Last year, after a few years of watching tennis and finding that, as my interest in watching grew, the watching was becoming, in a strange way, not quite enough, I decided I was going to start playing tennis, too. I haven’t played a sport since I quit soccer to meander around the mall at around 15, so this was a surprise to both myself and my loved ones.
I’m just now realizing that dressing-before-doing is a running theme for me, but, yes, anyway, before I took my first proper lesson I thought a lot about what I would wear. There’s a gulf between the sweet and simple mid-century court styles I gravitate toward emotionally and the techy, logo-slapped performancewear nearly all tennis pros wear today. Almost no one is making a current version of the vintage-y stuff well right now (I said almost, Tory Sport!) and I just don’t like how the newer, logo-maniacal stuff makes me feel like somebody’s billboard.
Additionally! If you’d like to hear my rant about the number of women’s tennis shorts with pockets that are 1/8th of an inch too small to fit a tennis ball in them you need only buy me exactly one drink.
This is all to say that I know how hard it is to find something cool—acceptable, even—to wear to play tennis in the year 2019. But two of the sport’s most exciting new stars, Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka, have done it on the courts of the U.S. Open this week in their own distinct ways. And I’ve been taking notes….
First: Naomi Osaka, defending champ, has been wearing a blessed collaboration between NikeCourt and Sacai. Every Nike x Sacai piece I’ve ever seen has been a pleasure to watch in motion—there’s something that Sacai designer Chitose Abe understands about inertia that I don’t think any other fashion designer does. Combine this with the pleasure of watching Osaka’s punishing forehand and you have yourself an experience that feels like witnessing a magician’s final flourish on an infinite loop.
Meanwhile, 15-year-old wunderkind Coco Gauff has taken an approach to style that’s less visceral and more narrative-driven. For her apparel, New Balance and Gitman Brothers took aerial shots of public courts in New York and used those images to create a pattern that’s printed onto a tank and matching skort. Gauff told Hypebeast that as an athlete who came up playing on public courts herself, the design isn’t just visually pleasing to her, it’s an important part of her story, too. And that story—one of increasing inclusiveness in a sport that has for so long felt exclusive to many—is one that everyone should be thrilled to see at the US Open, however dizzyingly fast it whizzes by.
As for me, I am inspired, but no closer to a tennis style persona of my own. This is probably for the best. Experts, more than one, have suggested that I prioritize improving my backhand anyway.
Feature photo via Getty Images.