Prep Comes Courtside: What to Wear to the U.S. Open

If history is any indication, this Aug. 27, when the men’s and women’s first rounds of the U.S. Open commence,

If history is any indication, this Aug. 27, when the men’s and women’s first rounds of the U.S. Open commence, thousands will descend on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens looking like, well, tennis players!

“One thing you can say about tennis that you can’t say about too many other sports is that there’s sort of a mirror image between what’s happening on the court and what’s happening in the stands,” said Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of Men.Style.Com. “That’s usually a good thing,” he added.

Still, the fashion-minded harmony that currently exists between many professional tennis players and their fans hasn’t always been there, nor should it be taken too literally, said Mr. Thoreson, who referenced the knee-high space boots that Serena Williams infamously debuted on court at the 2004 Open. (Kate Schelter, a stylist and luxury brand consultant, agrees: “Trend-setting Williams sisters courageously venture into new fashion territory on the court, but spectators should always be just that: voyeurs and not the center of attention. The usual dress code rules apply,” she wrote to The Observer in an e-mail last week.)

The recent resurgence in popularity of clean-cut duds—among a wide range of demographics, not just the stuffy, lockjawed country club set—should help people from embarrassing themselves.

“It’s the times when the preppy style isn’t going on elsewhere when tennis fashion really starts to get scary. That’s when you end up with pink leggings under acid-washed shorts and massive bleached-out mullets,” Mr. Thoreson mused, before adding: “You want to sit back and enjoy it, because, let’s face it, tennis clothes look good. … It’s a good time to be a spectator.”

So, from our experts, a few tips on what to wear if you’ve scored tickets to the Open.


“You’ve got two key trends going on right now on the men’s side,” said Mr. Thoreson, who has covered the final event of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments in past years. On one fashion baseline, he explained, is Andy Roddick, who embodies “the real return to that classic tennis look.” A few years ago, according to Mr. Thoreson, the Nebraskan golden boy with the lethal 155-m.p.h. serve donned a lot of loud high-tech gear—like the “shirt that looked like the underside of a city bus with all these pipes and weird crap going on.” But since Mr. Roddick, 24, signed a contract with Lacoste after his 2005 breakup with Reebok, he’s tapped into “a much more understated, classic appeal.”

Mr. Roddick’s sense of style, regardless of his sponsor, has been widely reflected in the U.S. Open stands, and this year, despite his recent shaky performance, will likely be no different.

“And then on the other side, of course, you’ve got Rafael Nadal, who’s just a beast on the court, and he’s got the wardrobe to match,” Mr. Thoreson went on excitedly, referencing the Capri pants Mr. Nadal has worn while playing in recent years. While players with the showmanship to match their play, like Ms. Williams and Mr. Nadal, can pull off that kind of hyper-eccentric style, spectators should try to avoid copying the Spanish pro. “As far as the stands go, I certainly hope I’m not going to see a lot of guys in pedal-pushers,” Mr. Thoreson said.

“Just keep it really simple and elegant and low-maintenance,” Mr. Thoreson added, before suggesting that men pick up items like a Panama hat, a slim-fitting pair of shorts, “a basic, light-colored polo,” well-fitting clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics and, for a night game, perhaps a pair of white jeans.


For female players like Maria Sharapova, this year’s defending U.S. Open champion, looking great and breaking records seem to go hand in hand. A sponsor’s dream—have you seen her?—Ms. Sharapova has raked in millions of dollars in endorsements, making her the world’s highest-paid female athlete. In June, the Russian Ms. Sharapova showed up at a Wimbledon match against France’s Severine Bremond wearing an elegant, tiered white tennis dress, whose winglike ruffles in the back looked runway-ready indeed.

“Traditional country club rules always apply across the board,” Ms. Schelter suggested for women spectators. “It is different than, say, a football game because of its civil nature … history … and general aura of etiquette.”

She later offered that female fans would be well-served by wearing a classic button-down or polo shirt, long shorts hemmed just above the knee, loose pants, a nice miniskirt—which is like a tennis skirt but has a lower hem—and “perhaps a sweater thrown oh-so-perfectly over the shoulder.”

Since heels, running shoes and flip-flops are out, according to Ms. Schelter, the “eco-chic fashionista” might be interested in “soft, loosely fitting, comfortable” shoes, like the ones made by TOMS, which sends aid to children living in impoverished countries.

And on that front, too, one can expect to see more courtside VIP’s toting Nalgene H2O bottles at Flushing Meadows this year. Funny, we thought they were for hippies, not preppies! Prep Comes Courtside: What to Wear to the U.S. Open