The French Open kicked off this weekend and it reminded us of how tennis players have been, historically speaking, a pretty stylish bunch.
Perhaps the guys on the courts today aren’t as stylish as the ones back when René Lacoste and Fred Perry were chasing down lobs, but if you look at a number of players’ great contributions to sportswear, it’s quite impressive. Simple, enduring classics that still look as good today as they did in the 1930 or the 1970s.
The spring gear is beginning to trickle into our favorite shops—and Wittmore has just received the newest batch from Fred Perry’s made-in-Britain Laurel Wreath collection.
Since the temperatures aren’t exactly springlike just yet, our gaze skipped over the polo shirts and went straight to this navy Harrington jacket—a nice update on the classic mild-weather staple. Here’s what else you need to know.
The Story: After a long and fruitful tennis career (he won Wimbledon and the Davis Cup three times), Fred Perry turned to his passion of tennis clothing. So in 1952 he started with a piqué cotton polo, sewed a laurel onto the chest, and the rest is history.
Who to Channel: An accomplished tennis player grabbing an après-match Pimm’s Cup at the clubhouse; a rebel without a cause.
When to Wear It: On a spring day threatening to be a little too breezy for just a sweater.
Degree of Difficulty: Low to medium. For the low end: keep it casual (like Mr. Dean, below). The stakes rise to medium if you’re in trousers-and-tie territory—but this jacket is cut trimmer than a classic Harrington, which makes it a good outer layer for the morning commute.
If you haven’t already switched out the shell Cordovan for canvas, here’s all the reason you need: the Beresford canvas plimsoll from Fred Perry’s Olympic capsule collection, the Champion’s kit—a study in classic tennis whites. They dug into the archives for a classic model based on the tennis shoes they were making for athletes back in the ’60s and ’70s—giving them a timeless look—with a stripe of color down the heel to represent the Olympic rings.
We’re declaring them Kempt’s favorite summer shoe... for now, at least.
The avant preppies at Gargyle are clearing house this weekend, with a three-day clearance bash running through Saturday. If you’re in New York, you can stop by their Orchard Street shop to see the goods in person—but if you’re anywhere else, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the best of the bunch.
But our favorite of the bunch is this one from Left Field, a brand that’s been creeping into our favorite shops quite a bit this season. Something about the heathered front and the floral jolt on the placket puts this at the head of the pack—although something tells us we’ll see plenty more over the next few weeks.
The canvas sneaker—known to heads as the plimsoll—is quite possibly the perfect summer shoe. It’s a shoe that won’t be too bothered by a few drenching runs through the surf and roughly the polar opposite of the stomping winter work boots you may or may not be wearing right now.
So naturally, we’re always on the lookout for the newest model. This one comes from ur-chav Fred Perry, arriving on the site next week. It’s about as classic as they come—based on an archival model from the 50s—which makes it a less adventurous alternative to flashier plims like these. (For the record, we have a pair, and they’re awesome.) Either way, it’s something to look for once your boots go into storage.
As you may have noticed from certain streetwear blogs, a troublingamount of the reallycoolstuff in the world is sold exclusively in Japan. But lately, we’re starting to suspect it’s some kind of international conspiracy.
This pack, for instance, isn’t from some obscure hermit-like artisan, or even a brand like Engineered Garments that’s trying to retain cred by letting their gear trickle out in distant markets. It’s from Fred Perry, everyone’s favorite mass-market chav. And while they’ve made some sweet shirts in their time, we didn’t think they were capable of anything like this—certainly not for under 500 bucks to boot.
If we were their brand manager, we’d put one of these in every store, and shout from the rooftops that they’ve finally found a good waxed cotton source. Instead, they dump it off in a limited run in Tokyo and leave Mother England and Her Former Colonies in the lurch.
A British marque called John Smedley came across our sale radar today with 30% off at their online shop, and we were a bit surprised to peruse the selection. Unlike Anglo designers like Paul Smith, who occasionally seem like they’re making Britishness up as they go along, this is what well-dressed, comfortably middle class Brits actually wear—which can make it quite the statement for an anglophilic man of style.
Smedley’s popular enough to make it to their third century—eat your heart out, Brooks Brothers—and they didn’t do it by being fashion-forward or taking any more risks than they had to. That means some of the gear is a little questionable, but there’s good stuff if you’re willing to dig. Our pick is this Gideon polo, which manages to make Mr. Smedley seem like Fred Perry’s older, less chavvy cousin.
We’re not quite ready to call them “one of the most seminal and influential bands in British music history” like Perry does, but it’s a safe bet that there’s plenty of Britons (and a few style bloggers) happy to be reminded of the ska pioneers. All together now…