With fake and reproduced football shirts popping up left, right and centre, it’s become even more imperative to understand how to authenticate your own collection.
Is it hard to authenticate shirts?
To the untrained eye, it can be a little bit of a minefield.
And, as I’ll discuss throughout this article, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ which go into the world of trying to authenticate the provenance and source of any given football shirt.
That being said, it’s important to check a number of things before you buy a football shirt, especially if it’s from a private seller and/or for a lot of money.
Truth be told, it’s good practise to keep these tips handy when you even buy from a shop!
Not with The Soccer Archive though – they know what they’re doing!
Check the Inside Labels
The first step is to check the inside of the shirt to see if it has wash labels inside.
If your football shirt does not have wash labels inside then this can be an indicator that the shirt is fake, but not every time. Some shirts, like the player issue shirts don’t have wash labels as the size guide is printed on the inside for Nike shirts.
Retro/vintage shirts that were manufactured in the 1970s, 80s and 90s may also not have wash labels inside the shirt – as it’s a relatively newer practise to make this a normal thing.
However, if you’re purchasing from someone who has worn the shirt previously, they also may have removed the wash labels as it can somewhat ruin the way it feels when wearing.
But in these cases there is usually be some sign that the wash label has been removed, if not it is always worthwhile to ask.
The State of the Wash Label
Another useful tip that is worth checking is to see if the wash label has any sort of marking on, whether it be biro pen or permanent marker etc. Shirts with pen marks are usually almost always fake.
Why? Because it’s usually an indication of a team marking it for mass production; not the ideal thing you want to see in order to authenticate anything, let alone a potentially expensive football shirt.
Something you wouldn’t see in Niketown or any flagship Adidas store.
Product Codes & Manufacturer Numbers
Since the early 2000s, most manufacturers began to add product codes or MPNs (Manufacturer Part Numbers) underneath the wash label within the shirt in order to clearly identify authentic shirts.
How to find Product Codes on shirts
Not every brand released football shirts containing product codes in the early 2000s however, and a lot of shirts can be different with regards to where the product codes are located and the codes can sometimes take a bit of digging to find.
But here are a few ways to find product codes for the three most popular shirt selling brands on the planet: Adidas, Nike and New Balance.
Product codes for Adidas jerseys were some of the first to be invented, and they are some of the easiest shirts to find product codes in too, as seen below. Adidas product codes can either be found inside the collar of the shirt or on the inside near the bottom of the shirt.
As shown by the image, the top number is the year that the shirt was manufactured.
However the second line shows the product code, where you can simply google the product code and the exact shirt should show up.
Moving onto Adidas’ closest competitors, Nike. Nikes product codes are usually found on a smaller label underneath the wash label, which is usually on the inside of the shirt near the bottom of the shirt itself.
Nike however, have multiple numbers on their labels so it can sometimes be tricky if you’re not familiar with checking shirts, luckily we’re here to help.
Nike’s most recent shirts have a product code like this one, with letters and numbers separated with a dash (-) before three more numbers. Once again Google the product code and the shirt must match the one you have purchased.
Older Nike shirts just have a six digit number on the inside label, that will be your product code.
Finally, and probably the easiest ones to authenticate, New Balance shirts.
New Balance shirts are simply just about locating the label with the product code on, which is the easiest to find from all three of the manufacturers mentioned in this article.
The product code is underneath the wash label in every New Balance shirt, even the older ones. In the older New Balance shirts, the product code will be titled style: and then two letters followed by six numbers will be the code to search into Google.
However, on newer versions of New Balance shirts, you will look at the very bottom of the wash label in order to find the year the shirt has been made, and then just underneath you will see the two letters followed by six numbers as mentioned previously.
You can see an example of a newer shirt (left) to help, the 2017-18 Liverpool Home Shirt.
There are also more rudimentary ways of trying to authenticate football shirts. So let’s run through them quickly, as it’ll be relatively self-explanatory, even if you’re just starting out.
Make sure the sponsor has the same look and feel of other shirts. Is the sponsor placed correctly? Is it the same size? The same colour even? These are all questions worth asking yourself.
Is the logo in the same location? is it plastic or is It sewn on? Is it the correct size?
Check if the sleeve patches are good quality and see if they are sewn on, especially on older Premier League and La Liga shirts, nowadays shirts are mainly steamed on patches.
Check the market of the shirt you are contemplating purchasing too, even if all of the above steps have been taken.
For example, if you’re purchasing a brand new PSG Shirt for £15 off of Vinted or Ebay then seriously check the market because we can assure you that it is almost guaranteed to be a fake at that ridiculously cheap price point.
It can be a bit of a laborious process to try and privately authenticate football shirts, as there are many different options out there and the knowledge in this area if growing by the day.
But taking these few tips in hand should prevent any serious difficulty in the second-hand market.
Hopefully you guys can read this article and learn from us at Hobby FC about how to authenticate your shirts properly in order to stop sneaky sellers taking your hard-earned money, thank you all very much for reading!
What would you add to this list?