Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
The slopes may have been the new runway this past winter, but for summer 2021, fashion's eye is focused firmly on the court. This week, Lady Gaga volleyed in a Nike matching set, and fashion figures from Winnie Harlow to Babba Rivera have taken up the hobby.
Tennis has always gone hand in hand with style, whether it was Lili de Alvarez pioneering Schiaparelli's divided skirt at Wimbledon in 1931 (she received death threats for wearing the then-controversial culotte-like style) or Serena Williams sporting a regal Virgil Abloh-designed Nike tennis dress, complete with a tulle tutu. But for those of us with zero Grand Slams to our name, the options have always felt a bit more limited, erring as they do on the side of country-club traditionalism.
The good news: as more people have flocked to the socially distanced sport over the past 18 months, the sometimes-stodgy sector that is tennis wear has gotten a new lease on life, with the offerings inclining away from straightforwardly preppy and more towards "person who's heard of Glenn Martens." You no longer have to choose from pieces that look like they're plucked from Richie Tenenbaum's closet; those who want to channel Andre Agassi's Technicolor punk looks (minus the acid-washed dad shorts, that is) or Williams' high-fashion pieces now have myriad options.
Tennis has long been entrenched in elitism, but the sport is evolving, and along with it have come newer fashion offerings aimed at one and all, even those of us who grew up playing on uneven public courts. Furi Sport, a new Black- and woman-owned label, focuses on inclusivity in the sport and bills itself as "not your traditional tennis brand," with its website warning "PURISTS NEED NOT APPLY." Cold-shoulder polos and other streetwear-influenced pieces that wouldn't look out of place in a street-style image sit alongside its selection of tennis gear. The L.A.-based line Year of Ours also prioritizes inclusivity, with many of its styles—which include print-happy tennis pieces—coming in sizes up to 2X.
The runway, too, has been rife with tennis references lately. Leading up to his spring/summer 2021 show, David Koma had been missing his favorite sport, so he paid tribute by showing on a tennis court and having fun with iconography, notably in the form of pair of oversized racket-shaped earrings. And Coach offered playful takes on tennis motifs, as modeled by Hari Nef in its lookbook.
In May, Marysia debuted a capsule collection called Marysia Sport Clean, with designs named after female tennis players, including Williams and Naomi Osaka. Last month, Alo launched a collection of sports equipment, including tennis rackets. And as fashion brands have gotten more into tennis, tennis brands have gotten more into fashion. Case in point: 51-year-old standby Prince, which has an "off court" collection ready for your next post-match beer.
Retailers, too, are moving into the category in a big way. Net-a-Porter told WWD it would be placing an increased focus on sport clothing, including tennis wear, for the coming season. And The RealReal recently announced it's newly accepting tennis gear, among other sporting goods, alongside your pre-loved bags and baubles. If you decide you want to trade yours in for some new on-court looks, it seems like you'll have no shortage of options.