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  • by Phil Delves February 05, 2022 6 min read

    For the latest edition of Collectors Club, we’re returning to the hot button issue of fake shirts.

    The fake football shirt market has received something of a pushback amongst the wider community over the past 12 months, but despite some notable voices cautioning against the buying of fakes, where new or vintage football shirts the industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  

    How to spot fake football shirts by brand

    adidas Kappa Puma



    We spoke at length about fake shirts in a previous Collectors Club but I now want to revisit the subject with a greater focus on specific brands. If you’re in the market for a shirt from a particular manufacturer and you’re keen to avoid buying a fake (and if you’re a collector, you should always be keen to avoid the trap!), what should you look out for?

    We'll be using pictures of real and fake elements on a football shirt to help us as we dig deeper into the subject. These pictures have been provided by various members of the community, so many thanks in advance to those who have contributed to this discussion!

    Kicking off this second wave of fake shirt content is Nike. Who else?

    The Nike Swoosh

    The Swoosh is one of the most recognisable brand logos in the world across all sectors. According to an article which I quickly Googled for the purposes of this piece, the average person is exposed to close to 5000 brand logos per day, and for football shirt fans a good chunk of that is probably made up of Nike’s eternal tick.

    For any given fake Nike football shirt, the quality of the Swoosh varies wildly. Let’s start by looking at what a Nike Swoosh looks like on a genuine shirt.

    On the left, we have a swoosh from a recent player issue Nike shirt. Despite the camera angle making the tick look a little chunky, you can see the similarities between this and a swoosh from an older replica Nike shirt from the mid 00s (right). Crucially, the edges of both are sharp despite the different application methods and materials used.

    Now let’s take a look at a series of fake Nike ticks. All of the below are fake, and though some could pass as a real swoosh, others are quite clearly fake on the basis of the shape of the swoosh. As well as the shape of the swoosh itself, you also want to look out for the integrity of the stitching (if the tick is embroidered) or the quality of the application itself if it’s plastic.

    The two swooshes below are examples of passable Nike logos. At first glance or from a distance, you could easily assume these were real, and if I saw these pictures on an eBay listing I would need to see other areas of the shirt to be certain whether I was looking at a real or fake kit.

    Most fake Nike shirts will have manufacturer logos that look like the below however. Key areas to spot are each end of the tick, where you’ll often see the point trailing wildly. Sometimes differences are more subtle, but if you familiarise yourself with the genuine Nike logo you’ll quickly be able to identify even the smallest of discrepancies. 

    If you turn your shirt inside out and you see something like the below, you’ve got another clear indicator of a fake. You might also see something like this behind the crest of the shirt. Though not exclusive to a fake Nike football shirt, excess material like this is a classic sign of a fake.

    FSC newsletter sign up

    Nike product code

    If you want to check if a shirt is fake, Google the product code on the small inside label near the bottom of the shirt. The code you’re looking for with Nike shirts is a 9 digit code made up of 6 digits, a dash and 3 digits.

    At this point it’s worth saying that if the shirt you’re looking at doesn’t have a product label, steer clear (the picture below shows the sort of inside labelling you might find with a fake shirt). There’s no good reason to cut the small internal label with the product code off from a genuine shirt, as it’s one of the best ways to authenticate the shirt is actually real, and although there is a dotted line above the label tempting the owner to cut it off for the purposes of comfort, I’d caution buying any Nike shirt without one.

    Below are a couple of product labels from fake Nike football shirts. Most of these look perfectly reasonable in terms of format, but the codes return shirts which don’t match the one the label is attached to.

    Sometimes you’ll Google the code and see a shirt that’s similar but not the same (a home shirt instead of the away, for example). Other times you’ll see the same code used for completely different fake kits, with the France 2016 away shirt being a running joke in the community because of its prevalence in fakes for some unknown reason. With enough time, you'll get to know the typical fake codes used for a fake Nike football shirt.

    Nike authenticity tag/jock tag

    Modern Nike shirts will usually have some sort of authenticity tag (also called a jock tag) at the bottom right of their shirts. The style of this has changed over time, including the recent introduction of a round patch for some Nike shirts, but each tag will have some sort of long combination of letters and numbers.

    Like the product code, it’s worth Googling the jock tag code to see what comes up, but unlike the product code you actually don’t want to see multiple results of a kit coming up after you search. This is because the code on this tag is unique to the shirt, unlike the product codes which are shared across copies of the same kit.

    For example, below is a product photo of the Chelsea 3rd shirt from Nike’s own site. A quick search of the code here doesn’t bring up several shirts (unlike a Google of the codes in the photos previous), which is a good sign.

    The quality of fake authenticity tags seems to be particularly high in comparison to other areas of fake kits, but the codes themselves are a good indicator. Product code searching is typically a bit more straightforward from experience, but add a jock tag check to your process for extra piece of mind.

    Nike tag placement

    One classic mistake which fakers often make is the placement of the main tags. For any Nike shirt from the past few seasons, you’d expect to see labels at the end of either sleeve, but fakes typically have labels around the neck (see picture below for a fake example).

    NOTE: Since this article was published, a number of people have got in touch to say they've received genuine Nike shirts with tags attached the collar. As such this is no longer a consistent sign of a fake, but it is still worth comparing pictures when researching if a particular shirt is fake or not.

    A brief word of tags in general. It’s incredibly rare to see any shirt that’s more than 5 years old with tags, unless you’re buying from a retailer or vintage seller who happens to have stumbled across a batch of deadstock. Old shirts with tags aren’t necessarily fake, but it’ll be enough to make me think twice.

    After you’ve done the important Nike specific check listed above, you should check out other aspects of the kit to make sure it’s not fake. Do the colours of the shirt match pictures you see online from retailers or other collectors? Is the pattern the right level of sharpness and opacity? Do the design elements match up placement wise? A fake Nike football shirt, like any other counterfeit, will always show up with enough research.

    Thanks to those who provided the pictures used in this piece. We’ll be covering more brand specific advice in regards to fakes in the coming weeks, so let us know in the comments which brand you’d like to see next.

    If you enjoyed this blog on fake Nike shirts, then why not sign-up to our weekly Collectors Club Newsletter to receive more great tips each week? You can sign-up here.

    Phil Delves
    Phil Delves

    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.