MLS Jersey Week begins Wednesday. Which means finding out which players led the league in jersey sales, special deals on MLSstore.com, the writer of this piece finally being delivered the rainbow Digital Takawira jersey he’s been asking to get for years (please?) and a general celebration of showing your colors. It also provides a chance to celebrate artists in the MLS community.

Special Patches

To commemorate the week, each team will be wearing specially designed patches from Columbus, Ohio’s Dionte’ Johnson. Johnson owns and operates Sole Classics, a sneaker boutique and lifestyle brand in the Short North area of Columbus. It's located about two miles from Lower.com Field.

jersey week - 2021 - patches

For Johnson, the store represents a second career. Before owning and designing for Sole Classics, he spent four years as a fullback for Ohio State football and then progressed to the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. But when an injury dashed his football dreams and took him away from the field, a friend told him he needed a hobby. They passed along a version of Photoshop that maybe wasn’t exactly Photoshop but still looked a lot like Photoshop. It was the late 2000s, ya know?

So Johnson began playing with the program and when football ended, design filled the void. The folks at MLS took notice and sent along an offer to collaborate earlier this year. It was an offer that almost got ignored. Johnson, who grew up watching Brian McBride and the earliest editions of the Crew, glanced at an apparent email from the league they played in and just assumed it was a well-designed fake. Fortunately, he circled back. The offer was real and so was the league’s appreciation for his work.

They began collaborating on the patches and ended up with four that will be worn on jerseys across the league and given away with each jersey sale throughout Jersey Week. In creating and selecting the four designs, Johnson wanted to focus on the fans that would be collecting them and celebrate what’s perhaps the most fashion-forward sport in the world.

“I was like, I want this to be more so about the fans, the jersey, the people who wear it. How do you wear something that's cool and that still means so much to the fans?,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “When MLS said it was an opportunity to have multiple designs, I was like, well, my first goal will be fashion and retail and to make something for everyone. But also, you know, put forth a message. We wanted to make something that was diverse, something that was simple and clean. And patches that overall felt like collector's items more so than something that would pop back up or that you would see again.”

In addition to a patch featuring the Jersey Week tag of “Love Thy Kit”, Johnson created a patch based on the designs of NASA shuttle missions, a road trip patch celebrating the experience of an away day following your team, and a patch celebrating the connection between two countries that you just might recognize if you’ve spent pretty much any time ever on the internet.

“Canada always gets kind of put as an afterthought and when they kind of mentioned that, I was like, well, you know, let's make sure we embody this brotherhood, that international brother. So we had a couple of designs highlighted but this is the final one that ended up going through,” Johnson said. “I was excited about it. Cause I think if you know the reference, it makes it that much sweeter.”

The limited-edition patch collection will only be available at Major League Soccer gameday venues. Jersey Week begins today and runs through next Wednesday when the Top 25 Best-Selling MLS Jerseys for the 2021 MLS season will be revealed.