Q: I am trying to find something that I am not sure exists. I play tennis fairly regularly and I am looking for a performance tennis shoe that doesn't look like I just stepped out of an Academy. Currently I wear these (Asics). I like these a lot performance-wise, but I want something with a more vintage look like these (Nikes) or this (K-Swiss). Am I chasing a unicorn here? —John
A: John, those Asics you're wearing have "gel" in the model name, which we're pretty sure is a footwear prereq for enrollment into IMG/Bollettieri.
We play tennis year-round on clay, hardcourt, and even grass (see below) and have recently struggled with the same problem. For many years we wore the Rod Lavers — which are similar in style to the Nikes you admire — and while hardcourts shredded them faster than a 4.5 playing a 3, it was a small price to pay for their comfort and low-key iconicism.
Then in 2014 Adidas ruined the Rod Laver. They made them "freakishly heavy" with a sole that "feels like a 100lb slab of concrete," per the reviewers at adidas.com, with one critic adding, "If I could give a zero-star rating, I would." It's all true. Now they're discontinued entirely, which has led to the creation, naturally, of a Save the Adidas Rod Laver shoe" Facebook page. (BTW, please Like.)
But you didn't ask for a recent history of the Rod Laver. You want a performance tennis shoe with a vintage aesthetic, and we have it: The Puma GV Special. Now, Guillermo Vilas was no Rod Laver, and they were released a decade later than the Rods (1980), but they're far more rugged, and maintain compatibility with white Borg-inseam shorts and McEnroe headbands. Plus, if you look hard enough you can sometimes find them for about 35 bucks. Try 'em out and let us know what you think.
About those grass courts...
One of the many great treasures of our home state of Wisconsin is Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa. Besides 36 terrific walking-only holes (with 18 more coming in 2021), they have 9 grass courts. So along with your 3-wood and white balls, pack your woody and white balls.
Just look at this photo. If you didn't know better, you'd think John McEnroe just lost the 1984 Wimbledon final. But he crushed Conners in straight sets, 1-1-2.
The handshake is one thing any MB always does right. Never eye avert like McEnroe is inexplicably doing here. When you shake another man's hand — especially one you made look like a fool on Centre in the Final — you look him straight in the eye.
We get a lot of "what should I wear?" questions at Ask the MB, so we thought than on occasion, when we're having an occasion, we'd share what we wear. Articles and accessories will reflect core MB tenets like archaism, Anglophilia, artful dishevelment, and a few others that don't start with the letter A.
The first occasion: A singles match at the club during Wimbledon.
For any tennis played during this fortnight we always channel two of our all-time favorites, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and split the difference where we can. We also strictly follow the Club's hopelessly vague and wonderfully antiquated "almost entirely white" rule.
1. Shorts. While ATP players' shorts have not yet reached the slacks-like length of the NBA and NCAAB, they're still far too long for our taste. We want zero restriction as we go wide to reach for our opponent's cross-court volley, and tanned thighs nicely accompany a down-the-line winner in response. 4" max inseam here, and cotton of course (principle of organic materials). So we're wearing these Sergio Tacchinis (the McEnroe brand) from a terrific UK eBay shop called honourabletype. Bookmark this one. $43.69.
2. Shirt. McEnroe got the shorts, so naturally Borg gets the shirt. What else but Borg's iconic Fila striped polo with oversize collar and 4-snap placket? $41.99.
3. Shoes We could take the court with the left foot wearing a Borg Diadora and the right foot in a McEnroe Nike, but instead we're opting for the classic style, relative obscurity, and archaism of Pantofola d'Oro low-tops in white. Launched in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1886, these are made for the street but hold up great on the court, and no one else wears them. $210.00.
Q: Hi, MB! What do you think of novelty cufflinks?
A: We're not unconditionally opposed to novelty cufflinks. But we are somewhat baffled by the current state of the market. The last time we posted about this — in 2007 — we advised a reader to steer clear of skulls. Seven years later, that prohibition still stands. And from what we can see, you are going to have to do an awful lot of steering — the cufflinks sections on the websites of most major retailers look like the Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp remixed by Hot Topic. (Seriously, when did skulls start accessorizing so heavily?)
