We reflect on five pieces of style that rocked the Championships as the most prestigious event in tennis gets underway in London this week.
Fred Perry’s polo shirt
Following in the footsteps of French tennis player turned designer René Lacoste, three-time Wimbledon champ Fred Perry unveiled his own line of plain white cotton piques at the Championships in 1952, launching a fashion empire that’s thriving 65 years later. Coloured versions — originally designed for table tennis players, who were allowed to don hues other than white — of the polo became popular with the Mod subculture in the 1960s, then football fans in the following decades, and now you can’t go a block without seeing that hallmark laurel wreath (based on Wimbledon’s original logo) on someone’s streetwear.
Arthur Ashe’s glasses
The trailblazing American became the first and only black man to win Wimbledon in 1975, beating countryman and arch rival Jimmy Connors in the final wearing a wide-necked polo, cable-knit sweater vest, college fraternity necklace, impossibly short shorts (as was the style at the time) . . . but missing his most striking style signature, his glasses. Specs — either oversized shades or tortoise-shell rims, which both oozed 1970s cool — were a staple throughout Ashe’s legendary career, which smashed civil rights barrier after civil rights barrier.
Pat Cash’s headband
The brash Australian stormed to victory in the 1987 tournament with a glorious mullet restrained by a black and white checked headband, decades before Federer and Nadal made them cool. Cash was hardly the most stylish player of his era — Bjorn Borg’s pinstriped Fila shirts, Boris Becker’s Ellesse tracksuit tops, and John McEnroe’s fiery Sergio Tacchini headbands all had him covered — but the Australian’s swagger with that trademark headband and a shirt that looked like Mr Squiggle had spewed on its shoulder deserves kudos.
Andre Agassi’s whites
There wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about the American megastar’s ensemble in 1991, but it was the fact he was even appearing at SW19 that was significant. After a three-year hiatus from Wimbledon railing against the All England Club’s stuffy all-white conventions, Agassi swallowed his pride and returned to Centre Court in white denim shorts and a billowing white polo that scandalously exposed his belly button every time he played a shot. And that wasn’t the only drama — Nike even had to write to tournament officials to ask for permission to wear white cycling shorts underneath.
Roger Federer’s jacket
It’s not easy to inject personality into an outfit when you’ve only got the colour white to play with, but the Swiss maestro does a decent job of it. Federer swapped the bog standard warm-up jacket for a classic white blazer in 2006, embroidered with three golden tennis racquets to represent the three Wimbledon crowns he’d already collected en route to collecting a fourth. Now with seven titles to his name and knit jumpers and long trousers added to his fashion CV, Federer won’t be donning the jacket in 2017, but that doesn’t diminish the style chops of a bloke who maintains relationships with a string of luxury brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex, as well as his own clothing label with Nike.