Wimbledon Whites – The Brands Shaped Through Tennis
The tennis elite have always been synonymous with fashion; over the years, many famous tennis players have been the face of the brand, such as Fred Perry and Fila Vintage. Fashion and Wimbledon go hand in hand, and as the final is looming we are here to break down the tennis heritage behind these brands & the impact they have made on the sport.
The brands owes it’s legacy to Fred Perry, a young chap who became the world table tennis champion at just nineteen years old. He then would later switch to take on the world of field tennis & go on to win three consecutive Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936. He shot to fame in Britain as the first tennis player to win a ‘career grand slam’ at age 26 in 1935 when he won all four major singles titles. In the 1940s, Fred Perry was approached by an ex-Austrian football player Tibby Wegner to produce their very first product – a sweatband. This is when the brand Fred Perry as we know today started to take shape.
The iconic the laurel wreath logo was based on the original Wimbledon symbol & is now one of the most recognised logos worldwide. The next idea for the label was to produce a sports shirt, and hence the signature Fred Perry polo shirt was born. Launched at Wimbledon in 1952 the polo became an immediate success & the brand Fred Perry as we know it was born, although at the time the polo was only available in white and branded specifically as a tennis shirt.
Similarly to Fred Perry, the story of Lacoste owes itself to the sport of Tennis. In 1923, a gifted 18 year old student René Lacoste lived in Bordeaux with his family & took after his father Jean-Jules Lacoste – spending most of his free time playing tennis. Much like his academic ability, René improved immensely the more he played & decided to leave school to pursue the sport. 3 years later in 1926-1927 he had already put 7 grand slam tittles to his name.
Whilst playing out in the states, René’s team captain had made a bet to him publicly that if he won his next game he would buy him this Crocodile leather suitcase he had spotted René stare at through a shop window. Despite in fact losing the next game, this odd bet between teammates earned René the nickname ‘the crocodile’. He decided to take the name & run with it, asking his stylist & friend Robert George to sew a crocodile onto the white jackets he wore on matchday arrival & the Lacoste brand as we know it was born.
The brand had very humble beginnings, founded by two brothers Ettore Fila & Giansevero Fila. In 1911 the pair started out as a small textile shop & manufacturer in Biella, a small town in northern Italy, providing solely for the locals. As time went on the brothers’ wanted a more luxury appeal & began taking inspiration from their beautiful surroundings of Northern Italy & incorporating elements of art and utility into textile designs. In 1942 the company expanded & merged with the Fratelli Fila company. In 1968, one of the brothers, Giansevero, hired Enrico Frachey as the company’s Managing Director.
Frachey shared Fila’s vision, and the two of them began work on transforming the company image with a sportswear focus. It worked, 4 years later in 1972 had a workforce of 250 plus & had reached sales of 1 billion ITL (roughly 438,000 GBP). In order to fully get their foot through the sportswear door, they began sponsoring big name tennis players of the time, initially being Bjorn Borg, before later also sponsoring Boris Becker, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, and Kim Clijsters. This is when Fila first started gaining recognition & earning their Tennis heritage they’re renowned for to this day.
Diadora’s history shares a very similar timeline to that of Fila’s, having also being established in Northern Italy. Diadora was founded in 1948 in Caerano di San Marco, renowned today globally as a leading area for European manufacturing. The focus on ‘sports shoes’ for Diadora came about in 60s after acquiring a few key US patents that were necessary.
This era also followed fairly similarly to Fila’s, as the era of professional sports blew up brands could now get themselves into industries by using athletes as the face. Diadora began endorsing athletes in football & in tennis through Bjron Borg – around the same time he was also sporting Fila. In 1975 Diadora partnered up with Australian tennis star Martin Mulligan whilst releasing the first shoes with leather uppers rather than rubber to the market. The Diadora brand was now being sold in 45 countries at a rate of 3 million units annually & had cemented their name in the sporting world.