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Sorry to all the NBA players that make their walk to the locker room a red carpet affair, but tennis is the most stylish sport. Full stop. Nothing comes close to having the same level of sartorial flair when it’s time to play. I’m not talking just about Lacoste, Fred Perry and Stan Smith Adidas, either. And the stylish nature of the sport hasn’t been lost on the fashion world. Obviously there is the preppy connection to the sport with Ralph Lauren constantly going to the court for inspiration. But there has also been a streetwear interest as well, from prep x hype brand Rowing Blazers collaborating with Boast to Brain Dead new collaboration with Prince.
Tennis went through a real boom over starting in the 1970s with players like Björn Borg and John McEnroe, and that stretched into the ‘90s, with Andre Agassi rocking plenty of neon to go along with his epic mullet and Michael Chang becoming the spokesperson for the most underrated pair of Reebok Pumps. And now it appears to be back on the upswing. In many ways, it is the perfect quarantine sport with players stretched well more than six feet apart –– and was one of the first outdoor sports to be allowed post-lockdown in places like New York City. Maybe tennis has found its new moment, and you are going to need some duds to hit the court. If you aren’t looking to play, you could pick some up just to hang out on the sidelines and drink those Grey Goose cocktails they serve at the U.S. Open. While there are certainly new tennis garms being made that will keep you looking cool, the colorful pieces from the sport’s golden age are still plentiful and more stylish than ever.
Classic Polos and shorts
Obviously the most recognizable piece of tennis kit is a polo. While a simple white polo may be a timeless choice, there are plenty more colorful options from the golden ages. The brands to look out for are the usual suspects with Lacoste and Boast leading the charge, and there are really three styles to keep an eye out for: The vintage sport stripe shirts, loud all over prints and the classic solid. The late 1980s looking all over prints can be a bit too much, but this Wilson tennis racquet motif doesn’t offend me, but certainly, the best of the lot is the striped Wilson.
- Vintage Wilson All Over Tennis print Polo Shirt, Size Large
- Boast Polo Shirt in Kelly Green, Size Large
- Vintage 80s Wilson Tennis Polo, Size Medium
- Vintage 80s 90s FILA Monogram Polo, Size Large
Retro Merch Shirts
Believe it or not some of best-looking vintage tennis gear out there are just simple printed tees. Designs for clubs, tournaments and just merch from the ‘90s and early 2000s are just right on the money. These vintage colorful graphics for bygone events and courts are perfect for wearing all summer long, and unlike other vintage tees, the tennis tee market still seems pretty reasonable from a price perspective. There is a series of Art Wear shirts that look like they could have been made yesterday as classic dad-joke eque joints. My favorites are the sponsored shirts. Rather unsurprisingly, you get some amazing sponsors for tennis opens, from the likes of Volvo, and the designs don’t disappoint.
- 1994 Volvo International Starter T-shirt, Size Large
- Vintage 90s “Take Me to Court” T-shirt, Size Large
- 1994 Wilson Tennis T-Shirt, Size Medium
- 1993 Cassidy Art Wear Collection Tennis T-Shirt, Size Large
The Venerable Tennis Short
The internet is awash with conversations around men’s shorts. The 5” inseam discourse is strong, Patagonia baggies are held up as the gold standard. But an often overlooked short is the short inseam, often elastic waisted tennis shorts of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Of course, there are your classic white pairs, which are great, but there are also outrageously colorful options. This seller on eBay has quite a large collection of Boast shorts in great color blocks and patterns that are perfect for the rest of summer. Here are some other options as well.
- Vintage 1980s Izod Chemise Lacoste Shorts, Size 35”
- Vintage FILA Tennis shorts, Size 36”
- Vintage 70s Alexander Shields Tennis Shorts, Size 36”
- Vintage Lacoste Tennis Shorts, size 32”
Gear for Off the Court
Some of the best vintage tennis gear I found in my search wasn’t tennis gear at all. From promotional merch to fashion pieces, there are some great items that are inspired or connected to the sport that are worth showing off, like this nifty tennis court bandana. Tennis is rich with inspiration for fun designs and vintage accessories. To hunt some of these down, I searched by the sponsor names, for example, “Perrier Tennis.” Try flipping through old videos of tennis matches to pick up on the kind of sponsors who were active in the ‘70s through the ‘90s.
- Gitman Brothers Tennis Court Camp Collar Shirt, Size Small
- Roland Garros 93’ Perrier Pin
- Vintage 70s All Over Tennis Print Shirt, Size Extra Large
- Lacoste L!ve Vintage Ads Capsule Tennis Shirt, Size 42
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