Has the Day of the Dead introduced a more formal dress code? While we understand that cufflinks offer a man a chance to signal his sense of style in a understated over-the-top way, and even encourage that, we're a little alarmed by this massive proliferation of skulls. A cufflink is not as permanent as a tattoo, but that shouldn't give you license to turn your sleeve into a black metal album cover from 1993.
Our advice: Stick with novelty cufflinks that allude to an interest in MB-approved pastimes like golf, tennis, sailing, skiing, or eating lobster. And even with those we have some caveats:
These days on the ATP Tour a collared shirt is seen about as often as a woodie. Even MB fave Roger Federer abandoned it in favor of synthetic red v-neck underwear in the semis. So it was with great pleasure we watched Novak Djokovic defeat Rafael Nadal in the finals while wearing a classic Sergio Tacchini polo.
Q: I'll be traveling across the pond to see Wimbledon next month and I'd like to strike a balance between artful dishevelment and weather preparedness. What would you suggest in the way of light outerwear that would be appropriate for Centre Court and/or tea with William and Kate? —Eric
A: An obvious choice is the classic and almost entirely logo-free "Made in England" Baracuta Harrington G9. It's got a touch of Teflon to repel the inevitable rain delay, and it has long been the choice of stylish Yanks (McQueen, Sinatra) adept at adding a note of elegance to even the most casual look. But it doesn't offer much in the way of artful dishevelment or surprise. Kate will be bored.
Instead, we recommend this bonded blouson, a collaboration between iconic British brand Barbour and Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida. Barbour's almost as old as Wimbledon itself, and holds three royal warrants for its waterproof and protective clothing. (What, you don't know what a royal warrant is? Brush up on your Anglophilia.)
Tokihito infuses Barbour's classic style with some 21st century urban streamlining. With their traditional abundance of pockets, buckles, and heavy waxed cotton, much of Barbour's stock is a little too busy for us. But this collaboration is strikingly pared down, retaining just enough flaps and buttons and zipper pulls to provide some texture for the artful dishevelment you seek.
Note: Prices on this range from $245 to $450, so shop around.
Q: Boast USA; I think their polos are pretty MB. Yay or nay? —Chris
A: In Pulaski, Wisconsin, circa 1985, the closest thing we had to a country club was the dart board at the American Legion. So we were unfamiliar with Boast until we started see it showing up on other websites last fall.
At first we figured J. Peterman was trying to outdo himself by inventing the backstory for an entire brand rather than a single piece of apparel. A brand named after a squash shot, started by a Greenwich, Connecticut tennis pro in the 1970s, worn by John Updike, Roscoe Tanner, and a young, crackhead-skinny G.W. Bush? And bearing a logo that looks like a marijuana leaf but is in fact a leaf from one of our favorite trees, the japanese maple? It all sounded a little too good to be true. Especially since when you look at the logos on various vintage shots of the shirts, they all seem to have been harvested at different times — that's a lot of variation in the size of that leaf.
So we did what all serious investigative journalists do when trying to nail down the facts. We poured ourselves some Macallan 18* and started watching Risky Business, which was said to feature a Boast shirt in it. A dozen or so ounces later, there it was, at 1:08:20. Case closed. The brand and its history appear to be as real as Teri Hatcher's breasts.
Anyway. Onward to your question. We like the brand and we especially like their tipped polo. We'd like it even better if it came with no logo whatsoever, but even as is, we still think it's sharp enough for darts at the American Legion. And if there were a tennis court anywhere within ten miles of here, we'd be wearing it there too.
* Why weren't we drinkings MBs? Because we were working, and we save MBs strictly for our leisure hours.
Q: Dear MB: How does an MB rock shorts? I know, I know, a real MB shouldn't wear shorts, but in some parts of the country summer gets too hot for pants. 115 degrees. Looking back at your earlier posts about shorts, the MB short has an 8"-8.5" inseam. Thanks for the help. --Larry
A: In the S/S issue of Another Man, Tom Ford offers five easy lessons on how to become a modern gentleman. Fifth on his list: "A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach."
