I like sports jerseys as much as the next guy. I own an Ed Reed jersey and a vintage powder blue Barry Sanders Lions jersey. I wear them when appropriate. I'm 34 years old. I just wanted to get that out of the way so I don't sound like a total dick in the next few paragraphs.
Here goes; I was walking through Owings Mills Mall the other day. If you plan on heading there any time soon I hope you like tumbleweeds. While walking I noticed a dude in his early 40s who was wearing a Ray Lewis jersey. It struck me as odd because it's early August and while training camp just started I knew damn well there wasn't a game that day. My immediate thought was that his attire was unacceptable unless he either just came from a morning practice at Westminster or lived in a group home. He had two teenagers with him so I ruled out the group home option. All that added up to mean that when he left his house on that random weekday in August he thought that wearing a football jersey was a perfectly reasonable clothing option. He was wrong.
There are two groups of people who can wear a jersey wherever and whenever they please:
Group 1: Anyone 21 and under – even if your 21 year old nephew wears a Kobe Bryant jersey to Easter dinner you'll be within your rights to bust his balls a bit, but he's just a kid so who cares. Trying it at 22 is a different story. At that point it's time to get a big boy job and at least a halfway decent looking polo shirt.
Group 2: Anyone over 65 – If my dad wants to wear his Flacco jersey on a Thursday afternoon trip to Subway so be it. He's retired. He worked for over 40 years. He's paid off a mortgage. He's earned the right to wear his Flacco jersey wherever he damn well pleases.
So we're left with everyone between the ages of 22 and 64. That's a huge age range, but it's basically any working adult.
Outside of your own home there are two appropriate places for a working adult to wear a jersey:
An actual sporting event – I'll go so far as to allow sport/jersey crossovers. You can wear your Tony Siragusa jersey to an O's game, assuming it hasn't dry rotted by now. Your Nick Markakis jersey is acceptable attire for a Hershey Bears game. You may get some strange looks, but we'll let it slide. The important thing to keep in mind with this rule is that you should always be prepared to be heckled. You can wear a Lebron James Heat jersey to an Indians game, just don't be surprised when you're showered with beer and epithets like this guy.
A gathering to watch a game – Whether it's your buddy's house, a local bar, or a Vegas Sportsbook you're in the clear; though there are a few caveats:
A) If your buddy from work who grew up in Dallas invites you to watch a Cowboys game don't show up in a Redskins jersey; that's being a bad guest and a bad fan. If you hate the Cowboys that much just decline his offer or tell him you're busy. Better to tell a white lie than be a dick.
B) Don't show up to an NBA Finals party wearing an Ichiro jersey unless you're trying to look like a toolbag. Steelers fans are the most frequent offenders of this rule. Regardless of the sporting event they're attending or watching it's a near guarantee that a Steelers fan will show up in a Polamalu jersey. Unless of course it's in the wash, in which case they'll bust out the old school Bettis jersey. I originally thought this was because Steeler fans were uncouth low-lifes, but now I know it's because Steelers gear is all they own. Even if they manage to dig up a polo shirt it's a lock it mustard-stained and says “Six-burgh” somewhere on it.
Disclaimer: Basketball jerseys can be worn on the beach or boardwalk provided you possess the proper physique. If you have a concave chest and biceps pastier than Elmer's Glue then leave the old school Kevin McHale jersey on the hanger.
The point of wearing a jersey is to support your team, not to get a free pass to dress like a teenager. Leave the jerseys for game day and for Christ sake's lose the sweatpants. Those should be reserved for Fall afternoon naps on the sofa.