The History of Nike Tennis

Nike has chronicled its 40 year history with tennis- from encountering an all-white dress code to the battle of the sexes. From capturing John McEnroe, through Agassi and Sampras to Sharapova, Williams and Federer, Nike has taken the time to outline how it became one of the biggest names in courtwear.

In 1978 John McEnroe signed with Nike, later introducing a collection with a ‘McEnroe logo’: a red swoosh and revolutionary “Mc” emblem backed by a black-and-blue checkerboard, which paid homage to the taxis of the star’s hometown, and evoked the bruising he often delivered opponents.

Beyond McEnroe, Nike signed Andre Agassi in 1986 at the age of 16- with an authority-eschewing attitude and unabashed appearance typified by long hair, an earring and bright colours. Fortunately, Nike amplified Agassi’s arresting character and aesthetic with the debut Agassi collection- featuring nearly glowing fluorescent hues, patterns, stripes and denim, layered with bright Lycra under regular shorts. But despite Agassi’s maturation, the athlete retained his irreverent essence, a manner starkly contrasted by the arrival of another Nike player, Pete Sampras in 1993.

The antithesis to Agassi, Sampras was disciplined and stoic, possessing a preference for traditional attire with an understated, modern twist.

In a similar vein, the Agassi v. Sampras battle and associated Nike apparel was re-lived with Rafael Nadal, from Mallorca, and Roger Federer, from Switzerland. Federer signed in 1997 while Nadal joined Nike in 2000. Nadal was the flashy, expressive ying to Federer’s sophisticated, unflappable yang. Federer remained cool in conservative, polished cuts, whereas Nadal was bold and flashy in brilliant colours, sleeveless shirts and capri-cut pants.

Since the day Nike introduced its first tennis shoes to today, NikeCourt designs have represented excellent form and function. As ever we look forward to what the future brings.

Chris Beastall

Chris is the Founder and Editor of Ape to Gentleman. His interests lie in men's style, male grooming and leading a better lifestyle - through minimalist, basic and clean design.