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How Tenniscore Came to Signify a New Era of Luxury Athleisure by Aemilia Madden
Amidst the era of social distancing and outdoor activities, tennis proved to be the perfect sport. A net and 78 feet of court stood between you and your opponent. But even as social lives return to close proximity, tennis’ popularity has remained intact—especially as it pertains to fashion.
“Brands traditionally not associated with tennis, from fast fashion to luxury labels, have been brought into today’s mainstream tennis culture,” says Jason Kim, SVP of marketing for Lacoste North America, of the sport’s rise. “Through content creation and true product development, this surge in tenniswear’s popularity has ultimately defined the new trend we see around tenniscore.”
Tennis is a sport known for its particularity when it comes to its uniform. At Wimbledon, players can be fined for not wearing all white on the court (as Nick Kyrgios was for putting on his white-and-red Air Jordan 1s this year). In 2018, Serena Williams’s black catsuit at the French Open earned unnecessary backlash from the French Tennis Federation and led to the ban of similar outfits altogether. While this official fussiness around dress code feels old-fashioned, many just getting into the sport are finding that the traditional tennis staples feel particularly fresh off court.
With rising interest comes exciting innovation. Classic tennis brands like Lacoste are finding ways to marry on- and off-court style, partnering with A.P.C. and Awake NY and “mixing traditional technicalwear with aspects of modern streetwear and digital-age influence,” says Kim.
This summer, sportswear brand Wilson released its second collaboration with Kith, a label that’s helped to define the current era of streetwear. “Kith created a modern twist on classic prep,” says Joelle Michaeloff, vice president of design at Wilson Sportswear. “Together, we combined our heritage with their street style to create something unique and special.” The collaboration took traditional tennis silhouettes like the tennis dress and even the visor and reimagined them with a fashion-forward twist. Michaeloff cites the tennis skirt and a classic polo shirt as two key pieces Wilson is seeing customers style just as fervently off the court as on.
A further venture into the space, lifestyle brand Sporty & Rich, founded by Emily Oberg, launched a new co-branded capsule with Prince on July 11. “Sporty & Rich is all about encouraging people to live healthier, happier, and longer, and knowing that an activity like tennis can help to achieve that, it has always been a central part of the brand ethos,” Oberg said in a press release. The collection—a mix of cotton lounge pieces along with preppy staples like tennis skirts and sweater-vests—manages to maintain technical elements of sportswear while introducing a trendy twist.
Clearly athletic innovation, while important for those who spend time working on their serves and backhands, isn’t the only appeal for those who are adopting the look for everyday life. “The interpretation of tennis style being expressed with street culture, while also nodding to the vintage history of the traditional sport apparel itself, is really interesting to see—showcasing the cross-generational evolution for both on court and off court,” says Kim.
For centuries, the sport was often associated with luxury and leisure, something taken up at country clubs or sun-drenched beachside hotels. For those looking to bring a touch of escapism into their post-pandemic life, the sport represents a sort of easygoing grandeur. An all-white uniform, worn when playing on a court of dusty clay or fresh-cut grass, not only offers a visual contrast but signifies the wearer’s ability to keep their tennis whites white—a mark of wealth for much of the sport’s history.
Another element of tennis style that’s incredibly luxe is the jewelry. After all, nothing seems quite as flippant as breaking a sweat while draped in a diamond necklace or bracelet. The term tennis bracelet first originated after a 1987 U.S. Open match in which American player Chris Evert paused the game to retrieve her diamond bracelet after the clasp broke, sending it flying. It’s rare for players to wear jewelry in contact sports, but in tennis it’s considered a key element of an on-court look.
“The tennis bracelet serves as the perfect piece of jewelry to wear while playing the sport or, for that matter, any other athletic activity,” says Kim-Eva Wempe, owner and managing partner of jewelry brand Wempe. “It’s lightweight, usually fits pretty snug to the arm, and isn’t bulky, so you don’t have to worry about it being a distraction or moving around much.” This practical luxury is just as appealing off the court, as many women find themselves dressing with versatility in mind. A simple strand of diamonds can be styled just as easily with jeans and a tee as it can be with a black-tie gown.
On social media, as users continue to develop the way they interact with followers, presentation has evolved from one of millennial-led polished perfection to a more Gen Z–driven unaffectedness by way of super-cropped photos and unaffected poses. There’s a certain flippancy, even when dressed in head-to-toe designer duds. Ultimately, tenniscore serves to be the perfect trend for both generations. It’s preppy and polished, but a sweaty post-play selfie is just as easy to capture as one perfectly posed pregame. When it comes to little white miniskirts and stacked diamonds, it really is love-love.
Kule large tennis tote bag
Kule tennis socks