Friday, April 23, 2010

Fake Jerseys

Original Puck Daddy inspiration for this rant

^^^ That's a link to a Puck Daddy article that basically summarizes my attitude towards Reebok and their monopoly on licensed NHL jerseys. Here's my take:
(DISCLAIMER: None of the facts or figures in this essay have been scientifically proven.)

Welcome to capitalism, Reebok. Yes, your jersey sales are great, and you're making a killing on them. But you seem to be missing something pretty obvious. Ever sent a representative to a hockey game at the United Center in the past few years? How 'bout Mellon Arena?

These two arenas were close to empty for most games before the lockout (and a few years after in Chicago), but are now thriving hockey markets thanks to the recent improvements of the teams. What do the large, happy crowds bring (especially following a convincing win)? Money. To buy things branded with their new favorite team's crest. You seem to have noticed, and now a majority of those filling the seats every night are sporting your cute little 'Vector' logo on the back of their necks. But again - you're missing something big.

Peer closer at (unscientifically) a number of these jerseys. At first glance they all seem cut from the same die - colors, logos and their locations, etc. But wait - why is the "Malkin" lettering on that guy's jersey so much fatter than on the guy in front of him? In fact, the more you look, the more you notice of the fat lettering. What gives? They're all cheering for the same team, and seem to walk with the same swagger whether their font is slender or could stand to skip some meals.

Catch my drift Reebok?

It's time to face the facts, Reebok. You inherited a cash cow when you struck an exclusive deal for the uniforms of the NHL. But what have you done with it since? Let's look at some numbers, shall we?

Pre-Reebok(-lockout), a replica jersey, no name or numbers, cost between $75-100 at the team's store in the arena. That was a nice, thick, sturdy piece of team spirit. My CCM Avalanche jersey from the late '90s is still in great shape - and it's been played in, worn to games and to school. Authentic jerseys, with their double-sewn elbows, fight strap and quality embroidering all over, ran about $150-175.

Post-lockout? Forget those double digit prices. Currently, shop.nhl.com lists replica jerseys as $114.99. A little steep, but nothing completely unreasonable, until you feel the jersey itself. Since when have hockey jerseys been made out of a stretchy, soft, pajama-feeling fabric? Oh, yes, that's right, since Reebok took over. I wouldn't even buy this jersey if the price hadn't jumped after the lockout. The emblems are cheapy, plastic laminate cut-outs rather than a nice embroidered patch. The only thing stitched onto the jersey? the shoulder patch. Awesome! Hockey is about being tough! and durable! - not being cuddled by a $115 throw blanket with some glue-on cardboard screen printed cutouts. Remember when a hockey jersey would keep you warm between the parking lot and the arena, and inside the arena? Forget those days, this thing wouldn't be considered to keep someone warm overnight in the tropical rain forest. Not to mention that more often than not, the stitching of the jersey itself will fray or begin to unravel after mere casual wear throughout the hockey season.
Oh, the authentic jerseys. Almost forgot them, like I quickly did upon seeing the price tag. For a fight strap, stitched and raised-embroidered logos (as is expected), and a slightly heavier material, you're asked to pay the measly sum of $300 - no name or numbers attached.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Remember those fat-letter jerseys from earlier? Here's their story.
Made out of a similar, albeit slightly heavier fabric, everything stitched on. Fight strap? check. Most of them even have the cute little 'Vector' logo on the collar.

The difference?

Average price for one on eBay: $50. Including shipping.

That's right. For something that to the normal eye looks the same as the "authentic" jersey, I can pay ONE SIXTH the money. I can pocket that $250 for a later purchase, and have a very comparable product on my shoulders when I walk through the gates on W. Madison Street to cheer on the Blackhawks.

While I would like to show my support to the team(s) I like in the NHL, I cannot justify spending so much of my money (especially as a college student in such a bad economy) on something that can't even withstand normal wear. Reebok, get a clue. You may be pulling great profits on your apparel, but it appears that you're ignoring the growing market of counterfeit jerseys because they're showing up in more and more arenas around the league as people struggle to even find the money for tickets to the games, much less another three digit sum of money to support the team. On my trip to Mellon Arena towards the end of the regular season, I noticed (and I'm good at noticing nuances like this) that of the powder-blue Penguins Winter Classic jerseys, more than 60% were fakes. More of the standard home and road jerseys fell into the 'official licensed' category, but the fakes were still making their presence known.

We live in a capitalist society, and because of that there is no reason Reebok can't charge whatever the heck they want for their product. But, remember, in capitalism, the consumer holds the power. Slowly but surely, the consumers are realizing how badly they're being stiffed at the arena and turning to the third party unlicensed jerseys in droves - myself included.

What would I like to see happen in the NHL jersey world? One of two scenarios:

1)
Reebok drop their prices by a small margin (10-15%) and makes the jerseys (logos too) out of better material and stitches the stuff on there rather than the glue that dissolves after 5 washes. Sorry Reebok, the whole EDGE (r) system isn't necessary for fans - the 20% less wind resistance in these flimsy jerseys won't help us get back to our seats before the intermission is over.
2)
Reebok can keep making their paper-thin team color nightgowns, but prices must be slashed to, if not lower than, the prices of their equivalents from the pre-lockout era.

