Lacoste celebrated its 75th anniversary last week, and the occasion triggered some fond childhood memories: I called him Uncle Vin. And whether visiting him at his Palm Beach (Florida) house or back home in Rye (New York), one thing was certain — I’d be walking away with new Lacoste tennis togs. And it was Uncle Vin, actually the uncle of my friend’s mother, who introduced the iconic Lacoste knit shirts to America. According to the New York Times, in 1950, a friend of his, tennis player Billy Talbert asked Uncle Vin — a.k.a. Vincent Draddy — to look at some shirts designed by Rene Lacoste, the one-time French tennis star (Lacoste had been nicknamed ”the crocodile,” and his shirts bore an embroidered likeness on the left breast).
At the time, my friend and I were too young to know much of anything, but we did know Uncle Vin was a generous, happy old man … one of those rare types who are wealthy and successful, but also warm and kind. On summer days, we’d hop out of the pool, and he’d have a pile of new tennis whites waiting for us. Funny to think this was just on the cusp of the shirt’s popularity. They were just scratchy collared shirts we had to wear for golf or tennis. ”Finally I started giving them away to the Duke of Windsor, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Bing Crosby and others,” Vin told the NYT. “They started to catch on. In a few years they were the best-selling sports shirt.”
Uncle Vin is gone, but Lacoste lives on. Last week, René Lacoste’s sons Michel and François Lacoste held a formal event where they talked about their father’s love of excellence and innovation. As part of the celebration, French agency CRM Company Group imagined what tennis players will look like 75 years from now, and it will apparently turn into a rough business (face masks! shoulder pads!). See the full movie here.
You can almost hear the ratings fall. While Federer and Nadal battle it out over fashion and style, sad news has already swept over Wimbledon as word got out that Maria Sharapova will be trading in her trademark mini tennis skirt for — sigh — plain old tennis shorts. In the past she’s pulled a few odd fashion moves (like diamond-encrusted sneakers), but this simple twist dampens one of her greatest fan assets: her long legs. Sure, Sharapova will be playing outfitted in Tiffany jewelry, though who really notices that sort of thing? “I’m going with the traditional shorts, believe it or not,” Sharapova told the AFP. “I’ve never worn shorts at a Grand Slam. I’m gonna be debuting that. Call it menswear, obviously. It’s kind of like a tuxedo look, very simple lines, classic.” Yeah, classically lame!
As Wimbledon kicks off today, a style war is breaking out on the tennis courts pitting Roger Federer’s traditional preppy style against Rafael Nadal’s swarthy pirate look. “Roger is so distinguished-looking,” one-time Wimbledon champion and BBC Wimbledon commentator Virginia Wade tells the Guardian. “So refined. His hair is always perfect, his clothes are always elegant.” Nadal’s look “is a little bit more of a rebel”, says Wade.
“It was the Nike marketing guys who came up with [Nadal’s] pirate shorts, but it’s a look that really suits him,” says another former player, Annabel Croft. “He has the most incredible aura when he walks on to court, because of that physique: he’s like a gladiator. And his clothes are part of that look.” Croft was also taken with Federer’s white pants and blazer outfit he worn onto Wimbledon center court. “It is so Old Wimbledon. It takes a lot of confidence to wear that, because it’s such a strong statement — if you walk out looking like that, you’ve got to be able to back it up and win. Which, of course, he can. Roger is absolutely stunning, on court and off — such panache. And that gorgeous hair!”
Keep in mind, however, that Federer has “close friend” Vogue editrix Anna Wintour as his personal stylist. Nadal is on his own. Poor guy.