Tennis Identity

Throwback Thursday: The Preppy style

Believe it or not, there was a time when tennis gear was mostly white. (Besides Wimbledon.) Tennis style remained pretty much the same until the 1970s, when fashion obsessed designers like Ted Tinling got ahold of the women’s game, and Italian lines like Fila, Ellesse and Tacchini gained a foothold on the pro scene.

Call it retro, classic, timeless AKA The Preppy Look. For me, growing up in the 1970s/1980s on Cincinnati’s East Side and then attending Miami University, it was standard attire.


To some, it’s the correct way to present oneself on the court. Basic white cotton Lacoste or Fred Perry shirt. Matching shorts. White socks with (maybe) a daring bit of red or blue trim. Tretorn canvas sneakers. And a heavy white (or cream) cable stitch V-neck sweater to match. Navy, maroon, and forest green are the preferred colors. No polyester allowed. Ever.

“The color revolution in tennis wear has not hit the Prep world. The shorts are old and all cotton. The shirt is Lacoste or a similar cotton jersey. Shoes are Tretons or Sperry Top-sider canvas sneakers, worn with socks. (All-white leather K-Swiss are acceptable. -B.) The sweatband is optional. Everything is white.” -The Preppy Handbook.

In case you’ve not heard of it, The Official Preppy Handbook is the definitive source for All Things Prep. This 1980 book by Lisa Birnbach details everything you need (ed) to know about the Prep Culture. Recommended.

Want to adopt the Prep look for yourself on court? Besides Lacoste, Fred Perry is acceptable. RL Polo? No. Too nouveau-riche. To complete the old style look, you really do need to go with a wooden or metal frame…a shocking pink Babolat will not work. Appropriate brands/models: Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph or Pro Staff (the standards, along with the Dunlop Maxply Fort,) Wilson T2000, Head’s “Red Head,” the Bancroft Borg, and anything by Slazenger. (It’s British, and that’s all that needs to be said.) Helpful links:

Lacoste: Men and women

Fred Perry: Men

Tretorn: Men and women

The Official Preppy Handbook

The Official Preppy Handbook

The Official Preppy Handbook

The Official Preppy Handbook

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