Tennis Fashion: The 1970s
Last week we checked out the 1960s, which was dominated (as it had been for years prior) by old line classic names like Slazenger, Fred Perry and Lacoste. Veddy veddy proper, you see. Some of the 1960s stuff was still hanging on as the new decade broke- Ted Tinling, for example, was still fussing about. White was still the word, but like we said last week too- the times they were (still) a-changin.’
With the sixties just a memory the next decade would be totally dominated by Italian and German companies. The tide started to turn around 1974 or so, when the Italian companies would lay siege to the tennis fashion landscape. Most famous of course- the original Fila “White Line,” designed by Pier Luigi Rolando. (They also had “White Rock” for mountain climbing, and “Aqua Time” for swimming.) They didn’t skimp on the quality. Egyptian cotton shirts were worn on court by Panatta, Vilas and some young kid from Sweden.
And you’d pay a lot for it. Fila wasn’t even trying to hide how much their stuff cost.
Heck, want a Fila car? No problem. He might even deliver it to you.
And when the Six Million Dollar Man and his Angel went jogging, the paparazzi would follow.
Even Mac started out in it.
Fila would soon take over. Pam Shriver, Harold Solomon, Bill Scanlon, the list was endless- the F-Box was everywhere. I remember a quote from Fila’s legendary Marty Mulligan. He said, “I swear I don’t know where half the guys get our stuff.” But it was Borg and Vilas who made the line take off.
Here’s Willy’s signature look. I think this is a shot from the movie “Players” he was in. (He won Wimbledon in that one.) Vilas would move on to Ellesse in the 1980s- more on that next week. And here’s a bonus- I’d seen this logo on him in various pictures, but couldn’t ID the line until now. This looks to be pre-Fila.
Fila made racquets too- very late in the decade. I used the “Fila Wud 1” model, top left. Medium stiffness, beautiful cosmetics. Loved that frame.
There were several other brands that jumped into the tennis fashion consciousness. Ellesse would soon be a major player (they would sign Evert later on too), Australian, Maggia, LaFont, and Sergio Tacchini. ST (he was a famous Italian Davis Cupper) would make a splash by signing Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors for a time, as well as the late Vitas Gerulaitis and some kid out of Stanford who had some game. (More on their history here.) Vitas would move to Maggia for his own line, and Mac would move to Nike for clothing in the middle 1980s.
Shoe companies got into the game with, er, both feet. Both Borg and Vilas wore Diadora in certain parts of the world. Back then, some players would have deals for particular countries. Borg wore Diadora for Europe, Tretorn for the U.S.
This is the Italian brand Superga. Several players wore these shoes- Panatta, Dibbs, Stockton, and Lendl pre-adidas. Superga still remains, but solely as a lifestyle line.
Italy wasn’t the only new
country kid on the fashion block in the decade. Adidas had previously made tennis shoes, of course- most notably signature shoes for Stan Smith, Billie Jean King and Rod Laver. They signed a deal to become the official clothing/shoe line of the ATP, the Association of Tennis Professionals. Who remembers the original ATP tracksuit made of shiny, buttery-soft Keyrolan fabric? I had a royal blue model, and the navy/white “Superstar” model. Never played like a superstar, but I looked like one.
Wasn’t that the point, after all?
Next week: The eighties and denim tennis shorts. You know who we mean.