Service with a style
By Matt Glazebrook, 2 July 2014
It’s not just on the court that the stars of Wimbledon have set the style agenda over the years. A surprising number of tennis legends have shown equal poise on the catwalk as they have on the lawns of SW19, eschewing the traditional post-sport careers of golf club patronage and TV punditry in favour of new lives as menswear mavens. Here’s our guide to four clothing brands that owe their existence to former tennis pros…
The player: René Lacoste won seven grand slam titles in the 20s, scoring multiple victories at Wimbledon, and the French and US Opens. He never conquered the Australian Open, but then he never bothered entering it either.
The brand: Nicknamed the crocodile for his tenacious playing style, Lacoste turned his trademark reptile into true fashion icon once his playing days were done, stitching it onto shoes, tops and caps in a range of bold hues. The classic Lacoste polo, in red or a rich pastel shade, has become an emblem of preppy good taste.
The player: Stockport’s finest, Fred Perry basically owned tennis in the 30s, wracking up a clean sweep of grand slam wins, including a trio of Wimbledon titles that were – until last year – the last by a Brit man. He was also a world champ at ping-pong, the big show-off.
The brand: Fred Perry’s laurel wreath logo has become synonymous with British youth tribes over the years. The brand’s classic coloured polo shirts have been a staple for skinheads, rudeboys, mods and indie kids over the years, equally at home beneath braces, a porkpie hat, a sharp suit or a parka.
The player: Sergio Tacchini may not boast the trophy cabinet of some of his ex-pro rivals, but he was no slouch on the court. An Italian championship in singles in 1960, two national doubles trophies in 1967 and 1968, and a series of Davis Cup appearances are the highlights of his on-court CV.
The brand: The Tacchini brand’s bold and brash track tops were an 80s UK youth culture essential, gaining particular favour with young, style-conscious football fans. The 'terrace casual’ look remains hugely influential with menswear designers 30 years on.
The player: Swedish legend Björn Borg won an astonishing 11 grand slam titles (five at Wimbledon, six in France) all while looking like an incredibly cool blonde hippie adonis. Then he promptly quit at age 26 – realising, like Alexander The Great before him – that there were no worlds left to conquer.
The brand: Ever the iconoclast, Björn Borg opted not to follow his ex-pro forebears into the world of sports-inspired streetwear, and instead headed down a more intimate fashion road. Today, Borg’s hip and colourful kecks are massive in his native Sweden, and are making serious inroads among the international underpant cognoscenti.