The split jersey look usually serves a purpose. It’s for parents with kids playing against each other in a nationally televised sporting event, or for a young woman who has to support both her brother and her new boyfriend who would go on to become her husband and an NFL bust.
I’m no fashion expert, but I do know that utility is not important. Was there a rash of elbow injuries around 2002 that resulted in multiple NBA players beginning to wear single arm sleeves? Of course not. Allen Iverson was the coolest player in the NBA, and he used one on his right arm because of the elbow bursitis that he suffered in the 2001 finals. There are players in the NBA today who have no idea where they were when Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue, and didn’t exist when he played in the 1997 Rookie game with the micro braids, but they still rock the sleeve.
So why can’t the split jersey be fashionable? Apparently throwback jersey specialists Mitchell & Ness thinks that the look has some potential, so per Darren Rovell, the company is putting out a line of split throwback jerseys.
The tweet has received a polarized response in the replies, retweets, and even among the Deadspin staff. At first glance maybe the color clashes are a bit too much, or maybe you just hate the era of fashion when all that was necessary to dress up for a party was a giant Eric Dickerson Los Angeles Rams jersey with a Rams fitted cap to match.
To that I say, fashion is cyclical. People thought high-top fades and overalls were played out until they made a thunderous return in the late 2000s and I saw high-school-aged kids carrying boomboxes. Afros and cornrows were considered dated when the jersey craze hit shortly after the turn of the millennium, but there was Iverson on the cover of SLAM Magazine with his hair blown all the way out, wearing his name and number on a throwback Philadelphia 76ers jersey.
We don’t have to go all the way back to jeans seven sizes too big, and two-way pagers clipped on the side, or our clothes on backward ala Kris Kross, but those jerseys can work. Like in that scene in You Got Served when Sonny went turncoat on David and Elgin, one of the dancers was wearing a half-green, half-white Paul Pierce jersey. In the mid-aughts, some of the college football teams would wear jerseys with one shoulder patch of a different color. Combine that with the arm sleeve becoming popular, it’s a look that I wish stuck around a little while longer.
The colors on those new Mitchell & Ness jerseys are a bit jarring at first, but mix in some nostalgia, and the right Air Jordan colorway, and it’s a look. Maybe even pull out that headband that you haven’t worn to the basketball court since Tha Carter II was released.
If fanny packs can come back in style then why can’t throwback jerseys? It doesn’t have to come down to your knees anymore. Also, wearing a bag like a kangaroo pouch is far worse than that Earl Campell split throwback, and most certainly the Deion Sanders one. That Brian Dawkins one I might consider buying for real.
Maybe all of those colors smashed together is an eyesore at first, but don’t scroll past it immediately. Give it a few seconds until you remember David and Elgin linking up for the final dance battle, or the St. Lunatics looking like an old MLB All-Star team with all of its members wearing different jerseys.
The 90s had its time back in the sun. The 2000s deserve it, too, with an extra dash of color.