SERENA WILLIAMS VIRGIL ABLOH X NIKE
From Roger Federer leaving Nike for a $300 million contract with Uniqlo, to the Palace Skateboard mash-up with Adidas at Wimbledon, to Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with Serena Williams for Nike on her upcoming US Open return… it has been a very fashionable summer for tennis! The tennis courts have become the hot spot for fashion x sport collections and the players the perfect models to show it off in action.
Tennis has always been one of the most fashionable sports. Going back to the 1920’s, Susan Lenglen brought flapper style to the courts. Then there was Gussie Moran in the 1950’s scandelously flaunting white lace knickers at Wimbledon. Designer Ted Tingling was responsible for that fashion moment and made his mark on the game again in the 1970’s as the official designer of the Virginia Slims Womens tour. Later of course, there were players like Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi whose tennis looks for Fila, Tacchini and Nike made them tennis style icons.
With the US Open about to kick off in the fashion capital of NYC, we pay homage to the style of the game with a review of the all time greatest looks in tennis history…
1. SUZANNE LENGLEN 1926
1920’s tennis star Suzanne Lenglen was a 34-time major champion and in 1921 the world’s number 1 player. Her dazzling style of play was matched her style of dress on the courts. An International Tennis Hall of Fame member, her bio reads: “The Frenchwoman filled the stands with her flamboyant brilliance on court and her eccentric personality that blurred the lines between superstar athlete and diva.”
2. PHARRELL X ADIDAS 2017 US OPEN
Pharrell Williams hit the courts with adidas Originals last year at the US Open for an unforgettable Mondrian inspired tennis collection seen in play on such top players as Garbine Muguruza, Alexander Zverev, and Angelique Kerber.
3. BJORN BORG VS. JOHN MCENROE 1980 WIMBLEDON FINAL
In what was considered one of the most epic matches in tennis history, Björn Borg defeated John McEnroe in five sets at the 1980 Wimbledon final: 1–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–7, 8–6. Equally memorable were both players’ attire — Bjorn Borg in his iconic Fila and McEnroe in his signature Tacchini, both sporting long hair and colorful terry headbands.
4. ANNE WHITE WIMBLEDON 1985 / 5. SERENA WILLIAMS FRENCH OPEN 2018
Serena Williams made a big fashion statement at the French Open this year — her first major back as a new mom – marking the occasion in a black Nike catsuit. Anne White was the first player, however, to wear a catsuit in competition, pushing the boundaries of the all-white tennis attire rule at Wimbledon in 1985. It was banned by match’s end (actually mid-match as play was suspended for darkness) and she returned to the court the next day in traditional attire. Serena Williams catsuit was also banned, although not until last week when the French Tennis Federation announced new dress code regulations for next year. Catsuits are not included.
6. ANDRE AGASSI 1990
Andre Agassi played staid tennis apparel off the courts in the 1990’s with his rock star style, big hair, screaming neon, and those Oakley Blades. Most unforgettable were the acid-washed Nike denim shorts, with sewn-in pink neon compression layer, worn at the French Open in 1990.
7. GUSSIE MORAN 1950
Playing at Madison Square Garden in 1950 in a match against Pauline Betz, “Gorgeous Gussie” Moran as she was known, turned the other cheek flaunting a pair of leopard shorts under her tennis dress. The previous year she had started her foray into tennis risque with a pair of white lace britches under her all white Wimbledon kit.
8. ADIDAS STAN SMITH 1971
Originally introduced by adidas in 1964 as the Haillet, named for French tennis professional Robert Haillet, American Stan Smith became the shoe’s namesake in 1971 as the number 1 player in the world at the time. The adidas Stan Smith has since left the tennis court, but has become one of the most popular sneakers in history with total sales over the past four decades of more than 50 million pairs!
9. CAROLINE WOZNIAKI ADIDAS BY STELLA MCCARTNEY US OPEN 2017
Designer Stella McCartney’s was one of the original contemporary designers to put their fashion spin on athletic wear, giving birth to the term “athleisure” with her sport and fitness collections for adidas. Caroline Wozniaki is one of the top 10 players in the WTA to sport her adidas by Stella McCartney tennis line, and last year’s US Open kit was a highlight — popping off the court in juicy shades of cherry, hibiscus, and orange.
10. ILLE NASTASE FRENCH OPEN 1973
Tennis’ original bad boy, Romanian Ille “Nasty” Nastase looked good in 1973 on the red clay of the Roland Garros in his signature adidas 3-stripe shirt and shorts — matching in canary yellow. Nastase was the Nadal of his day, virtually untouchable on clay, and won the French Open that year without dropping a set.
11. TED TINLING 1973
Fashion designer Ted Williams was a larger than life presence in women’s tennis in the 1970’s as the official clothier of the Virginia Slims Tour. Portrayed by Alan Cummings in the recent film “Battle of the Sexes”, Tinling dressed such top players as Virginia Wade, Evonne Goolagong, Rosemary Casals, and Billie Jean King shown above. Creating unique and distinctive looks for each player, he was also responsible years earlier for Gussie Moran’s famous white lace knickers at Wimbledon in 1949 mentioned above. Holding the position of Player Liason at Wimbledon at the time, the outfit got him fired — although he would later be rehired and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1986. For more about Tinling check out this entertaining short feature from the Tennis Channel.
12. SERENA WILLIAMS VIRGIL ABLOH X NIKE US OPEN 2018
Perhaps better suited for the ice skating rink than the tennis court… like it or not one can’t deny Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with Nike for Serena Williams at this year’s US Open IS a fashion statement. Abloh is probably the hottest designer right now, recently appointed Creative Director of Menswear for Louis Vuitton and fresh off one of the biggest sneaker collaborations with Nike ever, “Ten Icons Reconstructed”. No doubt this one will go down in tennis history as one of the most memorable!
For more iconic tennis style click: THE TENNIS GODS