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Please jersey responsibly and study up on the Wearers Constitution

To wrap up SB Nation’s Jersey Week, here’s an important fan’s guide to wearing a basketball jersey in public.

San Antonio Spurs v Toronto Raptors Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There comes a time in every sports fans life where they have to make a life-altering decision: Am I a jersey person?

Personally, I have answered this question with a resounding “yes.” If I’m seeing my favourite team play, I am always prepared with a jersey as the ultimate show of support. Beyond that, I have worked the jersey into my daily fashion, constantly hunting opportunities to throw on my personal favourite, the orange PHX #13 jersey.

Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips that I’m here to share with you, applicable whether you’re thinking of trying out your first jersey, or ready to become a full-blown jersey guy or jersey gal. Since this is Raptors HQ, this will be primarily about basketball jerseys.

Here is the Basketball Jersey Wearers Constitution.

Disclaimer: If you’re under 15, these rules need not apply to you. Wear your jersey, have fun, and enjoy pretending to be your favourite player

Article #1 – The Standard of Seriousness

You cannot take yourself seriously in the jersey game. This applies to all jerseys. As an adult, wearing a jersey is an inherently goofy thing to do. You’re purposely dressing like another adult, who is, for many of us, younger than you. Jersey wearing is a strange, beautiful phenomenon, with no real parallel in the world of fashion outside of Halloween, so address it as such.

Jerseys are also meant to be worn with a head-to-toe set of matching gear, with specifications according to the sport being played. The colours, meant to stand out on the court, are typically brighter and louder than the average shirt. As a result of these factors, choosing to wear a jersey with, say, a pair of jeans only enhances said goofiness.

Basically, don’t go wearing a jersey if you’re trying to be cool. That’s not in the spirit of jersey-sportin’.

Article #2 – The Right to Bare Arms

Ah yes, the 2nd amendment of the Basketball Jersey Wearers Constitution, if you will. I understand the desire to go upper body commando under the jersey. The players do it, so why don’t we? Yes, you do have the right to do so at any time, but there are certainly some guidelines to follow.

As alluded to in Article #1, self-awareness is essential in basketball jersey wearing. Conventional wisdom may suggest that the more muscular you are, the more it makes sense to go sleeveless, right? Wrong. We just went over this! Wearing a jersey is not about looking cool!

As a general rule, if you hit a certain point of tone and bulk in the upper body, you simply cannot wear a sleeveless jersey without looking like you’re trying to put on a bit of a show. Personally, I’m blessed (cursed?) with arms on the skinnier, more noodly end of the spectrum, so I can let it fly without giving off arrogant vibes.

For reference, consult the many phases of Chris Pratt.

Parks and Rec Chris Pratt?

Give those pasty arms some air.

Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt?

Put on an undershirt, and please don’t be weird about it.

Current dad bod Chris Pratt?

Dad bod Chris Pratt is the swing point. Any more on the muscle end is a definite undershirt, and any less constitutes pure freedom. If you’re at this point specifically, base it on how you feel on a given day.

That being said, there are some places where a lack of undershirt is acceptable, so worry not, my muscular friends desperate for a breeze on the shoulders. For your reference, I have compiled a quick list of places that you might wear a jersey, along with some general tips and undershirt protocol.

To a game: The most socially acceptable place to wear a jersey is to a game where the team you are representing is in action. In that setting, an undershirt is a must. You’re in a crowded place, with people very close to either side of you. Odds are your body temperature will go up and you’ll sweat a bit. You know what else will likely go up at some point? Your arms. Be considerate. No one needs to see/smell what’s going on under there. Verdict: Undershirt mandatory

To dinner: Only acceptable if dinner directly precedes attendance of a game. In which case, see above for undershirt protocol.

To the beach: Jerseys are perfect for the beach. You almost certainly won’t be the only one in a tank top, so no undershirt necessary. Verdict: Wearer’s discretion

To the gym: Please don’t wear a jersey to the gym. Verdict: Don’t wear one

To work: Likely not an option. If it is, wear a shirt under it. Verdict: Undershirt mandatory

To a party: Black tie? No. Backyard Bash? Giddy-up. Verdict: Wearer’s discretion

To a pickup game: People will likely be wearing pinnies or some other form of sleeveless attire, so there is no need to wear an undershirt for social purposes. There is more to address about jerseys at a pickup game, however, which we will look at in article #3. Verdict: Wearer’s discretion.

Other: If you’re dying to wear your new Siakam jersey to an event, and you don’t see it listed here, then use your best judgement on whether A) a jersey is appropriate at all and B) the need for an undershirt. It is always best to err on the side of caution, especially with the undershirt situation. As Socrates famously said, “If you are unsure what to wear, don’t have your arms bare.” A true visionary.

Article #3 – Pickup Basketball

As long as you’re willing to get it a little sweaty, it is perfectly acceptable to wear an NBA jersey in a game of pickup basketball. There are, however, a couple things you should know before doing so.

You must be prepared to be referred to by the name of the player whose jersey you are wearing for the entirety of the game. In a similar vein, your play will often be compared to that player. Odds are, you likely do not stack up to an NBA player, so the name-using and comparisons can get sarcastic pretty quickly. For example, if you show up in a #34 Antetokounmpo jersey, prepare for comments like:

“I thought you could jump a little higher than that, Giannis!”

“The Greek Freak isn’t quite as fast in person!”

“You can’t shoot at all, just like the real Antetokounmpo!” (This one is mean to both the jersey wearer and Giannis).

On the other hand, you can really play your jersey for laughs in a pickup game if you spin it correctly. I once played against a rather stocky guy in a Terence Ross jersey who refused to veer more than six feet from the rim or jump higher than seven inches off the ground. After a few well-timed self-deprecating jokes about his play style being exactly like T-Ross, he had the whole court in stitches. He was the platonic ideal of a jersey guy.

Article #4 – Know Something About Your Jersey

I love random classic jerseys and have hunted through Kensington Market a few times to find some value gems. By a wearing a player’s jersey, however, you portray at least some level of intimacy with that player. You must be prepared for at least short conversation with a fan of that player who sees you wearing it. For example, in one of my jersey searches, I stumbled across a Seattle Supersonics #40 Shawn Kemp jersey. A true beauty. As someone who wasn’t alive/aware during his prime, I did my research, and was prepared when a conversation about the 90s Sonics was started because of my attire.

Article #5 – Embrace the Lifestyle

As a jersey wearer, you enter a very special brother/sisterhood. Like the boater, or the motorcycle rider, by putting on the jersey, you’re instantly connected to others doing the same. If you see a fellow jersey wearer making their way through this crazy world, give them a wave, you’re family now.

You may be left with some other questions. Do I get the Home or Away? What name should I get on the back? That’s the beauty of the jersey, it’s all up to you. Make it your own. So, if necessary, consult the Basketball Jersey Wearers Constitution, and sport it with pride!