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It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic or not: Tennis-core isn’t about hitting a neon ball in a straight line. It only cares whether or not you look like you own an off-shore bank account while doing it.
Hot off the trails of Wimbledon and the country club scenes in The Summer I Turned Pretty, the athletic aesthetic is the internet’s latest billionaire cosplay effort. The #tenniscore hashtag is steadily approaching 100,000 views on TikTok, with similar aesthetics like golfcore trailing behind. It joins the slew of other niche trends that have become popular lately for offering proximity to a certain fashion look and lifestyle. (See: cottagecore, coastal grandmother, and gardencore.)
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As is typical with on-court outfits, the tennis-core palette is understated silhouettes and colors: Whites, creams, yellows, greens, and blacks all look great against the hard green clay courts most associated with the sport. In the same vein, classic exercise dresses, ruffled skirts, cotton polos, and visors are also staples.
Tennis-core may rely on this rather simple manner of dressing, but where the look really shines is in its use of “quiet luxury” accessories—think gold watches with ruby bezels, yard-length vintage pearl necklaces, and unnecessarily expensive designer water bottles.
Tennis, much like skiing and sailing, is a sport that’s historically associated with the 1 percent. Which perhaps explains why tennis-core isn’t really focused on the athleticism but rather the privilege that comes along with a sport that includes pristine outfits, water served with miniature fruit cubes, and diamond bracelets. Vogue’s Emma Specter recently dubbed this summer to be all about “second-wife energy,” and I’d have to agree. Name a hot bitch who doesn’t look like she plays tennis on the weekends.
While tennis has inspired the fashion world for quite some time now, the ultra-luxe aesthetic has seen a renewed interest over the past few months and is one of many glam-centric styles that’ve cropped up in the middle of our current economic tailspin. After two quarters of negative growth for America’s GDP, it seems natural that people would want to project wealth in their style. Fake it until you make it, and everything.
But as we said, tennis-inspired fashion is not a new concept. The sport (and, in turn, its style) was reserved for the upper echelons of society at the turn of the 20th century—only becoming more democratic in nature as female athletes got widespread media attention. Billie Jean King famously played against Bobby Riggs in a match dubbed The Battle of the Sexes while wearing hoop earrings and a white minidress. The term tennis bracelet was popularized after Chris Evert’s diamond band broke mid-match during the 1987 U.S. Open. She stopped the game to look for the jewels, a move that is so tennis-core at its, well, core.
Fashion-industry juggernauts have long embraced the preppy look, in part because they cater to wealthy clientele for whom tennis-core isn’t just a trend to try on but a way of life. Runway collections old and new have included traditional elements of the sport; racquets, white collared dresses, and sweatbands have all had their Fashion Week moment.
Miu Miu is simply the latest It-girl brand to embrace the style—not only within its fall-winter 2022 collection, as seen below, but at various tennis-themed pop-up events in New York and Saint-Tropez. Designer Thom Browne also set up shop in the French coastal town for the summer.
The aesthetic is a tribute to the finer things in life: ladies who lunch, yacht clubs, those triangular bite-size cucumber sandwiches. It embraces the inner capitalist, daring one to dress in ways that only other old money, ski-chalet-having, Swiss-boarding-school-attending elites would understand.
When it comes to tennis-core, one pleated white dress isn’t enough. The aesthetic calls for drama and luxury. See none other than tennis-core’s greatest advocate, the late André Leon Talley. The former Vogue editor at large famously stepped out of a black town car, with a Louis Vuitton leather racquet case and monogrammed towel in tow, only to haphazardly hit balls during a morning workout in
“I wouldn’t come to the tennis court in a pair of shorts and a tennis shirt,” Talley said in the 2009 documentary. “I go to Damon Dash for my trousers, I go to Ralph Lauren for the shirts. This is my version of a tennis watch—it’s a Piaget from the ’60s.” If anyone embodies the tennis-core lifestyle, it’s him. But if you have any doubts, just add this scene to your watch list.