Tennis Fashion: The 1990s
And we come to the end of our four-part look at tennis attire for the last half of the last century. We’ve seen the all-white 1960s, the beginnings of The Italian Influence in the 1970s and continuing through most of the 1980s, and now we’re firmly in the shoe company decade of the 1990s.
Used to be, a pro would have one company for clothing, one for shoes, and one for racquets. In the 1970s, adidas got into all three. Fila did the racquet thing for awhile, too. In the 1980s, though- shoe companies rolled out clothing lines. So if you wore Nike shoes, you wore Nike clothing. That still holds today- Uniqlo guys Djokovic and Niskikori are the most notable exceptions.
So let’s look at what we had in the 1990s (guys only this time). We’re focusing on Nike, a tennis newcomer from Japan, and adidas. Oh, and I guess Reebok.
The decade started off with a big hoo-ha in London. What was Andre going to wear at the 1991 Wimbledon? No day-glo neon at the All England Club. When he walked on court, we found out. Huge publicity score for Nike.
But all-white was just for SW19. This Canon ad made Nike’s Phil Knight furious, as it went against their “athletes first” vibe. Which was strange when you consider that Nike was and still is the very best at promoting/packaging their athletes.
The theme, like the era, was vibrant, brash and a little bit punk.
Gradually, as he got older, AA would tone down the Nike look (the pirate thing was….regrettable) and would move on to adidas, joining his wife, Steffi Graf. And while McEnroe would eventually call it a day and AA was toning it down, Nike had other dominant players in the 1990s. There was that Sampras fellow, who had some game. He switched over from Sergio Tacchini.
Agassi and Sampras carried the Nike flag throughout the 1990s- this spot highlighted the difference between the two. Rock and Roll vs. the Classic Club look.
Jim Courier switched from Diadora to Nike, and since he was a big Reds baseball fan- his initial Supreme Court line was part of that. Andre was the LOUD Challenge Court line guy, and Courier the somewhat more traditional Supreme Court player.
In 1990, Lendl would leave his massive adidas clothing/shoes/racquet deal for the same thing with Japanese line Mizuno and he would wear this throughout the decade. They came out with a rather, er, let’s say- bold attacking bird kinda graphic. Oddly I could never ever find a single Mizuno item for sale anywhere.
In this article, we learn Lendl’s previous adidas frame was a copy of his Kneissel White Star, and the Mizuno used the same mold.
And remember, he plays to “ween.”
More of the Mizuno Screaming Eagle or- whatever- in this Snapple spot.
I forgot about this Edberg design. My favorite of all of ’em.
FWIW: I was nose to nose with Mrs. E once in a tourney hotel. A memorable moment.
Reebok stuck Chang and his fellow endorsers in the same shoulder-stripe look for years. Hard to believe, considering these days pros have different looks every season. So we won’t bother with their clothing. Shoes were the big deal – they didn’t mind taking shots at a certain tennis rebel. If you know who we mean. (And you have to admit- he has great timing and delivers this ad perfectly.)
Agassi inset photo from Pinterest. Nike Agassi ad and shoes/shirt from Solecollector. Queen Of England/Grandmother ads from Classic Kicks. Sampras and AA clothing from Nike. Lendl shoes from Picclick.fr. Lendl racquet from Habuattack. Lendl shorts from Mears Online Auctions. Reebok ad from Classic Kicks.