Tennis Fashion Firsts for Summer 2022

Venus may seem to have started the trend with Eleven, but from Ultimate Penguin to Hugo Boss and even Ostapenko’s Latvian brand DK One, fashion is embracing tennis

The original brand of tennis clothing, Lacoste, started by Rene Lacoste, otherwise known as the “crocodile”.

In 1923, French David Cup player Rene Lacoste just so happened to be admiring a crocodile leather suitcase when his coach, Allan Muhr, told him that if he won his next match, the case would belong to Lacoste. Lacoste lost, but the nickname“crocodile” stuck. Lacoste even promoted it, asking his friend and stylist, Robert George, to create a crocodile patch and sew it onto the white jackets Lacoste wore when on various courts around the world. Soon, Lacoste affixed an alligator to a smaller, lose-fitting cotton shirt and boom, tennis changed the fashion world.

Since that time, however, many a designer (and tennis player) has endeavoured to make their mark on the clothing industry — if not in the annals of tennis history. Ted Tinling, a lapsed player who designed dresses for almost all of the great female players throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, is probably at the top of the list, but you can’t count out Tory Burch, who played as a kid, or Venus Williams’ EleVen brand. Even the House of Gucci and Louis Vutton stepped into the tennis trade.

An array of tennis dresses, including a few selections by the courtier to the courts, Ted Tinling.

While 2021 may have been about the vintage reboot (Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse and Diadora) this spring, the look has shifted to start-up individuality. The week before the enforcement of whites at Wimbledon, the runway show came to the grass at Eastbourne, where if players weren’t wearing a collaboration (thinkVirgil Abloh for Nike or Serena’s famous tutu dress), they’re wearing a fashion start-up (Jelena Ostapenko in Latvian brand DK One), or even their mom’s designs (Camila Giorgi in GioMila). Below is a quick guide to the logos fans may not recognise…

Camilia Giorgi of Italy wears one of her mom’s designs at the French Open, logo by DeLonghi, the Italian appliance manufacturer.

Giomila by Camilia Giorgi’s mom

The top female player in Italy and a consistent presence in the women’s Top 30s, Camilia Giorgi might be described as a bit of a wallflower if not for her often unique, frequently revealing, tennis outfits designed by her mom, Claudia. The Giorgi family almost took the family business to Isreal (Dad, Sergio, an Argentinian veteran of the Fauklands War, is Camila’s coach and agent; brother Leandro runs the business) but ultimately decided to remain in Pisa. Known to be one of the hardest hitters on tour, lately, neither Giorgi nor her dresses can catch a break. At the French Open in May, an official debated with her over the size of the DeLonghi logo on her dress, while others at the U.S. Open and other majors have complained about her plunging necklines and high hemlines. Giorgi dismissed her critics.”When I’m in the court, in the tournament, (I’m) very focused. I do my physical, everything. When I go home, there is other things in life, too,” Giorgi explained. In her spare time, Giorgi models lingerie.

Dan Evans, formerly British №1 and the “bad boy of British tennis”, poses with the founder of Luke1977 Menswear, Luke Roper. Evans has a deal with Luke until 2023.

Luke for Dan Evans

Before 2020, Dan Evans played up his Peaky Blinder image, coming back from a year’s suspension for recreational cocaine use, Also in the West Midlands, Luke1977 was a struggling menswear line aimed at pro footballers most popular in Evans’ native Birmingham. But put Luke Roper, the son of a proverbial dressmaker mother, together with Evans and the “foundry work meets fashionista” look had a new denizen. Evans’ outfits — long shorts, button-ups buttoned all the way up — hark back to those Fred Perry days when the laurel-wreath-logo meant a little more than tennis supremacy. However, the 32-year-old Evans, who started his career with Nike, seems satisfied after a stint picking out his own clothes (Uniqlo) and a few years with Yoxoi, a Japanese squash brand. The lions head logo of Luke, based on a vintage bottle of whisky, not only seems to complement Evans lifestyle, but also the tattoo on his arm: an Oscar Wilde quote, “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

Dan Evans, formerly British №1 and the “bad boy of British tennis”, poses with the founder of Luke1977 Menswear, Luke Roper. Evans has a deal with Luke until 2023.

Original Penguin for Ajla Tomljanovic

Alright, alright, Original Penguin, isn’t exactly “new”, but the Pete the struggling Penguin has never graced a stitch of tennis clothing before now. In what might be its dozenth reboot, Munsingwear, the division of Perry Ellis that makes Original Penguin, has oversized its bird, dropped the waist on its tennis dress and added some stripes for a “fusion of retro heritage style with a modern ‘original’ twist.” Somehow, the former underwear and military supply company, which became the touchstone of American sport through its 1955 golf shirt, chose a Croatian Australian, to represent it. But Tomljanovic — the stylish ex-girlfriend of Italian player Matteo Berrettini, who switched from Lotto to Hugo Boss sometime last year — thinks Original Penguin is a better fit than K-Swiss. “The brand’s spirit perfectly reflects my personality,” she said in a press release.

LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd taps racquets with Sir Andy Murray over the association’s deal with the now ubiquitous wings.

Castore x Andy Murray

Before Andy Murray retired, lost Under Armour as his sponsor and gained a metal hip, very few Brits — or anyone else — had ever heard of J.Carter Sporting Club Limited (aka Castore) a Manchester-based sports performance clothing company. Within two years of Murray’s investment in the company and the launch of the AMC line, those double wings are everywhere — from the walls of the LTA’s South London headquarters to the football uniforms of the Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Aston Villa and McLaren Racing. Billed as “Better Never Stops” (the same could be said of Murray), Castore’s founders Thomas and Philip Beahon worked as financial analysts in London while they sought investors for their brand, initially aimed for golfers and cricketers. And although he is no longer British №1, Sir Andy’s endorsement seems to have carried the brand to 50 countries and 12 sports, including the Team Bahrain Victorious cycling squad. Up next: pushing out Ralph Lauren as the official sponsor of Wimbledon.

Jelena Ostapenko rarely keeps fans guessing about her thoughts, but everyone wanted to know why she left Adidas to don pink-and-purple houndstooth, her Eastbourne signature kit from Latvian startup, DKOne.

DKOne for Jelena Ostapenko

Lastly, Jelena Ostapenko emerged earlier in 2022 having ditched Adidas for frills and colourful patterns in a throwback that some may call more disco than dynamic. Prior to the pandemic and thinking about her future post-tennis, Ostapenko partnered with Daniela K., another Latvian tennis player, and came up with DKOne, the embodiment of “comfort, originality and quality.” She found out that there was no such thing as fast fashion, however. “It all looks very easy, but when you start going through all the steps — Oh, my God!” Ostapenko told the WTA news site. “First you have to do the patterns and the shapes. Then there is the fabric. Then you can do the design. The colours come last.” The Latvian known for her expressive faces and her cut-to-the-chase demeanour appeared at the 2022 Australian Open donning a baby blue top and fluorescent yellow shorts. BDon’t expect more tonal colours in the future, either. “Bright, bright colours are my favourites,” Ostapenko said. “The neon pink, the neon yellow, the neon green. The blue, too.”

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Adrian Margaret Brune

Adrian Margaret Brune

Adrian Margaret Brune is a native Oklahoman who lives, works, writes, runs and plays competitive tennis in London, UK.