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Tennis, the sport that dictates style

From the red clay courts to everyday life

By Giorgia Festi

Always considered one of the most linked sports in the world of fashion, tennis in the past and still today is one of the most popular trends among style enthusiasts: short skirts, pleats, cotton polo shirts, hair bands and much more for a sport who made history.

In the early 1900s, women who played tennis had to wear long skirts, opaque bodices and large hats that prevented them from moving with agility. The change was triggered by Suzanne Lenglen, Wimbledon winner and first professional tennis player, even among men. The champion completely abandoned the bodices for silk shirts, pleated midi skirts and colored vests often coordinated with the turban she wore on her head. Suzanne Lenglen was encouraged by Jean Patou who in the 1920s began to create small masterpieces to wear on the competitive red clay: "I only made them pleasant to look at as to wear", said the designer who slowly began to involve men too who went from long linen trousers to fresh and dynamic shorts. A few years later the tennis champions René Lacoste and Fred Perry made their style on the pitch a business by opening two clothing companies that still find their place in wardrobes all over the world.

On the field, the challenge doubled: on the one hand, a game to be won, on the other, a style to be spread. Gussy Morgan, professional tennis player, became famous for his clothing on the field characterized by leopard shorts and mini skirts that allowed to glimpse the lace of his underpants. But the most recognized style icon was the Italian Lea Pericoli who showed up at her debut in Wimbledon with a pink tulle skirt. "By deciding to dress like this I made a choice for women" said the champion commenting on her most iconic looks such as lace pajamas, mink and feather skirts. Color took over the tennis world only in the 70s when the American WCT championship allowed participants to wear colored shirts. And it is precisely the color that has become the hallmark of the eccentric Williams sisters who in 2012 ended up in the spotlight of critics for wearing fuchsia bands in Wimbledon, where the dress code dictates white.

Tennis still dictates the trend from the most commercial to high fashion brands. Dior has dedicated an entire collection to this sport, they create from classic pleated and transparent, modern and refined golf skirts to PVC visors, the accessory of the moment. Tory Burch opted for a more classic style, following the uniforms used on the pitch but making them perfectly wearable for a walk or a dinner at the club. Even Fila gave her interpretation by creating young and jaunty leaders giving the possibility to a younger target to get closer to this world.