A new deal has flashed up on Twitter and the heart starts racing. We rush to add the shirt to our basket, diligently making sure we’ve chosen the right size, and after a few more clicks we sit back in relief. The collection is about to get a little bit sweeter.
But then, disaster strikes. We unwrap the shirt and hastily attempt to stick it on for it’s catwalk debut. Rather than fitting like a glove though, it fits as well as a camel going through the eye of a needle. Thankfully you’ve left the tags on, but all sizes have sold out at the original price and you’d have to pay full whack to get the shirt in a more wearable fit.
Sizing vintage football shirts is tricky business, and the landscape of kit fit shifts almost season to season. Sometimes, brands even seem to have different approaches across their ownrange of shirts, making the experience a frustrating one.
Here are some handy tips to help you stay on course as much as possible despite the changeable waters.
1. Consult brand football shirt size guides
I’ll start with an obvious but often overlooked point: brands provide up-to-date size guides each season. With sizing often changing over time, it’s important to consult the latest charts so you don’t make the mistake of buying the size you used to wear in the 90s, even if it’s the same brand you’re buying from.
Below is a couple of representative size guides from the biggest names, to give you an idea of what sort of measurements you’ll typically get with different sizes.
Nike football shirt size guide (men’s replica shirts, inches)
adidas football shirt size guide (men’s replica shirts, inches)
If you’re buying from a 3rd-party retail site or vintage reseller, you may see additional sizing information if there are any notable differences from what you’d typically expect. Don’t be afraid to ask for measurements if you’re unsure also, especially when buying on a peer-to-peer platform like eBay or Depop.
2. Be aware of the notoriously tight brands
Expanding on the brand conversation, there are some manufacturers whose shirts run notoriously tight. Brands like Kappa are famous for their pioneering, tight-fitting Kombat range, and indeed the legacy of that range continues to a degree with their replica shirts in 2021. For a replica Kappa shirt, it’s advisable to size up at least once. For player issue Kappa shirts, a minimum of 2 sizes up is often advised (more on the difference between replica and player issue later).
Consult official size guides as mentioned before, and reach out to the community for tips or advice if you’re still unsure. When it comes to specific quirks with certain brands, there’s no substitute for the person who’s been there, done that and quite literally got the t-shirt.
3. Consider regional size differences
One general rule I apply is that 2nd tier (anyone not Nike, adidas, Puma) European manufacturers often produce shirts that run a size or half a size smaller. Brands in this bracket include Macron, hummel, Joma and Kappa. Indeed, if you see shirts listed as European sizing you should usually size up once (even though some sites will claim that UK sizing is equivalent to European, which in practice is rarely the case).
For other regions like Japan, it’s advisable to size up a minimum of two sizes. If you’re buying through a UK or European retailer who has bought in Japanese stock, specific information should be provided on the site to help.
Conversely, I would usually advise sizing down when buying shirts from the U.S. A U.S. large is roughly equivalent to a UK medium, at least based on personal experience, but again I can’t reiterate enough the importance of checking size guides and reaching out to people on Twitter and Insta who can help confirm or deny your suspicions.
4. What type of shirt are you buying?
With every brand you should expect to see size differences depending on which version of shirt you get.
For most brands, player issue shirts are between a full size and half a size tighter than replica shirts. As mentioned before though, there is a greater discrepancy for some manufacturers like Kappa. It’s almost important to note (as has been a key theme in this article) that brands will change their materials, construction and consequently sizing periodically.
To use a recent example, Puma’s player issue shirts in the 2016/17 season featured a staggering amount of plastic ribbing on the inside of the garment. This, combined with the materials and construction of the rest of the shirt, made for a tight kit which would run at least one size tighter than a replica shirt, if not 2. In 2020/21 however, the difference isn’t as dramatic and though you’d probably still want to size up, the sizing is more forgiving.
5. How do you compare youth and adult sizes?
On your travels you might notice youth shirts listed as a men’s XS. These larger youth or kids shirts (typically designated as “YXL” on the label”) may be close to the equivalent of a men’s XS, but there is significant variation across brand and age. Even during eras where shirts were typically baggy (e.g. the late 90s), youth shirts won’t necessarily follow the same pattern.
Given how much cheaper youth shirts will be, it’s often tempting to pick one up and try and squeeze in. If you’re planning to wear the shirt though, there’s no substitute for individual measurements which the seller should be able to provide.
6. Are women’s shirts the equivalent size to small men’s shirts?
It’s a good time to be a female football fan.
Gone are the days when brands would produce patronising ‘women’s shirts’ that featured drastically different constructions that often took away from the design of the shirt itself. In 2021, most brands will now offer women’s cuts that are more considered, and though there are still some minor differences these don’t amount to sweeping changes that damage the integrity of a kit.
If you’re a man who’s looking to buy a women’s shirt, you have every chance of fitting into one depending on the brand you’re dealing with. There’s no simple comparison, but consult the relevant football shirts size guide and pictures to gauge if things will work out.
It’s all well and good understanding sizing a bit better, but when should you actually buy a football shirt? If you’re looking for the best price, is the end of season the way to go, or should you put all your efforts into the Black Friday sales?
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