Sublimated Basketball Uniforms Then & Now
It was about 15 years ago that I first got a glimpse of sublimated basketball uniforms. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but the now ubiquitous decorative process has been around that long. And it’s changed a lot. For the most part, for the better. Much better. But do the pros outweigh the cons?
For the uninitiated, the “short and sweet” description of sublimation is where the decorative elements (e.g., player numbers, etc.) are dyed directly into the fabric. So peeling numbers are made to be a thing of the past. Everyone from top tier equipment managers to your average team mom immediately sees the value in that.
This sole problem solving ability alone should have assured sublimation’s rapid acceptance
in the marketplace. Particularly for basketball uniforms, where the weight of heat-sealed player numbers, applied to relatively lightweight fabrics, is a direct cause of the main culprit in uniform degradation, namely, problems with player numbers. (Don’t get me started on player names!)
Yet now, 15 years later, why isn’t every basketball team wearing sublimated unis all the time? Some of the answer lies in truth, others in present day misconception.
Truth: Sublimated basketball uniforms are more money.
Your average sublimated jersey is still gonna cost more than other readily available options. This was more so true 15 years ago, but it is still a fact today. No getting around it. And if cost isn’t a concern of yours then you’re probably in the NBA or a NIKE D1 school and you’re probably not paying for your unis anyway. But for the vast majority of folks involved in putting basketball jerseys on players for game day (I don’t know any team using sublimated unis for practice); if you are in basketball basically, cost is an issue.
But cost ain’t cut and dry. You have to factor in the “lifetime cost” of uniforms. Because, let’s face it, replacing uniforms is really costly. Especially in mid-season on a rush basis, where some additional fee or fees are probably going to be invoked. And guess what, with sublimated unis, there is no such thing. Once designed, “one offs” are a breeze. And like I said before, at years end, when fill-ins and replacements are tallied, those peeling player numbers are gonna rear their ugly heads again. Ugh!
If you have an AAU squad (or otherwise find yourself competing in travel tournaments), you already know your uniform needs are different that those of the local high school. Or even if you’re just your average high school team looking for a better than average looking uniform, the fundamental cost metric of sublimated basketball uniforms may be less. (You read that right, less than standardly decorated uniforms). Even if they cost a little more upfront. All you have to do is calculate the lifetime cost.
Misconception: Sublimated basketball uniforms are just attractive.
Sublimated uniforms are “style over substance”. No doubt, 15 years ago, this was flat out true. Sure, the colors & graphics (just as today) were, even back then, all that and then some. Whiz bang, to the max!
But the construction. The sewing. The fit even. Not so good. Borderline bad.
In years past, I remember having a sublimated jersey in my hands, impressed as always by the design; but then I’d turn it inside-out and was mortified by the lackluster sewing. Hems loose, stitching akimbo, loose ends galore…and on and on.
This fact resonated within the marketplace, as in, “Looks nice, not for us though.” For years.
It’s in this area that manufacturers (not all, but most) have made the most significant qualitative leaps. In short, the construction of our average sublimated uniform is equal to your average non-sublimated uniform. The fact that nearly every brand or manufacturer under the sun now has their own version of sublimated uniforms probably has something to do with this. But pretty much every one has upped their game, too. The style over substance argument is simply a present day misconception.
As I write, there are far too many pros associated with sublimated basketball uniforms for any right-thinking team to not seriously consider them. And, what they heck, your squad will look fantastic!