How to spot fake football shirts

Welcome back to Collectors Club.

Last time round we looked closely as the age old problem of washing football shirts, and today we tackle a subject that’s arguably even more of a problem.

Yes, if you’ve spent even just a day amongst the football shirt community, you’ll have no doubt encountered a question about fakes. To many people, a fake football shirt is a means to an end, an opportunity to ‘get’ the shirt of their dreams at a fraction of the price.

To a collector though, a fake shirt is as good as a tea towel. Any hunt on marketplaces like eBay and Depop becomes an exercise in dodgy counterfeit shirts, and if anything the tightrope walk only seems to be getting longer and more difficult.

Even experienced collectors can be forced to take a second look with what appears to be an increasing quality when it comes to the production of fakes, and so for Collectors Club we couldn’t leave the issue any longer.


You have to laugh sometimes

As frustrating as fakes can be, there are also occasions where you can’t help but smile. Whilst some fakes are uncannily similar to the real thing, others don’t try quite as hard to dupe potential buyers…

Once again we asked Twitter to send in some of the funniest fakes they’d encountered on their travels.


How to spot fake football shirts

As before, we’re enlisting the help of members of the community. Firstly we welcome Ellis Platten to the series. Ellis runs the highly successful YouTube channel AwayDays, and this year has seen the creator branch out with a range of popular shirt related videos!

Ellis is joined by the returning Roger Sharrock, who runs Cult Football.

Q: What is a fake shirt?

Ellis: A fake Football shirt is a shirt that is produced by an unofficial producer and without the permission or rights from the kit supplier or clubs.

Roger: A fake is an unofficial branded shirt.

Q: Have you ever bought a fake shirt?

Ellis: I have, unintentionally!

Roger: As a child whilst on holiday in Greece or Spain I would often pick up a market fake. Lets just say they have changed a bit since then!

More recently being involved in buying and selling football shirts for a living, it’s actually something you can rarely get away from. Shirts can sometimes arrive to us differently to what was advertised. Fake shirts also

tend to come as part of some larger bundles but we put them aside and give them to charity/clothes banks.

Q: Where do people buy fake football shirts?

Ellis: People buy them from everywhere these days, fake shirt sites, Depop and eBay are incredibly full of them sadly.

Roger: I think it has now become common knowledge that there’s a few Asian websites where the vast majority of fakes originate from. 

In the UK shirts then appear to be sold on through online marketplaces like eBay and apps (ESPECIALLY DEPOP) have now become flooded with fakes. It’s clearly something that needs addressing. No one from within eBay or Depop seem to take any notice of reports which in turn is seriously tainting the experience of searching for shirts on these sites.

Q: Are “replica” football shirts fake?

Ellis: No, however, as mentioned in my video,the term replica is becoming more and more prominent from companies and sellers to try and trick people into buying shirts.

Roger: The term replica seems to have been drastically lost over recent times. To me as someone in their 30s a replica football kit was the original term for a store bought shirt/kit in my youth. However “replica” now along with quite a few other names have become the new word for fake.

Q: What other names are used for fake shirts?

Ellis: ‘retro remake’ ‘retro replica’.

Roger: Remake seems to be the biggest one, Re-Pro, Retro.

Q: How can you spot a fake shirt online?

Ellis: There’s several ways, my suggestion is always by referring to the cost price for now and retro shirts. Many ‘retro fakes’ also come with tags and are listed for around £20 which is laughable in the current kit climate.

Roger: If in any doubt check the seller/business you’re looking to deal with, where is the item being shipped from? Take a look at their feedback history. If buying vintage take a close look at the shirt visually as it always helps to view the manufacturing labels, if the seller doesn’t have these on the item, a quick question asking for these won’t do any harm.

In terms of new shirts. If the price is really low there’s usually a reason. If it has not been officially released then that’s another warning sign. Visually it may have some slight differences and it will also carry the incorrect labels. A good way to check this with Nike and adidas shirts is to search for the product item codes.

Q: How can you spot a fake shirt in person?

Ellis: There are several factors, the general feel and look of a product can be huge factors but besides from this, the inside tags of an item and searching product codes is the sure fire way to avoid being stung.

Roger: In older shirts this tended to be really simple. Details would look very poor in comparison, materials tend to be different, poor stitching on products and incorrect placements would give this away quite easily. However new shirts have become closer to the real thing, there are still differences but they can be very subtle.

Q: What are the ‘pros’ of buying fake shirts?

Ellis: For many, the price, availability and convenience.

Roger: I think we all know shirt collecting can be a very expensive hobby. Whilst I understand costs can dictate an individuals view on this, for me there are no real benefits to buying a fake shirt but that’s entirely one

person’s view to another.

Q: What are the ‘cons’ of buying fake shirts?

Ellis: The cons, they’re inferior quality with no sell on value and you’re also helping to support slave and human trafficking industries.

Roger: Quality wise it will rarely stand up. Then there are the legalities surrounding fake items. It’s often said the counterfeit market funds further black market activity. It’s almost certainly untaxed so doesn’t contribute at all to the economy and it can also weaken a clubs brand and image. Lets not forget a fake shirt also holds no real value, so if you’re looking to hold onto it to sell in the future it will be a waste of time.

Q: Any other tips or advice for collectors?

Ellis: My main advice would be to always buy from reputable sellers online, failing this, the buyer always wins on ebay. If you get a shirt and it turns out to be fake you are fully entitled to a full refund.

Roger: When buying I tend to go off this.

1. Check price (If it’s too good to be true it usually is)

2. Look at the quality (check for mistakes)

3. Check labels if vintage

4. Check tags and the codes if new

5. Buy from reputable sellers


Fake shirts will always be a risk, and if anything we can attribute their rise in prominence to the fact that shirts are becoming more popular. If you’re someone who wants to avoid fakes though, you can hopefully feel more confident when hunting for your next addition.

Thanks again to Roger and to Ellis for helping us out with this latest part of Collectors Club. We have a range of upcoming topics already lined up and a number of different guests to hear from, so don’t go anywhere.

Finally, our weekly newsletter is an absolute must if you’ve enjoyed the start of this series. Not only will we keep you informed of the latest Collectors Club episodes, but we’ll also let you know first when we drop a new bunch of vintage shirts on our marketplace. Sign up today so you don’t miss out.

Phil Delves

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