Roger Federer. Wimbledon, 2009. Longest men’s main final at the time; a thriller in five sets and 77 games against Andy Roddick. But of greater significance? His jacket.
An RF monogram zip-up with gold piping, the jacket sported the number 15 – the total record of Grand Slam titles Federer had won after winning his game – in cursive embroidery.
Was he presumptuous? Had the Fed pulled him out hiding in her purse in quiet hope? Or did a Nike representative give it to you before the presentation of the trophy? Whatever it was, the jacket generated several inches of column, just like Federer’s outfit during that year’s tournament. Grab the suit pants paired with a military-inspired jacket – a sort of All England Club Sergeant Pepper – under which he wore a tailored vest, stripping down to shorts only after warming up. Then there were the lightly pinstriped shirts, or even sneakers with gold accents. This was the kind of aesthetic panache Federer was becoming famous for.
Now, with the news of his retirement last week, following the announcement of Serena Williams in August, tennis (and sport in general) has lost one of its most elegant protagonists. Federer has had a great sartorial journey. From an appeal of ambiguous hairstyles (home dyeing with hydrogen peroxide, awkward knot on the head, greasy ponytail and wearing the pants of the suit backwards, to the best friend of the editor of Vogue USA, Anna Wintour. Federer is a frequent visitor to front row, Rolex ambassador and designer. Oh, and according to LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, a “living god”.
It’s an unfortunate cliché with fashionable men, but Federer credits his wife, Mirka, with his first awakening in fashion, once he told GQ: “I was wearing sneakers, jeans and a training shirt, then when Mirka got me met, looked and went, ‘Err, are you sure about this look?’
“Then, I started to really care. I traveled more, went to different cities and met interesting people. The next thing you know, you look around – maybe it’s in Milan, New York, everywhere – and you realize that everyone is giving us a good effort ”.
Since then, Federer’s sleek and sophisticated style off the pitch has matched his gentlemanly one-handed backhand and balletic volleys on it. Off the pitch, he loves the turtleneck; an elegant, well-cut wool coat with a worn collar; sweater draped over the shoulders; double-breasted dresses. But he is not even afraid to combine it with bomber jackets, jeans and leather jackets, checked buttons, colored sneakers.
He has a hands-on involvement in design with Uniqlo, with whom he signed a ten-year $ 300 million deal in 2018, ending his long association with Nike. Federer has approached the Japanese brand, famous for its comfortable and pleasant bases, and collaborates closely with the designer Christophe Lemaire, who is creative director of the Uniqlo research and development center in Paris; and has certain edicts (not thrillers). Comfort is his number one priority, closely followed by inspiration.
Separately, Federer has a footwear deal with Swiss brand On, with its rather fun line – at least for British audiences – called The Roger Collection. His signature shoe, The Roger Pro, which was born with a 3D scan of his own foot, sold out when it launched last year. Meanwhile, the Roger Advantage model is Stan Smith at undervalued levels.
He has become an astute analyst of his own past style, and that of his sport in general. He recognizes, for example, the bygone days of the looser fit, and now actively embraces a sleeker silhouette on the court, telling GQ magazine, “Was I crazy wearing the XL at 17? You want to think you were big and buff. Now. [players] you look stronger and leaner.
He (perhaps blatantly, but entirely accurately) used Rafa Nadal’s unfortunate age of tantrums as an example of how important image is to the modern sports star. But Federer refuses to be hard on his younger self about the ponytail era: “It was all part of an evolutionary process. Do I regret having long hair? No, I’m glad I got it and I’m glad I got rid of it again! “
He prides himself on his innovative approach, including his stunning all-black ensembles at the US Open, which gave the atmosphere of a racket-wielding assassin during the night sessions. Of his time with Nike – who fought for more than two years for the restitution of the rights to the RF monogram – he told GQ magazine:
“We tried to go further, sometimes a little too much. But it was fine. These moments remain memorable and I was willing to take the risk. I tried to bring some style to tennis. “
Sometimes it went too far. At least, according to Wimbledon officials who banned his orange-soled shoes in 2013, deeming them a violation of the strict all-white dress policy. But he was never reprimanded, as such, in the way that, say, Williams was (most memorably when the president of the French Tennis Federation seemed to call his Roland Garros suit disrespectful). Federer has never been accused of caring more for style than substance, which perhaps reflects enduring double standards.
While Federer has done, along with Williams in women’s sport, more than anyone else to advance the aesthetics of modern tennis and bring athletes into the fashion world, he is not, strictly speaking, the former.
Federer hinted that his preppy V-neck knit cardigans worn on Center Court were a throwback to tennis champions like René Lacoste and Fred Perry (who founded their namesake brands in 1933 and 1933 respectively. 1952). Suzanne Lenglen, the charismatic number one female in the 1920s, had a penchant for stepping into the field with glamorous furs. Arthur Ashe played in Buddy Holly specs and, when fads changed, in aviators. And it could be said that Andre Agassi cultivated a dubious sort of “pirate chic”. But, especially in the men’s game, Federer’s influence on his younger colleagues and the wider sphere of tennis is undeniable.
Bulgarian and Vogue favorite Grigor Dimitrov delights in modeling. Young gunslinger Jannik Sinner graced the covers of GQ and Icon magazines and, earlier this year, announced a partnership with Gucci. The chiseled Matteo Berrettini has a capsule collection with Hugo Boss. The Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime particularly appeared dapper at last year’s Met Gala in New York. Andy Murray also has a range of sportswear, AMC.
It’s not impossible for Federer to go into fashion full-time after his retirement. First, he will play his final tournament in London this weekend. Last month, Williams wore a diamond-encrusted cape to say goodbye to the US Open. The bar is high. So all eyes are on Federer and his jacket.