You may not have noticed – though if you haven’t, then you soon will – tennis shorts are a style must this season. See ya, big-butted baggy cargo shorts. Farewell, the absurdity of the ¾ length trouser-short. If your inseam is longer than 4.5 inches this summer, you’d better be a skateboarding teenager or find a better tailor. Life is cruel, but so are most shorts on men.
Tennis shorts first made their cheeky appearance in 1932 when the audacious, fashion-forward British tennis player, Bunny Austin, chose to wear shorts rather than the conventional flannel trousers at Forest Hills and then at Wimbledon. The New York Times’s writer John Kiernan wrote that ‘with his white linen hat and shorts, the little English player looked like an A.A. Milne production’ – more Christopher Robin than Pooh Bear, we hope. It was all shock and horror at first, but the All England Lawn Tennis Association forgave this great player (the last British male to reach the Wimbledon finals, as it happens), and his peers soon abandoned the hot and sweaty trousers. Cricket has a lot to learn.
The great era of the tennis short was the 1970s (and in case you hadn’t noticed, that decade is equally back with a vengeance. Pay attention!) Think Borg, McEnroe, and Connors. Those guys knew how to wear tennis shorts, and had the legs (and balls) to do them justice.
Happily, after years with inferior tennis shorts (sorry, Agassi and adios, Nadal), the classic white tennis short is on our style radar. No doubt, you want the real thing, shorts by Sergio Tacchini or Fila, or perhaps even Jimmy Connors’ own label by Robert Bruce. These were 70s tennis shorts at the greatest. Ebay is probably the way to go for genuine vintage shorts, since most new versions just don’t convince. Ralph Lauren’s Polo do a nice old-school take on tennis whites, as part of the Wimbledon Collection – a pair of shorts Bunny himself would likely have worn. If you have the choice, we recommend a flat front – there’s an argument to be made for pleats (very 1930s, that), but not an argument we’re willing to entertain.