Apparel
Decorating

Trend Right

Everything you need to know about team uniform trends for 2020.

There has never been a more exciting time for decorating sports apparel. Fabric technology is growing every year, with jerseys being made from moisture-wicking polyester that breathes and compresses. With new fits and fabrics making their way onto the fields and courts, your customer is going to want to take advantage of this new apparel.

These uniforms are being decorated in a wide variety of ways. Professional and collegiate teams are doing throwback, retro jerseys with modern touches, like bright highlights and reflective materials. In younger leagues, players are sporting sublimated uniforms, full of bright colors and logos.

Fashion is playing a noticeable role in jersey design. As it’s become popular to support your favorite player by wearing their jersey, designers are trying to strike a balance between jerseys players want to play in and jerseys fans want to buy. This rise in fashion has also resulted in an increase in the variety of uniforms professional and collegiate teams wear. Jerseys are now made with specific looks and fits, geared towards fans of all sizes and body types.

From Moisture Wicking to Compression

No matter what the sport, all jerseys are being made with moisture wicking in mind. These jerseys are mostly made of 100 percent polyester blends that, unlike natural materials like cotton, does not absorb moisture. These synthetic, polyester materials need to be decorated at lower temperatures and need to be able to stretch and rebound with the jersey.

Brand name uniform manufacturers such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have all developed their own sports-specific knits and technology, including ventilating side-panels and breathable knits. With new knits and blends come new fits and silhouettes. High-end football jerseys are using compressing fabric technology, claiming the compression aids in reducing impact and in supporting muscles. These uniforms are going seamless as well, eliminating the side-seam as it is an easy handle for anyone looking for a tackle.

Basketball uniforms are also trending towards slimmer fits. Many professional players are opting for lighter, sleeker uniforms, abandoning the baggy shorts and jerseys that have been popular for more than a decade. Some of their jerseys are eliminating the side seam for the same reason as football players‒— to make them more evasive.

Baseball teams are trending towards customized, tailored fits, trying to lose the “pajama” look that has been prevalent in the sport. While professional baseball is seen as a more conservative sport when it comes to uniform decoration and design, change may be on the horizon, with more players vying for a slimmer, modern look.

Left: Most of today’s team jerseys offer moisture-wicking properties that transfer sweat to the outside surface, allowing it to more quickly evaporate. Typically made of a high polyester content fabric, care must be taken when decorating as high temperatures can scorch the garment.

Right: Compression technology continues to be a staple in many sports due to its ability to better support muscles, reduce fatigue, prevent chafing and keep muscles warm. A product used to decorate a compression garment must have excellent rebound and stretch properties to retain the integrity of the design.

From Minimalist Retro to Excessive Color

Much of the loud colors and patterns that were popular in collegiate and professional football, basketball and soccer in recent years are now falling out of favor. In their place, teams are opting for throwback-inspired, retro-looking jerseys, embracing minimalist color-blocking and reverting to classic colors and logos.

Younger sports teams are attracted to the bright colors and oversized images possible using dye sublimation heat-applied technology. Often a team or player’s name and number are part of the heat-applied design.

This does not always translate to high school level and under, however. Sublimation’s use of color is catching the eye of younger sports teams. The sheer impact of imagery and color means sublimated jerseys are turning heads. The dye sublimation allows for huge swaths of color, gradient and shading to be present on the jersey. These jerseys sport their own difficulty in decorating, as sublimated dye can migrate or bleed through. Often the team names, players names and numbers are sublimated onto the jersey.

The left-chest emblem is a popular look in soccer and will continue to trend. These emblems offer a raised texture and dimension, elevating the look of the jersey. The use of traditional patterns such as checks and vertical stripes recall designs of the past as designers modernize the jerseys for the future.

Alternates and Fashion/Retail

Another trending decorative element is using bright colors for number shadowing. While some teams are opting for retro style, many designers are using flashes of loud colors in areas like number and name shadows. The combination of minimalist style with these small elements of bright color really make uniform decorations pop.  

Left-chest logos are still popular with many soccer teams. The latest heat print technology allows for emblems to have a three-dimensional look. They feature a raised texture that adds dimension and is more eye catching.

Gone are the days of Home and Away uniforms. Now most collegiate and professional teams have a minimum of three uniforms from which to choose for any given game. Some teams, like the Oregon Ducks football team, seem to have a new uniform for every game.

These alternates vary from gray or black-dominant uniforms to uniforms deviating completely from traditional team colors. All NBA teams now have a “City” alternate, which features a design inspired by the team’s city history and culture. For instance, the Philadelphia 76ers’ City Uniform is inspired by the “Rocky” movies. It uses the same gray color of Rocky’s sweatsuit as the base color for the uniforms.

The reasons for the increase in alternate uniforms are tied directly with the rise of sports jerseys becoming a popular fashion item. Not only are teams bringing fashion to the game, they’re using those looks to sell more jerseys.

Manufacturers are also making separate designs and fits to appeal to women. By making garments fit women’s bodies better, manufacturers are selling to often overlooked sports fans. This is opening a whole new market because now women can support their team and feel confident and comfortable in their look.

For specific sports, basketball and football jerseys have been popular items for fans for some time. Ever since celebrities and musicians started repping their favorite players and teams, the trend has caught on. The surge in popularity in soccer in the United States has resulted in a rise of soccer jersey as trendy street wear. Along with soccer jerseys, baggy hockey jerseys are trending in street wear.

In professional and collegiate markets, the trend has circled back to retro with a modern touch such as bright highlights and reflective materials in all team uniforms, especially baseball.

Stay on Top of Trends

Keep your head in the team game by paying attention to sports uniform trends. As fabric technology changes to fit players’ needs, the way you decorate will change as well. Moisture wicking, compression fits and breathable materials present their own challenges when decorating. Meet your customer’s needs by knowing how to decorate these new uniforms styles.

From modernized retro looks to full-blast sublimated color, sports uniforms are becoming as much about fashion as they are function. Teams are looking to capitalize on the rise in popularity of performance wear, spirit wear, and sports jerseys as fashionable clothing. Position your company to take advantage of these trends and you’ll come out with a win.

About the author: Andrew DeHaan is a content writer for GroupeSTAHL, Sterling Heights, MI.

View the full July / August 2019 print issue here.