Jerseys can be stars on the World Cup stage, professor writes

The Croatian soccer team

A jersey is not just a jersey when it’s worn on the world’s biggest sports stage, a UO sports product design professor writes in The Conversation.

Susan Sokolowski, who also directs the design program at UO Portland, spent about 20 years working for a major sports manufacturer that designed products for some of the biggest sports events in the world, including the World Cup. Getting a soccer jersey from the drawing board to a championship contender can be as complicated as weaving through a line of defenders to put the ball in the net, she said.

Coming up with a design that sparkles involves pleasing not only the team but also its national federation and soccer’s governing body, FIFA, which sets out detailed rules for the gear worn by players. The rules specify the number of colors, their placement, the use of logos, numbers, names and more.

And that’s just the beginning, Sokolowski writes. Because jersey sales are a big revenue generator for soccer, the designs are a tempting target for counterfeiters. That means designers often build in special features that make the jerseys harder to fake and counterfeiters easier to catch.

“To curtail counterfeiting, some manufacturers will embed electronic tags in their authentic jerseys, making it easy to check whether a merchant is selling real or fake products,” she writes. “Many large manufacturers will have teams of inspectors shopping international markets, online and at shipping ports, looking for counterfeits and working with local police to shut down sales and exportation.”

But authentic jerseys for popular teams or with the catchiest designs can sell out, making the real thing hard to find. That happened this year with Nigeria’s Nike-designed uniform, she said.

Still, soccer jerseys are an important way for fans to connect with the sport, and Sokolowski said pulling off a great design can really enhance the experience.

“When FIFA guidelines, federation and manufacturer desires align, new World Cup jersey designs can be an exciting part of the tournament experience for fans around the world,” she said.

For the full article, see “What’s involved in designing World Cup jerseys?” in The Conversation. The story also appeared in The Oregonian, The Houston Chronicle and other media outlets.