jersey of a guy who is younger than me (and yay, they're pretty much all that way now), but also, they don't look great. A jersey is meant to be filled out by pads, so they just sort of drape on you unless you buy them too small, (and don't be too small guy)
Also, it's a lot to spend on a shirt that I'm generally not going to wear most places. I would pretty much only wear it on Sundays for 1/3rd of the year, so it seemed silly.
Anymore, I'd rather just have a minimalist t-shirt or hoodie - The classic C with nothing else on it, or the Bear head logo.
Wrapping it all up:
We’ve had our say, so tell us YOUR jersey buying advice. Do you have any team logowear horror stories in your past (or still lurking somewhere in your closet?).
Spill the beans...