In this article, we’re going to talk about the history of men’s tennis attire and the impact it’s had on the sport. We’ll discuss recommended apparel as well as the benefits of wearing clothing specifically designed for the sport.
History of Tennis Apparel
Men’s tennis attire has changed significantly since the early days of Wimbledon. In the early 1920s, men wore heavy cable knit cardigans or sweater vests with long-sleeved shirts similar to today’s dress shirts and long cricket flannel trousers. By 1926, the trend was quickly changing as Rene Lacoste introduced a short-sleeved cotton-mesh shirt he had originally crafted for polo. The new, less bulky and cooler shirt offered the player far more range of motion and prevented him from tiring as quickly. Then, in 1932, Henry “Bunny” Austin, a British tennis player, decided that cricket flannels were too heavy and cumbersome. He decided to bring a pair of shorts to Forrest Hills and continued to wear the white tennis shorts at Wimbledon, where the world took notice. Despite his obviously less bulky garment, tennis players didn’t like the less formal attire. It wasn’t until after World War II that players began to switch from the traditional slacks to contemporary white shorts as the official dress for a match.
Much of tennis fashion remained the same until the early 1970s, when Stan Smith introduced athletic shoes and wore Adidas shoes to a match rather than the less flexible tennis shoes men had previously worn. By 1975, tennis was officially the game of America’s wealthiest. Despite other racquet sports such as squash coming into popularity, tennis remained the sport of choice for the Ivy League crowd and gentlemen who wanted to play sports with wives who refused to play golf. It was officially a country club sport and the pure white preppy styles began to become a uniform of solidarity amongst fashionable tennis players in the United States — and soon around the world. After all, what showcased wealth more than a man who could afford to play an outdoor sport in white?
As the Trad, Ivy League and preppy styles of the 1950s and 60s gained popularity across the United States, Bill St. John began to launch his new athletic brand Boast for the tennis players who craved exclusivity from the impending 1980s Gordon Gecko pinstripe suits and bold ties that screamed Wall Street.
Then the eighties hit, and they hit hard. The bold patterns weren’t quite as noticeable on the court, but certain tennis players began introducing some sprezzatura to otherwise white outfits. Tennis legends like John McEnroe began wearing argyle shirts, introducing blues and other masculine colors into their shirts. And then striped headbands hit.
The style continued to grow, and soon the white shorts were replaced by brightly colored shorts made from synthetic moisture-wicking materials like lycra. Men began to follow suit of women who capitalized on styles influenced by Audrey Hepburn. Soon it was almost a craze similar to prepdom, where players began trying to outdo their competitors. Granted, it never moved into the GTH pants of golf, but styles began to show bold patterns and bright contrasting color palettes.
The shirts became more fitted and athletic companies like Adidas, Nike and Reebok started designing form-fitting shirts to show off the muscular physique of the players.
Despite the ever evolving color schemes and new trends that continue to pop up, somehow the classic cable knit sweaters remained just as popular as style staples for preps. Although rarely seen on the court, many of the original outfits worn by tennis players in the early 1900s are worn before and after a match by amateur and professional players alike. Furthermore, whether it be due to the country club partnership with golf or by coincidence, standard club attire such as the navy blazer, polo shirts, and repp ties have become common place at the courts during events and for fans and spectators to wear in attendance. Just as football, hockey and basketball fans often wear similar jerseys and caps, polo, tennis and golf enthusiasts tend to draw on similar styles while playing and attending matches.
Tennis Attire Today, On the Court and Off
Like golf, tennis attire today has evolved to focus on performance, comfort and ease of movement. It is no longer a game for the elite, and its popularity at the professional level has created a range of clothing specifically geared for tennis players. While Wimbeldon still requires it’s players to wear white, tennis clothes are available in a range of colors, though all white certainly makes a classic statement. In addition, tennis sweaters, club blazers, jackets and white trousers are now much more suited to off the court and all are classic pieces for more casual or relaxed occasions.
Here is a list of golf shirts:
|Brand Name||Recommended Sport||Price|
|UnderArmour||Golf and Tennis||$50+|
|Reebok||Golf and Tennis||$40+|
|Adidas||Golf and Tennis||$15+|
|Travis Mathew||Golf and Tennis||$50+|
|Oakley||Golf and Tennis||$25+
|New Balance||Golf and Tennis||$25+|
|Wilson||Golf and Tennis||$30+|
|Aasics||Golf and Tennis||$45+|
Shirts & Sweaters
Boast White Polo Shirt
Boast is one of the leading preppy-style clothiers for tennis players. If you enjoy the classic “I can afford to wear white playing sports” look, this shirt is for you. Click here to get it.
Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Jersey Polo Shirt
Slim fitting with a striped Johnny collar, this polo shirt is a bolder tribute to Wimbledon and a billboard that advertises you’re serious about tennis. If you want a more youthful and bold look, you might like this polo shirt from Ralph Lauren. Click here to get it.
Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Umpire Sweater
Made from Pima cotton, this classic cable-knit sweater features a multi-striped v-neckline. An official sweater of The Championships, Wimbledon 2016, this is a great classic sweater for on and off the court. Click here to get it.
Nike Men’s Team Court Tennis Polo
More sporty than classic, this moisture-wicking athletic polo designed for tennis is a great pick if comfort and range of motion are more important than classic stylings. It is bold and contemporary, but it will keep you cool in the warmest climates. Click here to get it.
Lacoste Polo Shirt
The original tennis polo, this shirt from Lacoste offers the player classic style with modern moisture-wicking technology. It is a great blend of fashionable tennis attire and the more contemporary athletic wear. Click here to get it.
If you are on a budget, you may want to take a look at Uniqlo. They are known for their quality at low prices.
Shorts and Slacks
Boast Double Piped Court Shorts
Another classic tennis staple that pays tribute to the past, these stark white shorts have kelly green and navy tipping that gives them just a touch of modern appeal. For the gentleman who wants a traditional tennis outfit, these shorts will complete it. Click here to get them.
Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Ball Boy Shorts
The official shorts of Wimbledon, these ball-boy shorts come in French navy and are made from stretch cotton done in a chino style. Above knee length, they will meet any dress code imposed by your club. Click here to get them for just $195.
Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Ball Boy Pants
A soft cotton track pant, these are perfect for the gentleman playing in cooler weather conditions. Ideal for outdoor matches, the pants will keep your legs comfortable and add some protection if you hit the ground. Click here to get them.
Adidas Barricade Tennis Shoes
Designed with active singles games in mind, these tennis shoes are constructed for propulsion and efficiency on the court with abrasion resistance to provide long lasting wear. Revered by professional tennis players, these are a great and practical – albeit not very attractive – tennis shoe. Click here to get a pair.
Nike Vapor Court Shoe
Engineered to wick moisture from your feet, this tennis shoe from Nike comes with outstanding reviews. They offer superior traction and classic white styling which goes with a more traditional outfit. If you want modern technology with a less colorful style, click here to get a pair.
New Balance Tennis Shoes
When New Balance set out to design a men’s tennis shoe, they wanted to create a court shoe that lasted longer than the competition and provided endurance and traction at a reasonable price. Since you can’t wear oxfords on the court, this is probably as good as it gets when it comes to finding a shoe for your tennis game. Click here to get a pair.
Asics is know for their gel pad shoes, that minimize the impact when stopping and accelerating. One thing we really like about these Asics is that it provides increased protection for the toes and a padded tongue. This is beneficial since many players tend to hover on their toes during a match. It also helps if you get hit by a speeding tennis ball in the foot. However, the insole of this shoe is bad, but that’s true for all tennis shoes.
Fortunately there are after-market insoles and the best we tested was this one from Sof Sole. It noticeably reduced the impact, they were more comfortable and have lasted over a year so far. They are washable and easy to maintain. However, bear in mind that they add a bit of weight. If you want an insole that cushions more than the standard Asics sole at no added weight, get this insole here.
We tested numerous pairs of tennis and sports socks. Gold Toe sent some ankle socks they claimed were perfect for tennis. Unfortunately, we didn’t agree. Some of them came with loose threads, and they didn’t hold up or fit nearly as well as the abrupt motions of tennis demands. In the end, we don’t have any recommended socks for tennis as most of the sports socks we tried were too similar and not very impressive. Quite honestly, your best bet is just to buy a pair of athletic socks in the height you like and replace them frequently. Bear in mind, if they are no show and too short, they may slide off your foot, and force you to interrupt your game. So get something long enought so it doesn’t impact your game.
Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Cap
The official championship hat, this cap is made from breathable cotton and works well on the court. It’s comfortable, and it looks good with classic and modern apparel. It’s our top recommended hat. Click here to buy it.
If you’re looking for a more traditional and yet colorful visor, consider this one from Nike. Ideally, we wouldn’t want the large logo, but it’s tough to find a well-made visor without a prominent brand logo. If you do want a bolder visor click here to get this one.
Sweat Bands / Wrist Bands
If you don’t need a hat, but you are prone to sweating a lot. A head band or wrist band is desirable. At the end of the day, they are all pretty similar in terms of function though the underarmor band was quite comfortable.
There are many different tennis shirts, shorts, and shoes on the market. Whether they claim to be designed for tennis, we didn’t notice much of a difference between those and items designed for golf or other sports. Unless you’re set on having a wardrobe exclusively for tennis, we recommend investing in a solid collection that can be worn for any club sport. Some pieces such as polos and club blazers can also be worn off the court as casual wear in the summer or at work if you happen to be employed in a casual office environment. What do you wear when playing tennis?