A lot has been said about the differences between replica and player issue shirts. We ourselves have written a couple of pieces on the subject, including an article weighing up both tiers and a critique on the lack of quality when it comes to replica MLS shirts in particular.
Today I want to continue the conversation with a closer look at what you get for your money when picking up a shirt from one of the big teams. In a straight comparison, how do different teams and brands stack up? Given the price differences, are player issue shirts worth the extra investment?
Before we continue, a brief word on the selection of teams here. I wanted to include one team from each of the big brands and I’ll be focusing on home shirts only for brevity, but you can use the info as a guide for the vast majority of corresponding away and third shirts for a particular team.
Puma (Manchester City) replica vs player issue
Price: £70 vs. £110
Though there are some sizing differences, the player issue Manchester City is remarkably similar to the replica version, meaning there is less temptation to make the jump to PI, unlike other brands where the differences are more exaggerated. pic.twitter.com/xURZkNc4KH
Construction and design differences: The main construction difference to highlight is the slightly chunkier collar for the replica. Otherwise this is a very similar shirt, with some minor alterations to the side seam and hem being almost unnoticeable.
An additional white band on the inside neck of the shirt is the main visual discrepancy to note.
Sizing differences (men’s large):
Back length replica: 73cm / player issue: +1.5cm
Bust size replica: 112cm / player issue: -10cm
Sleeve length replica: 48.1cm / player issue: -0.6cm
The player issue Puma shirts of 2021 are much more forgiving than previous generations, with the main difference to highlight being the chest/bust size. The 10cm difference is enough to consider sizing up, depending on how you like your shirts to fit, but if you don’t mind a slimmer fit true to size might be possible.
Summary: Though there are some sizing differences, the player issue Manchester City is remarkably similar to the replica version. I say remarkably; this is the relatively low level of difference we have seen from other brands in the past. But, unlike the other big names which we’ll get onto shortly, I’m not as tempted to buy a player issue Puma shirt given the minimal differences in 2021.
You’re still getting much of what makes a particular design, and there is less to tempt me to make the jump unlike other brands where the differences are more exaggerated.
adidas (Bayern Munich) replica vs player issue
£70 vs. £110
Though the differences aren’t game changing, you’re simply getting a much nicer shirt to look at with PI. Everything from the collar & cuffs, to the material of the body and application style are improved.
Construction and design differences: Although the player issue and replica Bayern Munich shirts are broadly similar at first glance, there are significant material differences. The “HEAT.RDY” player issue material is lighter and features a waffle texture throughout, as opposed to the more standard “AEROREADY” material.
Notice also the collar and cuffs; on the player issue shirts we have a wonderful knitted portion which adds a lot of quality to both areas. Another noticeable difference can be seen at the bottom hem of the shirt. The back of the player issue shirt actually runs slightly longer due to the style of them, whereas the replica has a more orthodox straight hem.
The adidas logo is applied in a chunky, textured plastic style for the player issue, whereas the replica adidas logo is an embroidered application. There is also more texture to the club crest and stars of the player issue shirt.
N/A: the sizes of the player issue and replica Bayern Munich shirts were listed as identical on both the Bayern and adidas stores.
From experience, even though there will be minor differences the current generation of adidas player issue shirts are forgiving and fit similarly to the replicas. My advice would be to buy true to size for player issue adidas, or to consult social media if unsure.
Summary: The story for adidas is very different to Puma in my eyes. Though the differences aren’t game changing, you’re simply getting a much nicer shirt to look at at player issue level. Everything from the collar and cuffs, to the material of the body and application style are improved on the player issue, and the fact the sizing differences are negligible is a bonus.
The good news is that you still get the same back neck detailing at both tiers, and whilst I’m not a big fan of the downgrade we see with MLS shirts, the dropoff is
Of course the price is very high, and I’d advise to wait until the end of season sales to maximise value, but if you simply can’t wait and you have money to choose either tier, I’d opt for player issue when it comes to adidas shirts.
Nike (Barcelona) replica vs player issue
£69.95 vs. £104.95
Nike PI shirts have a premium look & feel, but the differences aren’t quite as pronounced as with other brands. If you can overlook the relatively flat looking replicas, you’re still getting the same shirt at replica level for a better price
Construction and design differences: In a similar narrative to the adidas shirts, the main difference between the player issue and replica Nike shirts is the material. The new “Dri-FIT ADV” material, which we discussed in a recent article, is the latest iteration of Nike’s player issue technology, superseding the previous VaporKnit material.
DFA adds a lot of aesthetic quality to the shirt, and plain shirts in particular can often suffer in a straight comparison.
As is typical with player issue shirts, you can also expect reworked crests and logos in a sleeker, patch style as opposed to the embroidered applications of the replica.
N/A: the sizes of the player issue and replica Barcelona shirts are listed as having the same measurements on the Nike and Barca stores.
As with adidas, you could buy true to size for player issue shirts unless you look a loose fit, based on my recent experience of Nike shirts.
Summary: Nike player issue shirts have a premium look and feel, but the differences aren’t quite as pronounced as adidas in my eyes. If you can overlook the relatively flat looking replicas, you’re still getting the same shirt at replica level without too much of a difference.
Applications will usually be different, and there will be a slightly trimmer fit, but compared to previous years you don’t have to worry as much about things like this.
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As Head of Content, Phil is the creative playmaker of the team, covering every angle of football shirt news in our blogs and weekly Newsletter. Whether it's telling your fakes from your authentics, or deep dives into the newest football shirts designs, Phil will have all your football shirt content needs covered.