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Authentic vs replica football shirts - the main differences

Authentic and replica shirts both have an awful lot going for them. But what’s the difference between them and which shirts offer the best value for money?

authentic vs replica football shirts

It’s time to jump back on the shirt bandwagon. 

Awesome new football kits are dropping all over the place right now, with the delayed release dates helping to build the hype and get us all a little overexcited. Brands are going bigger and bolder than ever before, taking more risks in a bid to get their designs noticed and (presumably) to sneak their way onto our list of the best shirts of the year…

This sense of innovation and fun has led to some absolutely outstanding shirts already, and we’re seeing a real surge of experimental kits as clubs seek to freshen things up a bit. When you’re addicted to buying football shirts, this is absolutely terrible news for your wallet, while deciding what to spend your money on is bound to induce a major headache or two. 

To make matters worse, you’ll also need to decide which version of each shirt you want to buy, since most of the big clubs will release both an authentic and replica edition. You probably already know that one is far more expensive than the other, but what exactly are the main differences between them?


Authentic vs replica football shirts - what’s the difference?

They might look incredibly similar on the surface, but there are some huge differences between authentic and replica football shirts. Authentic shirts are worn by the players on the pitch, while replica shirts are a cheaper option produced for fans to wear at home. Simple. 

However, you might be confused by what these differences actually are, as it’s not immediately clear what you’ll be getting for your money. Things will typically differ a little between brands, but you can usually tell these shirts apart by looking at five main areas: materials, embroidery, fit, price and, of course, the name of the product

Let’s run through what you need to look out for.


Materials

close up of both the authentic and replica version of bayern's new shirt
Image from adidas.

Authentic

Authentic football shirts feature materials and fabrics of the absolute highest quality. Brands are always looking for ways to make their shirts more breathable, lightweight and comfortable for the players out on the pitch. By bagging an authentic player-issue shirt, you’ll be experiencing exactly the same innovative tech as the pros. 

The ultimate aim of these shirts isn’t just to look good (though that’s always a bonus), but to enhance player performance. They’re designed to keep players cool and calm, typically featuring some kind of premium fabric which keeps them as comfortable as possible when running around. Honestly, the technology brands come up with these days is absolutely remarkable. 

Replica

That doesn’t mean to say that replica shirts feel like you’re wearing a swatch of sandpaper, and these takedown versions still boast some impressive features. For example, when looking at the new Bayern Munich home kit, the authentic shirt might feature adidas’ ground-breaking HEAT.RDY tech, but the replica version still has the impressive AEROREADY system. 

However, there’s no doubt that replica shirts just don’t quite have the depth, detail or insane match performance of the authentic version, regardless of which brand you’re looking at. 


Embroidery

image showing how inter milan's badge looks different on the authentic and replica kits
Image from Nike.

Authentic

Since they’ll be worn by some of the best players on the planet, every major brand wants to keep their shirts as light as possible. This involves reducing the weight of the logos and crests used on the shirt, with the likes of Nike, adidas, Puma and New Balance all using heat-pressed logos on their player issue shirts. 

This means they feel smoother and more synthetic, but also involve a greater amount of care when sticking them in the washing machine. A peeling club badge is enough to bring even the strongest man to tears. I speak from experience. 

Replica

In contrast, replica shirts tend to feature embroidered logos, and these sewn-on badges are obviously a little heavier and more durable. You might also notice very slight differences to the overall design of the shirt too, with certain features tweaked to make the authentic version more breathable and, ultimately, lighter. 


Fit

model displaying the size difference between the authentic and replica japan home shirt
Image from adidas.

Authentic

This is probably the most important thing you need to consider when splashing your cash. Authentic kits are built for professional footballers so, naturally, they feature a more athletic cut which feels a lot tighter around the body. No more shirt-pulling for you, Mr Ramos. 

This isn’t necessarily a problem, but I’d always recommend going a size up when buying an authentic shirt, particularly if it’s from Puma or adidas. The curved hem is designed to improve movement, but there’s always a chance that authentic kits will just feel too tight for you, especially if you’re just planning to wear it around the house. 

Replica

Featuring a much looser fit, replica shirts are the best choice if you’re just wearing them casually. They might not be as aerodynamic as the proper player-issue shirts, but they offer a much more relaxed fit which is specifically designed for comfort. Ideal for the everyday football fan, especially if you’re not really into slim-fit clothing. 


Price

image showing the price difference between chelsea's replica and authentic kit
Image from Nike.

Authentic

When new kits are first released, authentic shirts typically cost around 50% more than the replica versions. For example, you can get the replica 2020/21 Chelsea shirt for just under £70, whereas it will cost you around £100 to get hold of the authentic player-issue version (at least, at the time of writing)

Of course, prices will fluctuate and you can always shop for deals on FOOTY.COM, but even in the event of a huge price drop, authentic shirts will generally cost a hell of a lot more. You might gawk at the price difference to start with, but remember that this could always be a fantastic investment for collectors. 

Replica

It’s worth noting that, while replica shirts are definitely cheaper than authentic, they can still cost more than a pretty penny. Obviously, I’m now going to point out that you can compare prices with FOOTY.COM to save some extra cash, but you probably already knew that. 

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Product Name

Authentic

product listing for the barcelona 2020/21 authentic home kit
Image from FOOTY.COM.

Depending on where you’re shopping, it’s not always completely clear which shirts are the authentic versions and which are replica. The fact that brands tend to name them both a little differently certainly doesn’t help things, and shirts which are cheaper or more expensive than expected can also cause a little confusion. 

When shopping at FOOTY.COM (and in most other cases), an authentic shirt will always have something in the product name which points it out as player-issue. For example, adidas shirts will include the word “Authentic”, Nike use “Vapor Match” or "Player Issue" (pictured), and just about every other brand will make sure their match shirts are clearly labelled somehow.  

Replica

product listing for the barcelona 2020/21 replica home kit
Image from FOOTY.COM.

However, the word “replica” has become a bit of a dirty phrase, often used by chancers on eBay and Depop selling cheap fakes. You can check out our full guide on how to spot fake football shirts here, but for now you just need to know to be careful whenever you see “replica” in the product title, as this might mean it’s not the real deal. 

Of course, you’re perfectly safe when shopping with reputable retailers and brands, so there’s not always cause for alarm if a shirt is labelled as “replica”. Nike opt for the phrase “Stadium” instead, but a lot of retailers will just avoid it altogether and simply list the name of the shirt (as pictured above).

When you’re just seeing the name of the shirt (and there’s nothing to indicate whether it’s authentic or replica), then you’re looking at the replica version. 


Summary

There’s no question that authentic football shirts offer superior fabrics, technology and overall quality. However, it’s up to you to decide whether they’re worth the extra money, since the cheaper replica versions are still made to an incredibly high standard and won’t simply fall apart after a few wears. 

Authentic shirts are the ideal choice for either those who play football in them, or avid collectors with a bit of extra cash in their back pockets. Replica shirts, on the other hand, offer the best value for fans just wanting to show off a particular design, whether you’re heading to the terraces or sticking the match on the telly. 

Shop the Latest Football Kits

Either way, you can always save a chunk of extra cash by shopping around for the best deals. Compare prices at FOOTY.COM today, and find huge savings on an enormous range of authentic and replica football kits!

Ben Hyde

Rubbish FIFA player with an addiction to buying football shirts which are way too cool for me.