Style Points is a weekly piece that explores the intersections between fashion and the larger world. While the mountains became the new runway this winter, fashion’s gaze is firmly fixed on the court for summer 2021. Lady Gaga volleyed in a Nike matching set this week, and fashion icons ranging from Winnie Harlow to Babba Rivera have joined the trend.
Tennis has always been associated with style. Lili de Alvarez pioneered Schiaparelli’s divided skirt at Wimbledon in 1931 (she received death threats for wearing the then-controversial culotte-like style) Serena Williams in a regal Virgil Abloh-designed Nike tennis dress complete with tulle tutu. However, for those of us who have yet to win a Grand Slam, the alternatives have always felt more constrained, erring on the side of country club traditionalism.
The good news is that as more individuals gravitated into the socially isolated sport over the last 18 months, the once-stodgy sector of tennis apparel has resurrected itself, with options shifting away from overtly preppy and toward “someone who’s heard of Glenn Martens.” You are no longer limited to items that appear to have been ripped from Richie Tenenbaum’s wardrobe; those who want to imitate Andre Agassi’s Technicolor punk style (without the acid-washed dad shorts) or Williams’ high-fashion clothes now have a plethora of alternatives.
Tennis has a long history of exclusivity, but the sport is evolving and with it, new fashion options are geared to everyone, even those of us who grew up playing on uneven public courts. Furi Sport, a new Black and female-owned company, emphasizes inclusion in the sport and advertises itself as “not your typical tennis brand,” with a disclaimer on its website that “PURISTS ARE NOT REQUIRED.” Cold-shoulder polos and other streetwear-inspired pieces that would be at home in a street-style photograph coexist with the brand’s assortment of tennis apparel. Year of Ours, founded in Los Angeles, likewise stresses inclusion, offering a variety of designs in sizes up to 2X, including print-heavy tennis items.
Tennis themes have also been prevalent on the runway recently. David Koma had been missing his favorite sport leading up to his spring/summer 2021 presentation, so he paid respect by exhibiting on a tennis court and playing with iconography, most notably in the form of a set of enormous racket-shaped earrings. And Coach provided whimsical interpretations of tennis themes, as modeled in its lookbook by Hari Nef.
Marysia launched a Marysia Sport Clean capsule collection in May, including designs inspired by female tennis players like Williams and Naomi Osaka. Alo debuted a range of sporting equipment, including tennis rackets, last month. And while fashion companies expanded their reach into tennis, tennis brands expanded their reach into fashion. Consider the 51-year-old stalwart Prince, which boasts an “off-court” assortment suitable for your next post-match beverage.
Retailers, too, are investing heavily in the sector. Net-a-Porter told WWD that it will boost its focus on sportswear, especially tennis apparel, for the upcoming season. And The RealReal just stated that it is now taking pre-owned tennis gear, as well as other athletic products, in addition to pre-owned bags and baubles. If you decide to trade in yours for some new on-court attire, it appears as though you’ll have plenty of alternatives in this summer.