Last week, Anna Wintour helicoptered across New York just to hang out with Roger Federer at Moet & Chandon’s 270th anniversary party (he’s the luxury brand’s new global ambassador). And that was only the most recent example of the Vogue head’s longstanding dedication to tennis–a sport with which fashion has been infatuated for about a century now.
When designer Jean Patou met tennis player Suzanne Lenglen, whose androgynous features and athletic physique typified the fashionable woman of the era, he instantly recognized the connection between the new woman of the 20s and the sport of tennis. Lenglen would subsequently appear rather scantily dressed on court at Wimbledon in 1921. Sporting a white pleated skirt that fell just at the knees, Lenglen displayed her lack of garters, which she abandoned, opting to roll and knot her stockings for added security and comfort. While shocking at the time, Lenglen’s seminal ensemble caused a craze for tennis-gear and knitted separates as sportswear. Lenglen’s costume was conceived by Patou and it was he–not Coco Chanel (although she was also a proponent)–who would champion the athletically inspired sportswear look. And so the relationship between tennis and high fashion was born. (Suddenly Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel tennis racket makes much more sense).
Although tennis always had a lingering presence, the game became an increasingly pervasive theme on covers of fashion magazines, with the tennis racket as a ubiquitous fixture. It would almost appear as though magazines were promoting the idea of tennis more than the sport itself, seemingly giving readers permission to tote and parade tennis rackets whilst dressed in their best tennis whites for the sake of fashion–because half the fun of playing tennis is dressing up for it, after all.
So scroll through for 30 images of tennis-themed covers and take comfort in the fact that fashion says it’s ok to dress for tennis without actually, well, playing tennis.