For a while, I'd wear them while cooking. Little splashed blobules of olive oil don't necessarily show up as dramatically on a used Tamarick Vanover Kansas City Chiefs jersey as they do on your regular things-you-might-wear-out-of-the-house clothes, for one thing. For another, those little splashed blobules of olive oil are landing on a used Tamarick Vanover Kansas City Chiefs jersey, so it's no big deal, really. I had a bunch of jerseys like this, goofy and inexpensive and often very late-night eBay purchases. I wore them to cook splash-ier things. I wore them to fantasy football drafts. I did not, I regret to say, ever wear my Charlie Batch Lions jersey or Errict Rhett Browns jersey out of the house. My Tyler Thigpen Chiefs jersey, elegant though it is, has not even seen the inside of my bodega of choice.
This is mostly because a football jersey worn without pads is one of the least flattering garments an adult male can wear. Hockey jerseys are incalculably worse—if even a movie star clotheshorse like Kevin Smith can't pull the look off, it's hard to see how anyone else could—and the A.C. Slater muscle shirts that were alarmingly popular among New York City's skinnier, asymmetrically haired Bushwick/Greenpoint/Williamsburg axis during the warm weather months managed to be both equally unflattering and uncomfortably insistent on introducing passers-by to new and invariably horrible armpits. But a replica football jersey is not necessarily a good look in terms of trying to look good.
This does not, however, mean that you shouldn't buy a few football jerseys on eBay for the people closest to you. More stylish than an apron (or most aprons), the NFL replica cooking jersey is an idea whose time has come. There are also other uses for them, presumably. But while it's easy to find worthy NFL replica jerseys on eBay, making the right choice with your Oversized Shiny Nylon Proof That Az-Zahir Hakim Was Once Deemed Jersey-able Money is not as simple. Here, from someone who has been there—and who is, if you must know, wearing the Thigpen jersey as he writes this—is a commonsense guide to making your sartorial-detritus decisions the right ones.
DO: TRY TO MATCH YOUR JERSEY PURCHASE TO THE AESTHETIC OF THE PHOTO ON THE AUCTION PAGE
There are plenty of auctions that depict the jersey you want to get, or some visual facsimile of that jersey, on a mannequin. The front and back of the jersey will be clear and visible; tags, if they're still attached, will be photographed lovingly. My advice to jersey shoppers on this is clear and unequivocal: fuck that shit. (For more on this, see below)
What you want in an eBay jersey purchase is a photo that suggests it was taken by a human who understands the jersey in question in a meaningful way. If you want a Deltha O'Neal Cincinnati Bengals jersey, for instance, you might as well buy it from someone who is willing to hang it on a wire hanger, then hang that hanger on some other thing, and then take a photo that also shows you their entire living room:
There you go. You will probably be relieved to know that this principle also applies to non-Deltha O'Neal collectibles. Is a Matt Jones Jacksoville Jaguars jersey—quite possibly your Matt Jones Jacksonville Jaguars jersey, if you bid smart!—photographed as if it were a proof-of-life image in some doomed Floridian kidnapping? Well, if it wasn't, why would you even think about buying it?
In some cases, it won't be quite this easy. For instance, you want a Tim Couch jersey. (This is not a hypothetical: I'm assuming, based on the fact that you are reading The Classical, that you probably want a Tim Couch jersey.) There are a lot of Tim Couch jerseys out there, which makes sense given his two NFL Most Valuable Player Awards, three passing titles, and him leading the Browns to a 2001 Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals. Some of these jerseys are photographed on mannequins or hangers or whatever, which should tell you most of what you need to know about that particular purchase. But what to do in a situation in which one Tim Couch jersey is photographed on the floor of a garage, apparently by Terry Richardson:
And another similarly priced Tim Couch jersey is photographed in action, as it might be used in a walking-into-a-kitchen-where-your-Uncle-Don-is-getting-a-beer sort of scenario?
This one, finally, is not my call to make. Would you rather have a road jersey or a home jersey? Would you rather have a jersey photographed like it was a lollipop-licking Jessica Alba wearing rollerskates and 1970s gym shorts in the pages of Esquire, or a jersey that has proven wearable-in-the-kitchen bona fides? It's your jersey, and it's your call. This is why they call it "the free market." (Not really)
DON'T: BUY A JERSEY FROM SOMEONE WHO APPEARS TO SELL A LOT OF JERSEYS
These are mostly your professional memorabilia dealers, and they're nightmares. That is, they're probably nice people, or at least within the range of niceness that applies to online memorabilia dealers, but they're also deluded enough to think that a Charles Rogers Lions jersey is worth $40 today simply because, during the three or so weeks of his NFL career before Charles Rogers turned into Charles Rogers, it once retailed for three times that.
Again, this memorabilia dealer is just trying to make a living, and we should all wish them luck with that. But if I'm going to buy a Charles Rogers jersey (and I'm thinking about it), I'll get it from someone who knows enough to photograph it sprawled out on a couch like an unusually fat blue cat.
There you go.
DO: MAXIMIZE THE AMOUNT OF PRINTING ON YOUR JERSEY
There are limits to this, of course, and you're free to define your own for yourself. But what you're paying for with a replica jersey is, fundamentally, some flame-retardant mesh fabric cut in such a way as to provide a Tony Siragusa-sized human "room to move," and some screen printing. This is not necessarily a lot, especially if the only four letters on the back of the jersey are ENIS.
But you can be smart about this, and should be. Older jerseys tend to have oversized, goofy-looking lettering on the back; some of these also have oddly large renderings of the team's mascot on the sleeves, per a given team's style at the time. If you have to get a Patriots jersey, why not get one from the Drew Bledsoe Administration, which will feature a large rendering that faintly John Kerry-looking profile mascot on the sleeve? Look, for instance, at the sheer amount of printing on this Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals Rob Moore jersey:
You're not getting cheated, there. In the present economic climate (#Nobama), that's more important than ever.
DON'T: GET GREEDY
This is obvious, and you probably don't need me to remind you of this. eBay holds out the possibility of amazing deals, and it's true that there are some $7.99 Natrone Means Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys out there, if you know where to look (tip: search for "Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys"). But for the most part, you're going to have to pay to play, online as anywhere else.
Remove your bargain goggles and you'll know that this is how it had to be. The world is what it is, and the internet is what it is. There is no such thing as a free Reuben Droughns jersey. There is such a thing as one going for a shade under $20, and that's something.
Is that something your holiday gift of choice, for yourself or someone special in your life? That's your call to make. Make that call with your eyes open, after 1am, and perhaps after several drinks, and you or someone you care about is guaranteed a gift that is, whatever its other merits, sure to be highly absorbent and appealingly loose-fitting.