Either way, until Reebok changes their ways dramatically (or gives up their exclusivity in the professional hockey market), I will be there singing Chelsea Dagger in my gloriously fake, obese-font Toews jersey.

Your move, Reebok. Impress me.

10 comments:

Peter said...

Great read.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I really think it's possible that Reebok actually makes the fake jerseys also. Why have they never aggressively gone after the counterfeit jersey makers? They probably understand that by pricing the real stuff too high, they can cash in on the bottom of the market by manufacturing their own fakes.

Talimu said...

I live in Canada and don't think that Jersey prices have increased that much. I still have my Gilmour jersey that I bought when I was 12. I am 27 now, I still remember buying the jersey it was my first paycheck from my first "job". It cost me $125 for the jersey and the stitching. At that time the jersey was $100 and the stitching was pay by the letter and I paid $25 for that.

I just bought a new Bozak jersey about 2 weeks ago. I paid $129.99 for it. If I were to compare the two side by the side I don't see that big of a difference in quality. The old CCM jersey is ALOT heavier but I don't think it stood up any better. I currently have 5 Leafs jersey's in my closet, the Gilmour jersey, 2 CCM jersey's, a Reebok practice jersey and the Bozak jersey. The CCM jersey's are nice, but I much prefer the new Reebok jersey's as out of all of them the Reebok ones are the only ones I can wear in the summer. The only problem I have with my Reebok practice jersey is the Reebok logo on the back is fraying a little after 2 years of regular wearing and washing.

The jersey's might be a little expensive but I don't think the overall cost has increase that much. My biggest problem is the cost of customization. $70 is OUTRAGEOUS, which is why I got it when the NHL was running their free customization promotion.

If you want a jersey rip-off go buy a CFL jersey. I paid $100 for my Argo's jersey with no customization, you could buy a comparable NFL jersey for half that with customization.

joe said...

news flash... fakes, authentics, all come from the same factories in china. you think there's an actual reebok factory in china churning out the authentics? hell no... they're all a bunch of textile factories staffed by chinese children making 2 cents an hour that are contracted by reebok to make sweaters.

joe said...

news flash... fakes, authentics, all come from the same factories in china. you think there's an actual reebok factory in china churning out the authentics? hell no... they're all a bunch of textile factories staffed by chinese children making 2 cents an hour that are contracted by reebok to make sweaters.

CaptainStefan said...

Joe -
This was more an argument about Reebok charging as much as they do for something far more inferior than the price. They're probably made in the same building as the fakes, which makes their mark-up that much more ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

It is all about suppy and demand. No one is forced to buy a real or a fake jersey. People purchase what they want and pay the price. Reebok charges what they do because there are more dummies than not who will pay the higher price. Rather than complain, why not leave the trash to all the dummies and you spend the money on something else? Profit is why they are in business, but if they are selling a bad or inferior product, DO NOT BUY IT (especially when you know what they are doing)! Well written essay with good points!

Archbishop Krejci said...

Now this is probably a weak attempt at rationalization, since I am someone who's purchased a Reebok Authentic with lettering, but I love that jersey, and prefer it over the other jerseys I own.

I've been a season ticket holder for the Bruins for 10 years. I go to 90-95% of the home games, plus I try and make at least one road trip. I sit in the last row of the balcony of the Garden, up with the infamous Gallery Gods.

So for me, the authentic jersey is simply a visible manifestation of my long term commitment as a Bruins fan. An investment so to speak.

Now, this isn't to say I'm a "better fan", since the only way I measure other fans is by height. Some fans choose to manifest their passion by painting their faces, wearing bear costumes or green body suits. Me, I just save my pennies and every five years or so buy an authentic jersey.

I will say this. I own two authentic jeresys. A KOHO home Bruins purchased in 2002. And a Reebox home Bruins purchased in 2008. Plus I own several replicas both from the Reebok era and KOHO/CCM/Proplayer eras. My favorite jersey from an aesthetic standpoint is the Reebok authentic.

I love the materials, especially when compared directly to the replica Reebok and KOHO. Plus the Reebok has the slimming affect, which I got going for me, which is nice.

Honestly I felt the KOHO authentics from the late 90's to mid 2000's were the biggest scandal. Those jerseys did not feel like $250 bucks, especially compared to the replicas.

At least the material difference between the Reebok Authentics replicas and knockoffs is tangible to where crazy people like me can justify the price vs. quality difference. HA!

CaptainStefan said...

Mr. Krecji,
Because it would have killed the notion of the essay, I did not mention that I found the EDGE jerseys uncomfortable. They are actually quite snuggly, but like I did mention - hockey is far from a snuggly sport, and I prefer the merchandise reflect that. Now if Reebok designed curling jerseys, we'd have a different scenario....

jk :)

子珠 said...

GOOD........................................

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