What Apparel/Gear Item Defines Each Sport?

*Cover Photo Credit: Steven, Soccer365

The North American sports merchandising market has grown by 16.5% percent in the last decade. (Statista) Fans and players are buying more apparel than ever to support their teams, play with good style, and show their personality. 

What would a sport's personality be if it was only defined by one apparel item? If I joined a new sport today, what would be the basic gear I would need to participate? 

While every sport sells t-shirts, hats, and other items for fans to wear and players to sport, each one has a unique item different from others that defines it. For this list, I will share what every sports defining apparel/gear item is. 

*No items will be duplicated.

Football - Jersey

AJ Green NFL Bengals Jersey

Photo Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerseys are the classic piece for football fans both in professional and collegiate leagues. When you go to your next football tailgate party, check out how many people are eating barbecue and wearing their jerseys.You can't say you are a true fan unless you have a jersey representing your team.

Jerseys: Football's Defining Apparel Piece
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty

Baseball - Hat

All MLB Team Hats
Photo Credit: Uniwatch


When a hat can be referred to as a baseball capeven if it has nothing to do with baseball—then it is the sport's defining apparel item. For proof, I am a huge DC Sports fans and have owned four different Nationals' hats in my life. For other sports I watch including basketball, hockey, and rugby, I own one hat combined. Case in point.

Baseball HatPhoto Credit: Kansas City Royals, MLB

Basketball - Shoes

Famous Footwear Basketball Shoes

Photo Credit: Famous Footwear

From Converse's dominance to Nike's new reign, shoes have been the expressive apparel for basketball fans and players alike. Sneaker endorsements are the biggest for NBA players with Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and others having their own lines. (Sykes II, SB Nation)

Basketball Shoes Are the Defining Apparel Item For the SportPhoto Credit: NBA Kicks

Hockey - Beanies

Chicago Blackhawks NHL Beanie

Photo Credit: Chicago Blackhawks

To be honest, my first pick would have been jerseys, but football already took that item. With that, beanies are the defining piece for hockey. They help your head stay warm (great for the winter sport), and fans love wearing these during the hockey season. A great display of beanies can always be seen at the NHL's Winter Classic every year on January 1 where the hockey game is played in an outdoor stadium.

St. Louis Blues Fans Wearing BeaniesPhoto Credit: Scott Kane, Getty Images

Soccer - Scarf

Soccer Fans Hold Up Scarves - Soccer's Defining Apparel PiecePhoto Credit: Brad Homeyer, The18.com

If you go to any professional soccer match in the world, you will see many fans with scarves. This item was introduced in England when fans wanted to stay warm and sport team pride during winter matches. (Steve, Soccer365) Scarves are a great piece for fans, as they are cheaper than jerseys but look just as cool. Fans can also hold up their scarves when a team's national anthem is being played as seen in the pictures.

Minnesota FC Fans Hold Up Scarves - Soccer's Defining Apparel PiecePhoto Credit: Kacy Kobakof, Minnesota FC

Volleyball - Knee Pads

Volleyball Player Putting On KneepadsPhoto Credit: Athlete Gear Zone

Almost all professional and amateur volleyball players wear these pads when playing. The pads protect injury-prone areas so that players can dive, slide, and dig on hardwood floors to keep the volley alive. While you may never see fans wearing these, this item is essential for players.

Volleyball Player Digs While Wearing Knee PadsPhoto Credit: Amber Peabody, Cody Enterprises

Looking for fashionable volleyball apparel? I recommend you check out our collection at the following link. (Volleyball Collection)

Rugby - Rugby Shirt

Yellow Rugby Shirt - Rugby's Defining Apparel PiecePhoto Credit: Hope & Henry

Rugby shirts truly encapsulate what this gentleman's sport is all about: respect, tradition, and class. (The Star) This shirt became popular in the 1950s and has since been a rugby style statement. (Jennings, Centurion Rugby) While these shirts were used by national teams as official uniforms years ago, they are more for fan apparel today. However, hints of its influence can still be seen in some team jerseys including Major League Rugby's New England Free Jacks.

New England Free Jacks Major League Rugby Kit Reveal

Photo Credit: Major League Rugby

Car Racing - Key Chain

Want this key chain? Click Here

What starts a car? The keys. What gives keys personality? The key chain. Alongside being personality statements, key chains make it harder for drivers to lose their keys. For a wannabee racer, the key chain is the first element to show you mean business on the road.

NASCAR Key Chain

Photo Credit: NASCAR

Boxing - Gloves

Boxing Gloves

Photo Credit: Pro Boxing Supplies

While some boxers do wear noticeable shimmering shorts, gloves are the item that define boxing. The red color with poofs around the knuckles are immediately familiar to people. While padded gloves did not come around until 1743, the Ancient Greeks used a form of gloves in the Olympics dating back to 688 B.C.. (Ward, Title Boxing) With a long history, boxing gloves are the gear piece that define the sport.

This charitable fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Mario Lopez took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you need official posters from the fight, click here.

Lacrosse - Helmet

University of Maryland Head Wrap Lacrosse Helmet

Photo Credit: Headwrapz.com

The helmet protects players from the dense rubber lacrosse ball that flies around at 100 miles per hour during a game. Being the most stylish piece for players, helmets have been in the sport since the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. (Damon, Lax Goalie Rat

Premier Lacrosse League Helmets - Lacrosse's Defining Gear PiecePhoto Credit: Ryan Conwell, LAX All-Stars


As fans and players, we need apparel/gear to sport our style. While every team has various clothing items, these pieces mentioned above uniquely define each sport. If you are looking for a place to start in supporting a team or playing, these are the first pieces you should go after:

Football - Jersey

Baseball - Hat

Basketball - Shoes

Hockey - Beanie

Soccer - Scarf

Volleyball - Knee Pads

Rugby - Rugby Shirt

Car Racing - Key Chain

Boxing - Gloves

Lacrosse - Helmet


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