By Dave McNally
6 DECEMBER 2016 • 6:19PM 

Darts was always unfashionable, both on and off the oche. The perception of ‘fat blokes’ in tatty t-shirts, half drunk, smoking, throwing at a dartboard will always be etched in some peoples’ minds, but times are changing.

The old 70s and 80s players togged out in polo shirts with the odd sponsor on for TV tournaments used to grace the stages worldwide.

Add to this, a player’s name sewn onto or beneath the pocket and it is still not the sort of thing the man in the street would be wearing, it was strictly dart players only attire.

The odd bootleg market stall churned out a shoddy copy of Eric Bristow’s Crafty Cockney shirt, but by and large people wouldn’t be seen dead wearing one.

As darts has grown in stature and received more exposure both here and on the continent, a whole new audience has become available to exploit in marketing terms. Darts is trendy now, you know.

Using the blueprint normally assigned to football clubs, sponsors and players alike have spotted an opportunity to make darting apparel acceptable, if not fashionable on the streets.

As obvious as spotting a Manchester United shirt while out and about, more and more lime green Michael van Gerwen tops are appearing along with various horrendous designs depicting flashes of lightening, garish smattering of luminous colours and everything from bullets through to fake muscles etched onto the shirts.

Not particularly stylish, much like the average football shirt (Everton excluded!) but allowing people to show their allegiances to certain players. Who’d have thought this only a few years ago?

Producers, organisations and players are filling their websites with these shirts and releasing them as exclusives on launch days, along with matching darts so you can support your player in “style.”

Weighing in at roughly the same price as a Premier League football top, fans are snapping up the replica shirts online and at venues the length of Britain and beyond.

Dart players in pubs are also seen wearing professional players’ “colours”, which would have been laughed at a few years ago.

There are even suppliers who allow the supporters to create their own shirt, complete with logos and nickname emblazoned across the back.

The old guard, still cynically perhaps, still rubbish the replica top brigade, while the producers take advantage of newer trends and the new breed of fans across the globe desperate to proclaim their adherence to all things darts.

That’s not all. Players’ fans t-shirts and polo shirts are available and common sight at venues.

There’s even kids wandering around with the stuff on. How times have changed from the 70s and 80s.

Are darts replica shirts set to become the newest big boom in sporting attire? They are certainly cropping up a lot more these days.

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