No vintage enthusiast’s wardrobe is complete if it doesn’t show a little love for tennis shirts. So we’re serving up a set of the top five to help ensure you’re an ace on the concrete surface of the urban court.
1. Fila BJ Borg
Borg is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport. He won 11 Grand Slam singles titles between 1974 and 1981. And if you think that’s a big deal, get this: in March of 2009 The Vintage Aficionado named him World’s No. 1 in terms of vintage tennis shirts. Luke Wilson’s character in The Royal Tannenbaums was loosely based on Borg, but his style was an exact match. Despite being the most reproduced tennis shirt on the planet, the originals continue to fetch top dollar.
2. Nike John McEnroe Checker
What would Johnny Mac say if he was reading this? “#2?! You cannot be serious! I beat Borg the last time we played in 1981!” His 7 Grand Slam singles titles, 9 Grand Slam doubles, and a number of legendary rivalries (Borg, Connors Lendl), coupled with his wicked tantrums, made J-Mac the player to watch in the 1980s. He even came out of retirement in 2006 to win a match – making him the only player to win doubles titles in four different decades. He continues to entertain in modern days as the king of movie and TV cameos.
3. Nike Andre Agassi Challenge
With this tennis player, image was everything. His long hair, single earring and cheeseburger diet were the keys to his success. Well that, and maybe 8 Grand Slams, an Olympic gold medal and being the only male player to win a career Golden Slam had something to do with it. His on-court fashions were a continual thorn in the side of the game’s elder statesmen who favored traditional white attire. He even opted-out of Wimbledon play for two years in protest of their lame dress code. Jean shorts aside, we’re completely down with this rebel’s get-up.
4. Fred Perry
Perry was the first player to win all four Grand Slam singles titles, and the first to achieve the Career Grand Slam. He’s a British tennis icon and the last one to win Wimbledon. Even sweat was no sweat for Perry, who has been credited with inventing the athletic wrist sweatband. In 1952 he turned his focus toward shirts. By the 1960s, his tennis shirts became a staple of British mod and skinhead attire. All in favor of producing Perry shirts in an array of colors, say “Oi!” because it was actually these trend-setters’ who influenced Perry to expand his hue.
Rene Lacoste is the godfather of vintage tennis shirts. “The crocodile” first introduced the tennis shirt in 1929 and was the first player to sport his own shirt during a match. Lacoste dominated the game of tennis in the 1920s and early ’30s, winning 7 grand slam singles. Hey college kids, please pay attention and take notes: never once did he wear his collar popped. Thankfully that fad has finally fizzled. Now Rene can stop rolling in his grave and we can consider wearing Locoste again in the near future.
Honorable mentions: Ivan Lendl Adidas, Jimmy Connors and Sergio Tacchini.
Special thanks to Kirk at 4all2envy for collaboration on this list.