Last week while walking back from class I passed a guy rocking an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. I immediately thought to myself, “that’s pretty cool.” But that made me think more. Back before 2011 while the Thrashers were still a thing, I never remember seeing a Thrashers jersey. And if I did see one I would have thought something along the lines of “that guy actually likes hockey, that’s weird” and moved on with my life. So why the change in reaction now that the Thrashers have moved 1,584 miles north to Winnipeg? Why is any jersey cool?
The General Jersey Rule (Clay Travis Theory)
You may choose to subscribe to the Clay Travis theory that no adult man should ever wear a jersey. He makes the understandable point that it is inherently degrading to one’s self to have another man’s name on his back. While I appreciate the basic fundamentals of his theory, I prefer a slight modification. I believe you should never wear the jersey of an athlete who is your peer or younger, meaning the jersey of an athlete who is significantly older than you or retired is fair game. For example, a current student at the University of Georgia should feel free to wear a Mathew Stafford or Hershel Walker jersey, but sporting a Jacob Eason or Nick Chubb jersey this fall is strictly off limits.
(Note, single college girls can where whatever current college player jersey they want, but keep in mind- if she has a boyfriend, this carries the implication that she would rather be with the athlete than that poor guy.)
Under that rule, the jersey of any current college player is extremely uncool for any man who has graduated from high school. That does leave the unfortunate loophole that allows most Alabama fans to wear their favorite Derek Henry jersey as much as their hearts desire.
The Location Rule
Depending on where you live, different jerseys are cool. If a jersey is of a team or player supported by the local population, it will be judged as cool. In Athens, UGA, Falcons, Hawks, and Braves jerseys are cool. That Paul Millsap jersey? Cool. Freddie Freeman? Fresh. Julio Jones? Tight. US National Team jerseys? You betcha.
Conversely, any jersey of a rival team to your local area is obviously not cool. That sweet Cam Newton jersey you picked up the day before the Super Bowl? Nope. Your Bryce Harper shit? Nah. That Florida jersey you still have from high school because your parents were big Gator fans? Hell no.
The Popularity Rule
Certain players are so universally beloved or so good that they provide a certain level of coolness. Everybody loves Peyton Manning, so rep The Sheriff all you want. Steph Curry is objectively The Man, so knock yourself out.
However, this creates an intriguing paradox with the Location Rule. What if a certain really good player is also the rival of a local team? Is it cool to wear a Lebron James jersey in the greater Atlanta area even though the Cavs beat the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals last season? Cam Newton and Bryce Harper also fit this description. As a strong believer in supporting hometown teams, my stance is that the Location Rule should take precedence over the Popularity Rule when it comes to defining coolness.
The Retro Factor
Any jersey that is old, for example a retired player or old uniform design, is inherently cool- a reminder of childhood memories, an appeal to the legends of past eras, a testament to your true sports fandom. Whenever a player retires, his jersey becomes instantly cooler. The longer the player is retired, the cooler the jersey gets. If a team moves cities or changes names, the old jerseys are immediately treasures. Atlanta Flames or Thrashers jerseys, Montreal Expos jerseys, Seattle SuperSonics jerseys- awesome. If the jersey is an old design not currently used regularly by the team, then it’s cool. With throwback jerseys, usually the crazier the design, the better the jersey. Any powder blue baseball jersey-sweet. Astros tequila sunrise jersey- badass.
The Obscurity Rule
Basically, the more obscure, unknown, and unique your jersey, the bigger the fan and the cooler the jersey. If everyone knows who the player is on the jersey, then that’s fine. But a less well-known player who made more specific contributions to your favorite team is a lot cooler. That proves you’re a real fan, only real fans will appreciate just how cool you are. A bench player that came up with a clutch pinch hit one time? Tight. The special teams player who saved a touchdown on a kick return? Fresh. Or on a less extreme part of the spectrum, a good player who is not necessarily a fan favorite, like the Braves’ Julio Teheran, is always a good call. This rule is best combined with the Retro Factor, like a Braves fan wearing a Sid Bream jersey, who was a mediocre player but is well known for his famous slide in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.
Any jersey of a movie character you somehow acquire is pretty much guaranteed cool. Your Michael Jordan Toon Squad jersey? Cool. The Billy Chapel Detroit Tigers jersey I might invest in? Awesome. Mighty Ducks, TC Williams Titans, Permian Panthers, Miami Sharks, Reagan County Owls, et cetera- cool, although difficult to get your hands on. Owning a Crash Davis Durham Bulls jersey (the coolest) is one of the most important items on my bucket list.
While any of these rules and factors can alone make a certain jersey cool, there all always varying degrees of coolness. Leaning on the Retro and Obscurity Rules will generally earn more cool points than Location or Popularity, because by definition they are harder to acquire and more unique. However, to truly find greatness when it comes to jersey coolness, combination is key. The more rules you can apply to a jersey, the cooler it becomes. For example, a Brett Favre Falcons jersey (Location, Popularity, Retro, and Obscure since he hardly played for the Falcons) is extremely cool. A Dale Murphy Braves jersey (Location, Retro/crazy powder blue, and Obscure to the average fan) is always a good choice.
Now, go forth and apply these indisputable rules to your lives. Take advantage and get some cool jerseys, and condemn those who break the rules.