Tennis Identity

Tennis Fashion: The 1980s

Edberg Adidas shoeOur look at tennis fashion throughout the last half of last century (1960s and 1970s) continues with the 1980s. The look in pop culture during the 1980s was vivid. Bright bold patterns and graphics in fashion were the rule for the most part. Reebok was making red sneakers, and Crockett and Tubbs were wearing pastels amid the neon lights of South Beach on Miami Vice.

But we won’t ever forgive adidas for that one Lendl design. See below. You know the one.

Fila was losing steam at the top of the decade- they lost Guillermo Vilas to rival Ellesse, Borg would soon retire, and Ellesse would also sign Chris Evert, Hana Mandlikova, Johan Kriek, Boris Becker, and others. Becker was a bit of a wandering soul- he’d move on to Puma and Fila before the end of the decade. (And then Lotto in the 1990s, but that’s next week, campers.) The Italian lines were still popular, but the shoe companies were making their move.


Check out this 1982 clip of Borg and Vilas in Japan!

Mac, Vitas, Vilas, Borg

Ellesse Evert and Vilas ad

Chris Evert

Evert and Mandlikova

Ellesse Evert ad

Guillermo Vilas

Johan Kriek


Ellesse ad

Tennis Warehouse Ad


The three stripes were MIA for much of their tennis wear in this decade. They had signed several marquee players, and all had signature lines: Lendl, Edberg, and Graf. I loved the IL line and the argyle.

This next one? No.

Lendl Adidas

Lendl Adidas IL

Lendl Adidas argyle

Lendl Adidas 1987

Edberg’s lines were always among my favorites. Nice graphics.

Edberg Adidas 1987

Like Edberg, Graf has been with adidas her entire pro career. Her lines were always about middle of the road. Nothing boring, but nothing too wild. Much like her personality on court.

Steffi Graf


Nike entered the tennis fashion fray when John McEnroe moved over from Sergio Tacchini and started to wear their clothing in 1985- he had worn their shoes since 1978. They were going for the bold look with his own Mac Attack line – the checkerboard- but weren’t quite there yet. The kid from Vegas would soon take care of that.


John McEnroe

Mac had the cool shoes, too.

Nike McEnroe logo

Andre Agassi started out with the denim shorts- they’d raise the bar after that. OK, there’s a little 1990 bleeding over into the story. S’ok.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

A personal story…

I wore these AA shorts one afternoon to play in, and after we were done, I had to get rushed to the ER- kidney stone. They were gonna cut these shorts off me! Even though I was in tremendous pain, I said “NO! Do you know how much these cost?

Andre Agassi

Nike Agassi ad

Nike Agassi ad


Towards the very end of the decade, Reebok- which owned much of the mid-1980s workout sneaker market- (Freestyle hi-tops, remember?) would move into tennis, with Michael Chang, who wanted to Pump..You Up.

Reebok Chang ad

Next week: The 1990s.


Nike Agassi and Sampras from EuKicks. Agassi holding Donnay from Pinterest. Agassi serving from Pinterest. Agassi returning serve from Pinterest. Ellesse ad from Evert serving from Tennis Warehouse board. Evert/Mandlikova from Pinterest. Vilas forehand from Pinterest. Lendl IL line from Tennis Warehouse board. Argyle Lendl from Pinterest. Lendl and Edberg composite ads from Classic Kicks. Chang/Reebok from Sneaker Scholar. Ellesse/Kriek from Pinterest. Evert Ellesse sunglasses from eBay. Ellesse retro ad from Boris Becker from Ugly Lendl shirt from Mac logo from McEnroe ad from Classic Kicks.

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