When I was in high school, my regular tennis opponent was a strong and imposing figure known as The Wall. Tough and implacable, though not given to flashes of inspiration, it had that nickname because … it was an actual brick wall. I was doomed to play against it every summer because I was so bad at tennis, it was considered unfair to make other humans play against me. Hence, the wall.
So you can imagine my mounting horror when I saw the latest from Chanel’s Cruise show, Gucci’s collab with Adidas, Michael Kors’ collection with Ellesse and more. On the high street, brands like Lululemon and Fabletics have launched tennis lines that are designed for actually playing the sport. What the heck is going on?
Apparently tennis got more popular during the pandemic, thanks to its socially distant nature—the U.S.’s Physical Activity Council says that 21.64 million people picked up a racquet in 2020, an increase of 22.4 per cent. Then there was Beyoncé at the Oscars ceremony, serving up a tennis-themed look to perform “Be Alive,” her song for the Williams family biopic, King Richard.
The sport is also shedding its posh image, according to Claudia Inkel, buyer for Altitude Sports, which sells sporty items from Adidas, Lacoste, Scotch & Soda and more. “From Naomi Osaka’s documentary on Netflix to the Oscar-nominated King Richard, tennis has moved from very elitist to a cool and inclusive sport,” she says. And Canadians are performing on the court, too, which piques many armchair tennis fans’ interest. Felix, Leylah, Shapovalov, Andreescu, Raonic. You don’t need to be a racquet owner to have heard of them,” Inkel says.
We’ve spent the last couple of years wearing activewear 24-7, and Inkel believes tennis wear can offer a slightly more sophisticated twist on our trusty sweats. But how do you wear the look if you’re not planning to hit centre court at Wimbledon any time soon? “Think of it as a take on preppy and varsity,” Inkel advises. “Don’t be afraid to try on a skort; there are different lengths and they are really comfortable.” She suggests finishing the look with a looser tee or fleece crew neck, white mesh sneakers, ankle socks and a cap, subbing white or tan volley shorts if you feel like the skort is too literal a take on the tennis trend.
Game, set—I’m sold. Final question: do any of these cute tennis dresses come in wall-size so I can play matchy-match with my old friend? —Aileen Lalor