Wimbledon begins on 20th June this year – the most famous tennis tournament in the world, and as synonymous with British summertime as the strawberries and cream consumed there in vast quantities every year (not to mention the inevitable rain showers!). Wimbledon has produced many stars over the years, but did you know that it has also given us two of today’s best selling men’s designer labels?
René Lacoste, whose nickname “The Crocodile” later became immortalised as the logo of his sportswear brand, was Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion in 1925 and 1928, amongst many other achievements. Lacoste clocked up 7 grand slam singles wins between 1925 and 1929, as well as several doubles titles. After being forced to retire from tennis in 1929 due to health problems, Lacoste’s second career as a producer of sportswear began. In 1933 he launched his first range of tennis shirts, a revolutionary soft-collared shirt made of cotton pique with short sleeves and featuring the now legendary crocodile logo. This was a big departure from the traditional tennis shirt, and marked the beginning of performance sportswear in the game. Today, the Lacoste label continues to be heavily associated with French tennis, as well as being a brand with a universal appeal, worn by celebrities and sports stars all over the world.
Fred Perry, famously the last British man to win Wimbledon, won the championship on three consecutive occasions from 1934 to 1936. A colourful character, Perry was the working class boy who challenged the snobbery of the Lawn Tennis Association, with a modern approach to the game which didn’t always sit well with the establishment. Nevertheless he was granted permission to use the Wimbledon wreath logo on his range of tennis shirts, a design similar to Lacoste’s, launched in the late 1940s following his success with his revolutionary sweatband. Perry himself continued to live a playboy life, dating a string of actresses and other beauties. Despite becoming an American citizen in the late 1930s, Perry has now been immortalised at Wimbledon with a statue at the Church Road gate. The Fred Perry label now encompasses a complete range of designer garments and accessories, but it is the tennis shirt which continues to define the brand.