Wimbledon might be the last bastion of sartorial tradition in sport—with its age-old requirement that all players wear white—but as the competition kicks off today, you’ll notice it’s not nearly as stylish an affair as it once was.
But there’s still one last torch of dapperness being carried by the gentlemen perched above ground level—and that’s the piped umpire’s blazer, supplied by none other than Ralph Lauren. Which means, if you’re feeling up to the task, you can pick one up for yourself.
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.
After a 77-year rift, Andy Murray brought the golden chalice of Wimbledon victory home to the UK, sweeping the men’s final in three sets against Novak Djokovic.
He took to the Wimbledon Champions Ball last night dressing the part. Both he and longtime girlfriend Kim Sears were head-to-toe in Burberry. Murray kept to high-and-tight British tradition, donning a satin-lapel tuxedo and patent leather ceremonial shoes.
For this, we’re bestowing the honor of Kempt’s Man of the Hour, which we’re sure is the real highlight in becoming a national hero and tennis legend.
Well done, sir.
Nadal, Federer, Murray: all great tennis players who’ve been battling it out for the title of Wimbledon Champion over the past week, with varying results. (Chin up, guys.) And all preceded by the oft-forgotten Romanian tennis boss, Ilie Năstase.
Though his luck at the All England Club wasn’t that great, either.
In fact, although he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, Năstase never won that title himself. But that’s not to say he’s without his share of accomplishments. So to give the man his due, we’d like to bestow upon him Kempt Icon status, our own highest titular honor.
There’s a special place in our hearts for when sartorial tradition finds its way into sport.
And with Wimbledon kicking off today, we have to mention our favorite: Wimbledon’s requirement to wear white. (A close second: the Masters’ green jacket.)
The rule has been in effect for as long as anyone can remember, but it was codified in the ’60s with a few extra guidelines requiring “almost entirely white” with exceptions for “a preference to pastel” and other minute deviations. For the most part, players are following the guidelines to this day—it’s up to the match referee to make the final call on decorum. And it’s made for quite the handsome array of on-court style over the years.
Every Wednesday from here on out, we’re giving you a piece of our minds. Actually, more like five pieces. It’s a chance to get a deeper look into what makes the minds behind Kempt tick—you know, beyond the usual Internet handsomeness we’re serving up daily. So welcome to our newest and most personal weekly feature: The Kempt Five.
Summer’s so close, we can almost taste it.
Sure, we’ve still got about a month to go before it’s officially dirty bucks and sundress season, but it’s already time to trade in the power umbrella for May flowers and attend to a few other orders of business in preparation for summer.
We like to call this magical warmer-but-not-hot-yet time “pre-summer” and we’re making sure you make the most of it with our new crop of Must-Haves (as always, you can find them in our left column whenever you need a refresher).
Andre Agassi was never afraid of a little pressure.
When he was 9 years old, his father pit him against NFL legend Jim Brown in a $10,000 tennis match at a Las Vegas country club. Brown initially thought the challenge was a joke, though it’s safe to say the pro shop got a lot less funny when Andre’s father, Emmanuel B. Aghassian, a retired Iranian boxer, put up the family home as collateral. That is, he literally bet the house that his pre-tween boy could take two out of three sets from the best athlete of all time.
Andre won in straight sets—6-3, 6-3, 6-2—the third of which paid double.
Eleven years later, Agassi, now an unmitigated international sensation, sauntered onto center court at Roland Garros to compete in the first Grand Slam final of his career. This time, though, the pressure was of a different, and far more gruesome, sort: Agassi’s iconic, tri-tone lion’s mane mullet was in fact a wig.
Tennis has been known for some offbeat sponsorships—it’s never been all “Nike or Adidas.”
