Those of us working from home to the comforting background grunts of 2021’s Australian Open have been treated to plenty of decent tennis this week (Kyrgios taking out Humbert in five sets, what a match!) Play aside, there’s also been the usual onslaught of off-the-wall sportswear to chew over. Yohji Yamamoto stans and those who subscribe to an all-black wardrobe, look away now.
Dubbed “The Happy Slam,” Melbourne is a tournament where players don their brightest outfits in a nod to the country’s sunny season (who can forget Agassi’s “Pirate” bandana? Or more recently, when Italy’s Fabio Foggini looked as if he had just been served through a BAPE store?) There’s a boisterous-yet-amicable atmosphere in the Rod Laver Arena that filters down to the court — like a football match with middle-income families in place of lads doing bumps in the toilet. Sartorially speaking, I’ve always thought that if Wimbledon is the sport’s answer to Bruce Boyer — traditional, classy, timeless — then the Open is the irreverent line-rat decked to the nines in retina blinding streetwear.
One of the major talking points at this year’s edition has come courtesy of Germany’s bright hope Alexander Zverev, who made headlines (seriously) when he stepped out in a sleeveless adidas shirt. As one of tennis’s most stylish stars (you may recall he wore head-to-toe adidas by Pharrell at the US Open) it’s hard to rip on Sascha too hard, but man, what he was thinking?! Pulling no punches, broadcaster Catherine Whitaker noted that unless you have “Nadal-type biceps” — i.e., front row seats to the gun show — then it’s probably best to play things safe with a T-shirt (Zverev once even said it himself). Outside Rafa, perhaps only Argentine Juan Martín del Potro has successfully nailed the muscle shirt, and that’s because he’s a proverbial man-mountain with arms the size of my thighs. I mean, how ridiculous did Grigor Dimitrov look a few years back? Someone get this man a protein shake.
Another shocker of a fit was delivered by world number one Novak Djokovic, whose gear supplier Lacoste has seemingly attempted to transform him into an actual human crocodile. Since joining the French company in 2017, the duo has barely missed a beat, delivering kits that hit the sweet spot between fun and classy — we all remember this work of art. Here, though? It’s way too green. Other meh moments include Dominic Thiem’s adidas x Parley kit — an admirable concept, but features the most on-the-nose design idea ever — and the aforementioned Nadal’s bland orange tee (no more sleeves, please!)
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Before crashing out in the first round, a struggling-for-fitness Kei Nishikori looked damn smart in a slick black and red getup by Uniqlo (which, since stepping into the tennis game, has consistently killed it — haste ye back, King Rodger). To give the Three Stripes some credit, Stefanos Tsitsipas — a ridiculously handsome man possibly carved from hallowed Greek marble — also got it right; his duds looked almost YEEZY-esque.
My absolute favorite doesn’t come from the men’s game, but the women’s and Serena Williams. Never one to disappoint, this year the GOAT opted for a one-legged catsuit in a tribute to late American athlete Florence Griffith Joyner. Known for her striking looks, Flo-Jo passed away at the tragically young age of 38, but not before leaving an indelible mark on a young Williams. “Watching her fashion, just always changing. Her outfits were always amazing,” said the legend. “The Nike team actually thought of this design of inspiration from Flo-Jo. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so brilliant.’” What a reference; what a look.