Q: My wife and I have a disagreement. We joined a "walk for charity" the other day. Most of the men were wearing ankle socks with their tennis shoes. I have always preferred the calf-high athletic sock pushed down just slightly to give it a disheveled look whenever I run or work out. My wife is trying to tell me that the calf high sock is out of style and the ankle sock is the new style. I think ankle socks are for women tennis players. While a real man wears calf-high athletic socks. Will you please set her straight? --Eamon
A: Congratulations, Eamon, on being a lot less wrong than your wife. We see where you're going with the artfully disheveled tube sock look, but would like it better if they've got a stripe or two, as worn by male tennis players. As for your wife's current thinking on men's socks, ankle socks suck. They offer none of the disheveled/vintage benefits of quarter or crew-length, and leave tan lines that trash the exposed ankle look.
Q: Is Roger Federer a Magnificent Bastard? --Cosgrove
A: In the past there's been a lot to place Federer firmly in MB territory. He doesn't sweat, he doesn't grunt like an animal on every groundstroke, and even when he gets destroyed (see 2008 French vs. Nadal) he's so graceful it looks like he's actually winning.
But the last year has given us pause. He cried like a baby at the Australian, looked like a waiter at Wimbledon, and last night whined about the foolproof electronic line calling system after losing to a Slam finals rookie who dresses like The Karate Kid.
A: It is indeed difficult to turn the Wimbledon Whites into toolbag, though Rafa Nadal did it last year in the finals. Even the typically MB Roger Federer raised several of our eyebrows with his warmup vest in this year's first round. In between sets, does he moonlight as a waiter? We'll take a round of gin and tonics. Hendrick's.
Anyhow, like Nadal, Janko just has TB in him. Look at him at the French, with tank top and matching blades (bottom). And that tattoo, which we're pretty sure says "No fat chicks!" in kanji. Wimbledon's rules can only tamp the TB down. The good news: he's out after the 2nd round.
After Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon last summer, we chastised his sleeveless, collarless look as being "some kind of weird combination of Menudo and Rambo." At the Australian earlier this year he added sleeves (top). At the French he added a collar (bottom) and promptly lost in the 4th round to Robin Soderling, the 25th-ranked player in the world. To thine own toolbag self, be true.
Something just ain't right about seeing the completely unstylish Rafael Nadal triumph on the completely stylish lawns of Wimbledon. Nadal's match with Roger Federer may be an instant classic, but neither that dreadful sleeveless top nor those long shorts will stand the test of time. Poor fella looks like some weird combination of Menudo and Rambo.
Q: I follow your blog religiously and I love the amount of fashion knowledge I gain. However I have a couple of questions, I have a very classy white linen suit that I am planning on wearing in a couple of weeks. I would like to wear it with some tennis shoes to complete my "laid back" look rather than some hard shoes. First, is this appropriate? Secondly, if so, what shoes do you suggest to piece along with an all white linen suit? Do you suggest some all white tennis shoes or something with color in it? I was looking for some shoes along the lines of some Vans or something similar like the Lacoste L34 tennis shoes. Please advise. Thanks! --Noop
A: You sure you follow this site religiously? You've clearly missed our missive on linen. Noop, your proposed suit is a ticking time bomb. Within seconds you can go from artfully disheveled to looking like some homeless guy who got dressed outside the dumpster at Goodwill. Regardless, you will explode at some point.
At least minimize the bomb's collateral damage by not wearing Vans. Too '90s LA. Plain white tennis shoes can work, as demonstrated by Paul Smith (top). Your best bet though is a pair of sandals, like this option from John Varvatos, and a pedicure. June is pedicure awareness month, after all.
Whoh! Whohhh. White sneakers? In 2008, really? What about the Frankenclyde's you so recently praised? And white socks w/ jeans? Am I twelve or am I Greg Brady? --Bry
New Balance shoes? Seriously, WTF? Anybody that even resembles an MB can tell you that, barring engaging in serious physical activity, wearing running shoes with white athletic socks is a one-way ticket to Toolbagtown. You would actually have to carry around a bag of hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers to match the toolbag-level quality of your outfit. --Bo
You have to be kidding me about wearing the white sneakers. Those New Balance look corrective. You guys just lost 10 cool points. --Eric
Last night world #6 James Blake (bottom) survived a 5-set scare from 34 year-old Fabrice Santoro. However, the Frenchman destroyed Blake in straight sets in the style department, with his handsome Lacoste collared shirt and short white shorts. Blake, meanwhile, returned serve with an ugly-ass Nike tank top (not even allowed at some tennis clubs) and shorts veering towards slacks.
Umpire's call: OUT!
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica
Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.