The zip-up jacket with RF monogram and gold piping bore the number 15 – the record-breaking total number of Grand Slam titles won by Federer in his match win – in cursive embroidery.
Was it pretentious? If the Fed had brought it out hidden in his pocket in quiet hope? Or did a Nike representative present it before the awards ceremony? Whatever it was, the jacket created a lot of cleavages throughout this year’s tournament, just like Federer’s attire. Take the suit pants combined with a military-inspired jacket – sort of All England Club Sergeant Pepper – among those he was wearing a tailored waistcoat, only stripped down to shorts after warming up. Then there were them subtle striped shirts, or even sneakers with gold accents. This was the kind of aesthetic panache that Federer became known for.
Now with last week the news of his resignation, following the announcement of Serena Williams in August, tennis (and sport in general) has lost one of its most stylish protagonists. Federer has had quite a tailoring journey. From an appeal of dodgy hairstyles (Peroxide home stain application, awkward topknotgreasy ponytail and wears his dress pants inside out, to the best friend of US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. Federer is a frequent participant in the front row, Rolex Ambassador and designers. Oh and according to LVMH boss Bernard Arnaulta “living god”.
It’s an unfortunate cliche with stylish men, but Federer credits his wife Mirka for his initial fashion awakening. once told GQ: “I used to wear jogging shoes, jeans and a training shirt, when Mirka met me she looked and said: ‘Um, are you sure about this look?’
“Then I started to really get into it. I traveled more and visited different cities and met interesting people. The next thing you know, you look around yourself — maybe in Milan, in New York, wherever — and you see that everyone is trying.”
Since then, Federer’s sleek, sophisticated off-court style has matched his gentlemanly one-handed backhand and balletic volleys. Off the pitch he loves a Turtleneck; a smart one Well-tailored wool coat with a raised collar; Sweater draped over shoulders; double breasted suits. But he’s not afraid to confuse it with either bomber, denim and leather jackets, gingham buttons, colorful sneakers.
He has hands-on design engagement with Uniqlo, with whom He signed a 10-year, $300 million contract In 2018 he ended his long-term collaboration with Nike. Federer turned to the Japanese brand, known for their comfortable, appealing basics, and works closely with designers Christopher Lemaire, Creative Director at Uniqlo’s R&D center in Paris; and he has certain edicts (no yellow). Comfort is his number one priority, closely followed by flair.
Separately, Federer has a shoe deal with Swiss brand On, whose line is rather amusingly called The Roger Collection – at least for British audiences. His signature shoe The RogerPro, which started with a 3D scan of his own foot, sold out when it launched last year. Meanwhile, the Roger Advantage model is Stan Smith’s levels of understatement.
He has become an astute analyst of his personal style past and that of his sport in general. For example, acknowledging the bygone days of the looser fit and now actively pursuing a slimmer silhouette on the pitch, he told GQ magazine: “Was I crazy to wear XL at 17? You want to think you’re tall and muscular. now [players] look stronger and leaner.”
He took advantage (perhaps cheekily, but entirely true) of Rafa Nadal’s ill-fated Capri era as an example of how important image is for the modern sports star. But Federer refuses to be hard on his younger self regarding the ponytail era: “Everything was part of an evolutionary process. Do I regret having long hair? No, I’m glad I had it and I’m glad I got rid of it!”
He prides himself on his innovative approach, including his eye-catching all-black ensembles at the US Open, which conveyed the atmosphere of a bat-wielding assassin during the night sessions. Of his time at Nike – which he fought for the return of the rights to the RF monogram for more than two years – he told GQ magazine:
“We tried to push the limits – sometimes a bit too much. But it was okay. These moments remain unforgettable and I was willing to take risks. I tried to bring a bit of style to tennis.”
Sometimes he went too far. At least according to those responsible for Wimbledon his orange-soled shoes are banned in 2013, deeming it a violation of the strict all-white dress code. But he was never accused as such, as, for example, Williams was (most memorably when the president of the French Tennis Federation seemed to shout disrespecting her Roland Garros catsuit). Federer has never been accused of caring more about style than substance, perhaps reflecting persistent double standards.
Although Federer – along with Williams on the women’s side of the sport – has done more than anyone to push the modern tennis aesthetic and bring athletes into the world of fashion, strictly speaking he’s not the first.
Federer has alluded to it Preppy V-neck cardigans worn on Center Court harked back to tennis champions such as René Lacoste and Fred Perry (who founded their eponymous brands in 1933 and 1952 respectively). Suzanne Lenglen, the charismatic number one woman in the 1920s, had a penchant for taking to the pitch in glamorous furs. Arthur Ashe starred in Buddy Holly’s glasses, and as fashion changed, aviator. And you could say that Andre Agassi had a dubious kind of “pirate chic“. But particularly in the men’s game, Federer’s influence on his younger peers and the broader tennis sphere is undeniable.
The Bulgarian player and Vogue favorite Grigor Dimitrov tries his hand at model building. Redhead young tomboy Jannik Sinner graced the covers of GQ and Icon magazines, and earlier this year he did too announced a partnership with Gucci. Italy is carved Matteo Berretini Has a capsule collection with Hugo Boss. Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime looked particularly good elegant at last year’s Met Gala in NYC. Even Andy Murray has a reach of sportswear, AMC.
It cannot be ruled out that Federer will devote himself full-time to fashion after his retirement. First he plays his last tournament this weekend in London. Last month, Williams wore a diamond-encrusted cloak to offer their own Farewell at the US Open. The bar is high. All eyes then on Federer – and his jacket.