When you’re wearing the shirt of your favorite soccer team in public, have you considered what nonverbal communications you’re sending?

Sure, the majority of the time, we’re wearing a soccer shirt because it’s the team we support, we like the design, it’s comfortable, fashionable and sometimes it’s one of the few pieces of clothing that is clean and readily available. But a soccer shirt is much more than that.

Let me explain.

When you wear a shirt, you’re sending nonverbal messages to the people who walk past you and notice the shirt you’re wearing. One, you’re different. A soccer shirt stands out from ordinary clothes. It’s usually more colorful and the design looks completely different than the plain clothing that most other people wear. People notice that you’re different. Some may like that. Some may not. But whether you like it or not, you’re sending a message to people that you’re different than the average person walking down the street.

Two, you’re sending nonverbal communications to strangers that you’re a soccer fan. It’s just like buying a T-shirt at a concert for your favorite rock band. You want people to come up to you and engage in a conversation. “Hey, I like them too.” You’re identifying yourself as a soccer fan, but also as a supporter of a specific club thus allowing at least two topics that strangers can discuss with you.

Three, you’re advertising a brand. It’s no wonder that Nike, Adidas, Puma and other manufacturers spend enormous amounts of money on advertising and securing contracts with soccer clubs. Wearing a soccer shirt with the Nike logo on your right chest sends a message to the public and, in itself, is a form of “free” advertising for the shirt manufacturer.

Four, not only are you advertising a brand, but you’re also advertising a sponsor. Corporations have their name and logo emblazoned across most soccer shirts. When I used to wear my Swansea City away shirt in the 90s that looked like an AC Milan shirt, the front of it had the words “Gulf Oil” across it. Complete strangers in malls in the United States would come up to me and ask me if I worked for the oil company. They were perplexed, as I was when they asked me the question. Whether we want to believe it or not, we are advertising corporate brands when we wear shirts of our favorite soccer clubs.

Five, if your shirt features a number and/or name on the back, you’re also communicating to the public that you support the player identified. You just have to hope that the footballer stays with the club. Otherwise the shirt becomes outdated far too quickly!

Six, and perhaps most importantly from a psychological perspective, you wearing that shirt is sending a message that you’re part of an exclusive set of people. Not everyone can own a soccer shirt. Not everyone can afford. And not everyone can figure out how to even find one. But wearing that shirt tells people that you’re special. It’s just walking into a nightclub or restaurant and seeing a certain group of people sitting behind a velvet rope that is exclusively for VIPs.

These are just half a dozen of the nonverbal communications you send out there when you wear a shirt. There may be more than those. Sure, wearing a soccer shirt is a harmless joy. But whether you like to think it or not, you’re buying much more than the support of your favorite soccer team. You’re buying the attention of the public.