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How Tennis Apparel Became The Look Of The Summer by Gabby Shacknai
This summer, when Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, and a slew of other world-class players hit the courts at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, they weren’t the only ones sporting full tennis gear. The sports apparel, long the unofficial uniform of stuffy country clubs and private-school pickup lines everywhere, has taken on somewhat of a new life in recent months, both on the street and on social media. Younger generations have come to embrace the once traditional garb, finding a sort of effortless cool in its classic pleats, and even if they’ve never picked up a racket or set foot on a baseline, they are donning tennis skirts and polos like they’re fresh off a final set.
Between May and September of this year, Google searches for tennis skirts, dresses, polo shirts, and the like climbed, and photos of the sports staples, paired with oversized vintage sweatshirts and tees, covered Instagram and TikTok feeds. The seemingly overnight interest in tennis gear quickly gave birth to a new aesthetic: tenniscore.
In reaction to this trend—or perhaps just in rather serendipitous timing—a long list of brands have begun producing or expanding their tennis offerings. Where Nike, Adidas, and FILA once reigned supreme, established fashion designers, like Tory Burch’s Tory Sport and Rowing Blazers, and emerging brands, like KULE, Danzy, and Year of Ours, are now making tennis-inspired clothing of their own. And increasingly often, customers are not only choosing their tenniscore looks over those of conventional athletic brands, but they are also choosing them over normal streetwear.
Not unlike the overall rise of athleisure over the last year and a half, tennis clothing’s current moment is at least in part a result of the pandemic. “Tennis is a great outdoor activity,” says Nikki Kule, the founder and creative director of KULE. “It’s been a great way to keep active during the pandemic, and it introduced, or re-introduced, the sport to a lot of people.”
Although tennis has always been an inspiration for KULE and a factor in its brand DNA, it wasn’t until the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, released earlier this year, that the founder and her team decided to incorporate the sport into a logo. “We thought the tennis-inspired patterns would be a fun addition, so we put a KULE Tennis logo on a men’s and women’s sweatshirt, a tee, and socks,” she explains. They’ve already had to restock the collection twice.