Basketball Jersey History

As with other articles of sports clothing, fashion trends of the day tend to steer subtle and maybe not-so-subtle changes in the uniform. Basketball jerseys are no exception.

Early Basketball Jerseys

The evolution of basketball jerseys mostly involves fit and fabric. In the game's modest beginnings, men wore short-sleeved shirts with baggy trousers, and women clad long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. But the impractical apparel didn't seem to deter the spirit of the sport. But imagine a fast-paced game of buckets in clothes like that today?

Common sense eventually prevailed. In the 1920s teams began sporting a look that allowed them more freedom of movement, and a little more skin. As with the baseball uniform, the first jerseys were made from wool; synthetic blends hadn't been invented yet.

The style of knit used to make the basketball jersey is where the word "jersey" comes from. The original fabric used to knit basketball jerseys was wool because it breathed and stretched. The first basketball jerseys were long and buttoned at the crotch to keep them tucked inside the pants. It's a good thing the game was a little slower-paced and played in shorter segments; picture the pros zipping around the court today in crotch-buttoned shirts and trousers? In the 1930s polyester-nylon was invented. By the 1940s the synthetic blend was at the fore of the fabric market. Not only more durable, it was easier to launder and maintain. The 1950s-60s provided a form-fitting style that endured the following decade up until the early 1980s.

In the 1980s Michael Jordan became a household name. His baggy, longer shorts and basketball jerseys became as signature as his flashy moves. Teams began to emulate his look. Women got to bear their whole arms, but sleeve holes were smaller and the still straps wider than the men's. A change in fabric from wool to more breathable, durable stretchy polyester-nylon blends added comfort to the overall design. And since basketball jerseys are a great place to show off the team name, selling clothing bearing the logo became a marketing shell bomb.

Coaches and managers all know that one of the best-kept secrets to creating team spirit is in the uniform. So colors and designs were chosen with this in mind.

Today jerseys are made from breathable, sweat-wicking fabrics, and throwback designs from prior decades have become popular. It's difficult to say with any certainty what we can expect basketball jerseys to look like in the future, but keep your eye on the trends. Or maybe a new Michael Jordan will come up with new ideas. For now the baggy look seems to suit everyone fine, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon.

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