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Sports and rap have always been inextricably linked. Rappers from every coast have donned their favorite team on a hat or Starter jacket throughout hip-hop history. But from 2000-2004, you couldn’t watch a rap video without spotting a jersey. Rappers sometimes wore two or three in a single video, usually with no connection to the team or player. Thus, the Jersey Era of the early 2000’s was born.
During this time, throwback jerseys were being produced and sold at a record rate, thanks in large part to Mitchell & Ness, a Philadelphia sporting goods store that had been stitching and repairing jerseys since 1904. They began producing and selling licensed throwback baseball jerseys in the late 1980’s, with the NFL, NBA and NHL eventually following suit in the late 1990’s. The early 2000’s was the moment when it all came together. There were more throwbacks than ever available for consumption and a plethora of rappers who were more than ready to break them out in their music videos. Mitchell & Ness’s business boomed and they expanded to a larger showroom in Philadelphia. They also began selling their approved apparel at retailers around the country, thanks in large part to the rappers rocking their incredible products on television every single day.
Like all waves of fashion, the Jersey Era eventually faded, although vintage sportswear will always have its place in the culture. Go to any summer music festival today and you’ll see plenty of jerseys in the crowd. Mitchell & Ness still churns out excellent product and has secured exclusive rights to produce Michael Jordan jerseys in recent years, but even they have placed a larger emphasis on headwear, clothing and accessories to adapt with the industry’s changing fashion landscape, as well as offering more affordable versions of their timeless pieces with baseball batting practice jerseys, replica football jerseys and “Swingman” basketball jerseys.
But the era left us with some memorable visuals and classic records. Here are some of the most iconic moments from the era when jerseys reigned supreme: