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  • Writer's pictureHeather Rafool

The Nostalgia Behind Vintage Sports Apparel

If you're a sports fan, you know there's nothing like wearing a vintage sports jersey. Here's a look back at vintage apparel and sports.

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Fashion trends may come and go, but nostalgia never goes out of style.

It's hard to say why, but it's easily recognizable to anyone that's been observing our culture for the last few years: we've been collectively overcome with nostalgia.

It's permeated nearly all aspects of our pop cultural life. Bruno Mars is the biggest pop star in the world right now, and his success has been built on the back of a rehashing of 80s & 90s R&B.

Our visual entertainment landscape has been overrun with nostalgia, too. It seems nearly every new movie or television show is a remake of some older, pre-existing cultural property.

Fashion is no different. Vintage apparel, particularly sports apparel, is on the rise. In 2016, "athleisure" brands hit $46 billion in sales.

There may not be a pat explanation for this vintage apparel resurgence, but there are a few theories out there.

Cultural Implications of Our Nostalgia

Today, in any arena of our life, we have more options to choose from than any other time in human history.

The production of goods and services has reached a fever-pitch. Whether it's movies, television, restaurants, books, romantic partners, or clothes, we have a thousand different options to choose from.

You might believe this is a good thing, but it has created a sociological phenomena known as the Tyranny of Choice. Simply put, studies have shown that the more choices we have, the less happy we are with whatever we end up picking. Some people end up just not ever making a choice at all.

This creates a cultural environment in which the old and familiar wins out over the new and unknown. In a marketplace with a thousand choices, the product with the built-in nostalgic hook will win out. It's an antidote to the buyer's remorse that the Tyranny of Choice brings.

Also, our current cultural and political moment has been so tumultuous that it's prevented the formation of a new, unified cultural identity, so we cling to our previous pastiches.

The Vintage Apparel Renaissance

The vintage apparel market, in particular, has successfully capitalized on this cultural moment, where rehashes and imitations are widely praised.

Let's break down some of the biggest brands taking advantage of our nostalgia cravings.


There was a time when wearing old Champion sports gear was met with ridicule. Nike and its more up-to-date design was king. After its initial coolness, and before its current resurgence, Champion was best-known for the brand that was sold in Targets - not exactly cool. The tables have turned in our present moment, however.

Today, Champion's vintage apparel, like its old-school basketball jerseys can be sold for a pretty penny on second-hand markets.

It's more vintage lifestyle options are also seeing a comeback. This past winter, retro Champion hoodies could be found in every Urban Outfitters store, selling for over $60 a pop.


Nike, usually on the cutting edge of sports apparel design, has gotten in on the vintage apparel game, too.

This was seen most evidently in its redesign of several NBA teams' jerseys. Its Milwaukee Bucks City Edition jersey, for example, while not a reiteration of an old jersey, takes you back to a time when Kareem Abdul Jabbar was still on the team.

Same goes for Nike's Vice City Miami Heat jerseys, which harkens back to the retro art-deco stylings of 1970s Miami. When Dwyane Wade returned to the team, his Vice City jersey sold out in a matter of hours.


FILA was a sportswear brand to be reckoned with in the 1970s, following the endorsement of famous tennis star Bjorn Borg.

But sometime in the early 2000s, the brand all but disappeared from people's wardrobes. Like Champion, it became a brand worthy of mockery.

But now, the brand has been re-introduced to the public thanks to the vintage apparel company's rising popularity among fashion's biggest tastemakers.

Recently, the brand has been collaborating with big name fashion brands like Gosha Rubchinskiy to elevate its prominence.


In the 90s, Adidas was the biggest name in fashion. If you're over a certain age, you remember Run D.M.C's co-option of the brand, dressing head to toe in the brand's iconic tracksuits. Those tracksuits, as well as their shell-toed sneakers and Stan Smith shoes, were wardrobe staples in the 90s.

If 90's nostalgia is your thing, you may be pleased to know that all of Adidas' vintage apparel has made a comeback.


Michael Jordan very may well be the biggest name in sports to this day, even though he hasn't touched a basketball court in 15 years.

It's no secret then, that his shoes are probably the most popular basketball shoe in the world. While it's true that they've never really gone out of style, the releases of the retro reissues of the shoes he wore in 90s, like the Jordan 1, have taken on a renewed fervor.

His most recent release is currently going for nearly $300 a pair in resale markets. Everyone still wants to be like Mike.


Like Adidas, Rebook (a sportswear brand that was formed in 1958) was supremely popular in the 80s and 90s. The Reebok Pump, in particular, gained worldwide popularity.

Victim to the same recession as the other brands on this list, Reebok spent a while out of fashion. Gone were the days when the brand had a contract with the NFL to design teams' jerseys.

The brand has come back roaring in recent years though, collaborating with high-end fashion brands like Vetements.

Need Retro Clothing In Your Life?

If you want to stay trendy, you'll have to throw on that old Mike Ditka jersey and jump onto the vintage apparel bandwagon because it looks like this trend is here to stay.

If you don't already have the vintage apparel of your dreams, or you'd like more, check out our online store, where we have all the retro apparel you could dream of.

Lucky for you, our stuff won't be quite as pricey as the fashion items listed in this article. Happy shopping!

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