Men and boys of a certain type love replica tops. Some more than others.
A teenage relative has in his wardrobe Arsenal, Socceroos and Melbourne Heart strips; and, after exploring some different possible AFL scenarios, also St Kilda, Adelaide, Richmond and Hawthorn guernseys.
It costs his parents a small fortune, but they indulge his fandom not only as an important rite of passage but as a tribal exercise with greater mankind.
Whatever your code of choice, replica tops immediately bond you to your fellow fan. And they crop up all over. Newspaper picture desks always scan wire pics of – for example – the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona for someone in a Collingwood jersey or Rabbitohs top being gored by el Torro. And there always is one.
Time was when a certain type of top – the rugby union jersey – was also a favoured item of clothing for the larger gentleman. It was a perfect synergy.
Male sports fans tend to like a beer or two, and the effect on their physiques is well documented. The soft, baggy drape of a replica Wallabies or All Blacks jersey has always been the perfect foil for a tumescent torso.
But not any more. These days, replica tops tend towards the slimmer fit. OK, they're tight. Very tight. Made of special fabric designed to grip and hold the ball (apparently), wick away sweat and flatter the heavily buffed elite athletes they are chiefly designed for.
You will see screenfuls and possibly streetfuls of them from September 18, when the Rugby Union World Cup starts, until October 31, when it finishes. And quite possibly beyond. They'll be in various countries' colours – Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Wales and many more. Many people you know will buy them. But they'll predominantly be made of the same unforgiving "professional" sporting fabric.
If you're young and in your prime and maybe actually playing the game at any reasonable level, they may nicely display your rippling pecs and toned abs. But for the average fan they are far less flattering. But maybe it's not the tools, but the workman. Have men got fatter or have they just stopped caring about wearing unsympathetic clothing? There's a lot of wide male girths out there.
The answer could be dietary (stop the beer), physical (start the exercise) or, for the well-heeled love-behandled man, cos-medical (try the CoolSculpting). Or you could just leave the replica top to the pros.
Have you adjusted the way you dress as a result of your love handles? Let us know in the comments section.
A journalist with a history of covering style with style and flair, Natasha Hughes has reported extensively on men's grooming and presentation. With Spit & Polish she also has a commission to write across presentation and deportment.