I have an incredible Nike T-shirt at home I picked up while doing a little customising for a vintage store in Leeds when I was at uni (those six shots for a fiver in the students’ union bar don’t buy themselves).
It’s a boxy cut in white with a simple turquoise Nike tick on the chest. On the back is a spectacular, large illustration of my favourite tennis player ever, Andre Agassi, in mid-service action, surrounded by the requisite 1980s neon flashes and flourishes, presumably denoting some kind of movement.
I got it out the other day - I should have been wearing gloves, really, as it belongs in a museum - and, with Wimbledon coming to a close this weekend, my mind turned to tennis attire.
There was a time when men of the courts dressed like gentlemen. In the 1920s and 1930s, when Fred Perry and René Lacoste were playing, the acceptable uniform was slacks and a shirt. Lacoste’s invention of the polo shirt revolutionised the starchy look. Fast-forward to the 1970s and the idea of tennis whites was still generally accepted.
Borg, McEnroe and Connors all adhered to the code in their Fila, Sergio Tacchini and bespoke Robert Bruce kits.
But then the 1980s happened and, save for the oasis of white enforced in SW19 by the All England Lawn Tennis Club, most tennis players have never looked back. Some of Agassi’s colour combinations were shocking, while Lendl, Cash and Becker were hardly shy. Even today it seems a shame that players as talented as Nadal feel the need to mess with the chic, white formula in silly, pirate-style sleeveless shirts and terrible Bermuda-length shorts.
The only player to bring class back to the court was Roger Federer, particularly his special Wimbledon kits
he debuted in 2008. But even Fed fell foul of the fashion police this year for the orange soles on his trainers. I’m all for personal expression, but there are some rules you just shouldn’t break.