BOOTLEG VS LEGIT – ASSESSING THE ROLE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF BOOTLEG ITEMS IN THE VINTAGE MARKETPLACE

As we all know, the term bootleg carries a lot of weight in the resale marketplace. No one wants to be caught wearing fake Jordans, or showing off an autograph that turns out to not be legitimate. However, in recent years, some of the most popular pieces on the vintage market are the low-cost knockoffs that were often the subject of Federal raids on Canal St in New York.

Differentiating bootlegs from legitimate pieces is part of the foundation for the reputation of any vintage curator, collector or reseller. This article highlights a wide range of scenarios where a bootleg item could make you look foolish or fashion-forward.

Coogi

The sweater on top passes the “far away” test, but upon closer inspection, it’s a fake Coogi. Coogi sweaters are unique fashion items out there worn by those with personalities to match. They are often duplicated but never replicated. Special attention should always be given to the tagging, which often includes details that bootleggers neglect or can’t replicate. Here we see the tag on the fake Coogi has irregular lettering and a blank back where washing instructions should be included.

Mitchell & Ness Larry Bird Jersey

Mitchell & Ness produces the highest quality replica jersey, with prices that reflect that. It makes sense that factories overseas would go to great lengths to deceive consumers with a deal that is pretty much always too good to be true. Mitchell & Ness has countered the bootlegger market by adding a number of features to their jerseys, including serial numbers and QR code hip tags.

1980s Houston Astros Blue Tequila Sunrise.

Differentiating a jersey from game-worn to team issued to authentic/retail issue becomes an important task as the price differences can range thousands of dollars. Here is a game-worn jersey vs a very well homemade replica jersey. Note the missing jock tag, off color around the star, & multiple pieces of fabric to make the gradient on the shoulders.

1994 Manchester United

Soccer jerseys are among the most common bootleg sports items on the market. Like designer label clothing, there are many small details included by manufacturers that can tip off consumers to a fake. Hip tags, date stamps and even unique threading along the seams or on tagging are common techniques that have been employed by leading makers going back to the 1980s.

90s Champion Small Spellout

When it comes to sportswear, there are several examples where a bootleg can be a different wave of style. As sportswear companies exploded in popularity throughout the 80s, increased pricing left a large percentage of consumers simply unable to afford products. This opened demand for neighborhood entrepreneurs to replicate popular styles with materials at their disposal. This example is essential, showing the classic Champion spellout printed on a raglan cut, Fruit of the Loom sweatshirt.

UMiami Starter Hoodie Jacket

There are times where the cost of procuring the materials and machinery necessary to manufacture the item makes producing a replica too challenging. Starter jackets fall into this category, but this replica stands out as the most intricate I have ever come across. From a distance everything looks to be in place, but a close examination of the lettering, and logo patches shows that this maker came up just short!

At the end of the day, it’s all about style and loving what you wear. As with any industry, items for sale can be misrepresented by those looking to take advantage. It is vital for buyers to educate themselves on what to look for and to seek out sellers with a reputation for only selling the best of the best.