Single page view By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

Ah, big-time tennis – the pageantry, the tradition, the overpriced concessions. With Wimbledon set to kick off today, and people still chattering about French Open champ Rafael Nadal's clamdiggers, this seems like a good time for Uni Watch to take a look at the world of court couture.

The game's biggest clotheshorse is, of course, Serena Williams – what with the catsuit, the gaiters, and the tribute to the Cameroon soccer team. But Page 2 has already had its fun with her, and with other contemporary players. So instead, let's take a look at the sport's early days – key milestones on the road from this and this to this and this:

1887: With most female players wearing ankle-length dresses, bustles, petticoats and corsets, 15-year-old Lottie Dod gets away with wearing a calf-level hemline because it's part of her school uniform. She wins Wimbledon, but later calls on the sport's higher-ups to allow "a suitable attire for women's tennis which does not impede breathing."

1905: American May Sutton causes the sport's first sartorial scandal by rolling up her sleeves and exposing – gasp! – her forearms.

1919: Most female players are still wearing corsets when France's Suzanne Lenglen causes a stir by taking the court at Wimbledon in a loose-fitting, short-sleeved cotton dress, accessorized with knee-high stockings and a headband (none of which, presumably, impedes her breathing).

1921: Helen Wills Moody begins wearing a white visor, which becomes one of her two signature accessories. The other: a cardigan, which she wears in cold weather.

1931: Joan Lycett wears ankle-length socks instead of stockings, becoming the first woman to play bare-legged. With no more stocking garters to hide, this marks the beginning of the end for low hemlines.

1932: At the U.S. Open, Britain's Bunny Austin becomes the first man to wear shorts, with America's Alice Marble becoming the first shorts-clad woman a year later. Nobody objects too strenuously, probably because acid-washed denim hasn't yet been invented.

1933: Frenchman René "The Crocodile" Lacoste inadvertently creates the visual template for legions of annoying Skippys and Muffys by trading in his stiff-collared, long-sleeved shirt for a short-sleeved polo, which soon becomes the basis for his own clothing line.

1946: Yvon Petra becomes the last man to win Wimbledon while wearing long trousers.

1949: In a development that gives new resonance to the old "I see London, I see France" nursery rhyme, the UK goes into collective apoplexy when Gussie Moran plays Wimbledon in lace-trimmed underwear, which she obligingly displays for photographers.

Of course, once you had players showing off their undies, it was only a matter of time before they started showing off – well, you get the idea.

As for Nadal, Uni Watch has no problem with his getup, but it's too bad he has allowed himself to become the new poster boy for logo creep – or in his case, a full-scale logo insurgency. In case you missed it: ATP rules restrict the size of clothing logos to just a few square inches. But Nike, which sponsors Nadal, has long contended that Adidas' trademarked triple-stripe design is essentially an illegally oversized logo. To make their point, the Nike bigwigs plastered a giant swoosh on Nadal's shirt – and another one on the back – for the Rome Masters tournament in early May (apparently all the swooshes on his socks, pants, wristbands and headband were too subtle).

Continued...


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