There’s always been a strong foothold for smaller, more fashion-forward labels: Sergio Tacchini, Fila, Lacoste and now, Uniqlo. News of Novak Djokovic’s split with Tacchini (he actually ditched Adidas to sign with McEnroe’s old sponsor) and signing with Uniqlo shocked the tennis world a few months back. The move sounded a bit questionable at first, but anyone familiar with Uniqlo’s HeatTech thermal wear knows that they’ve been dabbling in high-tech fabrics for a while. The tennis gear, timed with the US Open, is finally hitting stores, and we’re most interested in the zipper-placket polo in tennis white. It’s decidedly sporty, but should come in handy the next time you’re slated for a round of mixed doubles.
You’re always up for a round of mixed doubles.
Every time some new tennis hotshot goes on a major winning streak, Rod Laver’s name gets bandied about. It’s for good reason, of course. He is the only man still living to have completed the Grand Slam—winning all four major tennis tournaments in the same year. And he’s done it twice. It’s really an impressive stat, seeing as the recent technological advancements in sports have led to the shattering of just about every other record in the books—and the tennis world has had since 1969 to catch up.
The latest contender was Novak Djokovic. The kid was on a tear, but ultimately met his demise on Monday, one game short of the Grand Slam, on the clay courts of Roland Garros—reaffirming that Rod Laver is in a class of his own. In addition to his contributions to tennis, he also gave us one of the more timeless summer shoes in existence (his eponymous Adidas). They’re most commonly found in all-white with a grass-green sole—which is how Rod dressed almost exclusively. We’d like to take a moment to give the man his due with five iconic photos of Mr. Laver.
On the occasion that our comrades in style over at UrbanDaddy Perks are sale-ing polos and shorts from the storied tennis label Boast (the name’s derived from a squash shot that requires three walls), we thought we’d have iconic American author John Updike here show you how it’s done. The shirts were a big hit in the ’70s with pros, Texas governors turned presidents and rebellious prepsters alike (for the record, that’s a Japanese maple leaf), and they’re back just as we’ve been feeling for tennis whites lately. It might not be a look you’re seeing center court at Roland Garros this weekend, but at racquet clubs from Newport to Bel Air, it is still very much alive. Now all you’ve got to do is grab yourself a polo and a seat on the porch.
For Mad Men recaps, we’ve been turning exclusively to Mark Lisanti for guidance and support, particularly after Sunday’s episode. There’s TV, there’s HBO, and then there’s “a few extremely well-compensated hours wearing a metal bikini while Jaguar the Hutt rattles your chains and bores you with his unimaginative, conflated mytho-historical sex fantasies.”
It was an explosive weekend throughout the world: the revolution intensified in Syria, Mitt Romney finally jiggled Newt’s feathers in Florida, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy refuted a Fox reporter’s claim that their latest film pushed “a pro-environment, anti-capitalist agenda,” and Novak Djokovic ever-so-slightly defeated Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam men’s singles final in history.
We’re confident that you were presented with ample opportunity over the weekend to memorialize 9-11 in cathedrals of your own. One of the more poignant moments we saw at yesterday’s service came from former president George W. Bush who quoted a 1864 letter by Abraham Lincoln to a Massachusetts mother of two sons killed in the Civil War:
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
In honor of the U.S. Open (and the newly trending tricolor stripe), we thought we’d take a look at an early tennis sweater on Mr. Jean Borotra, circa 1935. The shoes aren’t half-bad either, although they’re easier to find.
Grunting has been a strange-but-alluring element of women’s tennis for years now, but apparently The Man disapproves. Specifically, the Wimbledon Man.
The latest representative of The Man is Ian Ritchie of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club—the venue for Wimbledon—who dropped this bomb to the Daily Telegraph earlier today: “We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting.”
Well, Mr. Ritchie, we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of your face.
We’re sorry; we’re getting emotional. But this one hits close to home.
It’s easy to forget for all the focus on championships, but the real business of sport isn’t making winners, it’s making games. So we’re excited for this Saturday, when HBO rolls out their doc on one of the great tennis matches of all time, the 1980 Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
Granted, it was a simpler time—before sneakers and synthetic fabrics—but if it was up to us, these tennis whites would still be the dress code at Wimbledon, right down to the newsboy hat. Just call it a gentlemanly handicap.
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