The life cycle of a rugby jersey: How forgotten treasures travel the world and back

Publish Date
Saturday, 10 February 2024, 10:33AM

By Will Toogood

When a University of Otago student started collecting rugby jerseys, he surely could have had no idea he would end up with a website, stockist deal with a major manufacturer and a Southeast Asian business partner.

That is where Duncan Wood, now 29, finds himself - with a burgeoning business in which he gives vintage rugby jerseys a second - or even third - life and which led him into a world few know exists.

“I was collecting them back in the uni days, but I just had no money. I started buying them when I had a bit of spare cash when I started working and then I just realised I could spot when something was undervalued.

“There were a few times when I didn’t and I saw one of them sell on one of the bigger pages and I was like ‘Oh, I could have sold it for a bit more’,” Wood tells the Herald.

Since Wood started Boomfa Vintage (a shoutout to his childhood hero, former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall) in 2021, the second-hand clothing market has exploded - with the global pandemic and subsequent inflation in many countries driving up the price of assets - including vintage rugby jerseys - as customers seek out the higher-quality garments produced in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s.

“New stuff is cool, but the quality is definitely higher in the older stuff. People are longing for that comfortable fit, you can kind of hide a beer belly. Not every body is made for a polyester jersey so people love that loose, casual look,” says Wood.

The idea of a side hustle had always appealed, with a day job in the aromatherapy industry as a sales and marketing expert, he thought he would just “give it a crack”.

“It’s still sales, just a different product,” Wood says of his vintage business.

Beginning his side hustle on Instagram was a cost-effective way of establishing himself as a retailer in the early months as he sacrificed his margins in order to get a foothold in the market.

“I wasn’t making any money for the first year, I was just buying so much just to fuel the page and get lots of content out there, sometimes not even making a really good margin.”

He says he took inspiration from a number of other Instagram pages that are seen as pioneers of the vintage sportswear scene, such as @nzjerseyhunter and @vintageworldrugby.

Initially, Wood would save searches on Trade Me or international marketplaces with specific filters so he could be notified should a listing appear that he thought he could turn a profit on. When this started to become less efficient he opened his eyes to a process that stretches thousands of kilometres.

That avenue is the second-hand clothing supply chain that stretches from the op shops of Karangahape Rd all the way to Asia and Eastern Europe.

“People don’t realise how much clothing goes to waste. It started off with a love for rugby, now I’ve got into realising the whole second-hand clothing supply chain is way deeper than just dropping your clothes off at the op shop and just forgetting about them, it actually goes somewhere.”

It’s estimated around 180,000 tonnes of clothing and textile waste is disposed in New Zealand landfills every year, with major concerns over the shift from natural fibres to synthetic materials.

“Second-hand clothing that gets dumped at an op shop here ends up in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. There are these guys over there that are sniffing around for rugby jerseys and I just happened to connect with one of them and I’d guess you’d call him my business partner.

“As far as I know, if you go to the op shop and you dump off a box of stuff and they don’t have the room for it. Sometimes they’ve only got three staff or they’ve already got too much on the racks they’ll just send it as a bundle to Thailand or whatever, they sell it to the highest bidder.

“The buyer knows there’s going to be so much adidas, so much Ralph Lauren - they don’t really look for the Canterbury of New Zealand. But there are people over there who are looking for it.

“I found one reliable contact who could source them on the second-hand market and we’ve just gone from there. He supplies most of my jerseys from Southeast Asia,” says Wood.

The entrepreneur says one of the pleasures he takes from his business is being able to “repatriate” these jerseys and sell them to fans who can appreciate the history or significance of that particular piece.

“There might be some guy in Poland wearing a Canterbury Temex that might not know the history behind it.”

The mental image of a Polish mechanic wiping their hands on a Canterbury Temex fabric jersey would send shivers down the spine of any vintage sportswear enthusiast.

As is the case with any good business owner, Wood is looking to diversify his business and make the best use of his time. One of the ways he says he will look to do that is to introduce some newer products to his stock in the hopes customers will choose a small, local business over multinational outfits.

His first step in this process immediately paid dividends as he secured a deal to be an official stockist of Classic Sportswear’s first instalment of Super Rugby Pacific jerseys.

Particularly successful were the sales of the Blues 2024 heritage jersey, which received rave reviews from fans on release and have been snapped up by Boomfa customers.

“The Blues jerseys, they’re pretty much sold out - I’ve got two left.”

Wood theorises his small sample size may be slightly skewed as his market leans toward vintage pieces. The Blues heritage jersey is a throwback to arguably the most iconic Super Rugby jersey, the Blues 1997/98 produced by Canterbury using their Temex fabric.

Super Rugby jerseys made with this fabric have become so sought-after in recent years that sale prices have more than doubled since 2020 and they rival even a vintage Steinlager-branded All Blacks jersey or Warriors 1995 original for position in the Big Three of vintage jerseys.

“Warriors 100 per cent, they’re my quickest sellers. Anything Super Rugby Temex, then All Blacks Steinlager is the number one - you put it up, it’s gone.”

Wood says while the money he makes from his business keeps him in the game long-term, it is the support he received during his early years that he has seen continue into his success that is his motivating force.

“Ever since the beginning I’ve had some people that have followed me who bought stuff in 2021 and are still buying now - so it’s pretty cool to see those people stick with me and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able give them something that they love and cherish and can keep in their family.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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