Wimbledon might be cancelled for the first time since the second world war, but that hasn’t stopped tennis style from taking over parks and Instagram this summer. Influencers are wearing pleated white miniskirts to the shops, while brands from Gucci to Paris-based Casablanca are championing a retro tennis look harking back to the 70s.
Searches for tennis-inspired outfits have risen since the beginning of June, according to global fashion search platform Lyst, with demand for white pleated tennis skirts up 33%. Interest for tennis court shoes has increased, too, and searches for visors are up 32% since May, with Dior, Gucci, Prada and Nike amongst the most viewed brands.
The fact that Wimbledon has been cancelled may, paradoxically, have fuelled the trend. With the pandemic causing many aspects of ordinary life to be put on hold, the idea of dressing vicariously, whether for Glastonbury or Centre Court, has seen the sartorial principle of wearing your Worthy Farm finest to sit at home and muddle through.
Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell thinks this idea of dressing for the occasions maybe an attempt to regain control at a time when we have little power. “There is that collective desire to get back to our normal lives given this feeling that we’re missing out on so many things… ‘I can’t go but I can still look the part’.”
Enthusiasm for the tennis aesthetic is also a response to the nation’s current uptick in exercise in general.
“With everyone spending more time at home, we are becoming more into sportswear and athleisure,” says influencer Lauren Crowe, who has 135k followers and recently posted a picture of herself teaming a tennis skirt with a Dolce and Gabbana sports-style bra. For Forbes-Bell. “Because we’re locked in, people are turning their attention more towards their body image and general health.” She also points to research that says “when we wear these sporty outfits you feel more inclined to be active.”
It is telling that those channelling the look aren’t necessarily players themselves. The caption of influencer Alicia Roddy, posting a pic of herself on a court in tennis whites, runs: “All the gear but absolutely no idea”.
But the summer’s look runs even deeper than fitness. Tennis for many years has been seen as an exclusive sport, embodied by the rarefied world of Wimbledon whites and strawberries and cream. As Vogue reports in the context of rigid dress codes, “it’s not entirely surprising that conventional tennis whites have resurfaced for summer 2020, appropriated by a generation of younger thought leaders”. They cite model Imani Randolph – who recently shared a picture of herself teaming a tennis skirt with cowboy boots and tights – as “among the progressive vanguard” democratising tennis style.
“Right now a lot of people are thinking about their identity and the spaces that have had so many gatekeepers in the past,” says Forbes-Bell. “Conversations in fashion are about aking down barriers … There’s no longer that exclusivity keeping a lot of people, and certain types of people, out of certain spaces.” She looks to Venus and Serena Williams, who have often fallen foul of tennis dress codes, from Venus’s flash of fuchsia bra strap in 2017, about which the All England Tennis Club was quick to express its displeasure, to Serena Williams “Wakanda-inspired” catsuit which she was banned from wearing at the French Open in 2018.
As Forbes-Bell puts it, they “have been chastised in the past for looking not professional”. But, she says, “when another, maybe white, woman with a similar figure has worn something similar you don’t see that kind of backlash.”
There’s a rebellion in breaking the inherited rules when it comes to stuffy tennis style “Right now people are saying I’m going to enter any space I want to, I’m going to wear what I want and you’re going to accept me,” says Forbes-Bell. “Everyone’s included now – the idea of exclusivity is a bit archaic and people want to belong and belong on their own terms.”
How to get the look
If you are brave enough to wear a miniskirt look off-court, sports outlets have a multitude of affordable options. But not all tennis skirts must come inches above the knee – try a pleated knee-length skirt instead. Reiss at John Lewis has a pleated gem, with navy detailing, in the sale at £75.
Go for tailored with an athletic cut; think old school PE kit. If exposing your thighs isn’t an option then opt for a longer structured Bermuda style. & Other Stories have a tailored high-waisted linen blend pair, £55.
Works for both men or women, a neatly tucked-in classic polo shirt screams strawberries and cream. Uniqlo has pique ones for £14.90, while Lacoste’s sportier breathable polo from the Roland Garros collection add a graphic pattern.
For those brave enough – and confident enough around coffee – whites are the Lawn Tennis Association-approved option. For a relaxed version, go for a white midi-dress with a vintage tennis jumper – Etsy has a good selection. For men, Slazenger heritage jumpers, £160, will ace it.
White plimsolls will nod to Murray mound or for old-school fans, a brilliantly white pair of Adidas Stan Smiths would obviously work a treat.
Kitri’s Aretha wide-leg trousers, £59; Marks and Spencers cotton belted wide-leg pair, £28; or ME+Em’s tapered style, £160, are perfect with a cotton shirt, finished with a straw hat. Game set and match. JJ