Tennis used to be an impenetrable world, a club only a select few were able to access. But times have changed dramatically and the sport has shed much of its elitist associations, opening it up to a much more diverse audience. Nowhere is that more visible than at the Grand Slams.
The four Grand Slams – Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, and US Open – are the most prestigious individual competitions in tennis. They are huge affairs, lasting two weeks at a time and attracting over half a million spectators. Thanks to Lacoste, we spent a day at the famed Roland-Garros soaking up the on court, and apres court, atmosphere.
Going to a tennis Grand Slam isn’t like going to your standard sports event. There are hoards of people, but there isn’t the mass of sweaty, chanting, jersey-clad crowds chanting their way to the stands like at other events of its size. There is a certain sophistication to it that gives it a sense of occasion worth dressing up for, especially at Roland-Garros.
While Wimbledon may be most associated with the tennis tropes of all the pristine whites, prosecco, and strawberry and creams, Roland-Garros is by far the chicest of the Grand Slams. Just like the French capital, the tournament has an effortless air of beauty to it. From the striking red clay courts to the lush green trees that cozy the annex courts and the paved pathways between, it’s an elegant space to swan around, indulge in Ladurée macarons, and enjoy a spot of tennis.
The tournament prides itself on its stylish sensibilities, both present and in the past. One of the two main stadiums is named after Suzanne Lenglen, a champion French tennis player who redefined on-court wear for women. In the 1920s, she bravely ditched the restrictive corset, long sleeves, and below-the-knee skirt that was worn at the time for short sleeves and a calf-length pleated skirt.
Just like Paris, Roland-Garros' has that innate sense of style, a certain je ne sais quoi that inspires people to dress for the occasion, even though there's no enforced dress code. Wandering through the grounds you see no shortage of elderly couples in head-to-toe Chanel and dapperly dressed teens making cable-knit cardigans their own. Roland-Garros' longstanding relationship with Lacoste has a role to play in this. Since day one the two have been closely intertwined – the French stadium was built to preserve France's tennis success after the country won the Davis Cup the year prior, with Rene Lacoste being one of the champions on the team. Lacoste wasn’t only a tennis sensation but a style inspiration too who, like his close friend Lenglen, broke with tennis traditions when he adopted polo shirts as his on-court choice rather than the heavy woven whites of the time.
Kenneth Barlage, Highsnobiety’s chief client officer, is a lifetime tennis fan and explains the importance of the connection. “Lacoste is so interwoven into the fabric that is Roland-Garros. They're one and the same. And Lacoste, Roland-Garros, and Paris to me, that's perfection. It's a triumvirate of what makes sense for this city, this tournament.”
With one foot in the world of tennis and the other in fashion, Lacoste is actively invested in bringing tennis to a more style-focused audience and, in doing so, bringing more style to the court. Every day of this year’s competition they’ve invited people from outside the world of tennis, ourselves included, to experience an afternoon court-side. The brand is also partnering with individuals and organizations progressing tennis, like freestyle tennis sensation Stefan Bojic, and tennis crew The Ace Club, whose slogan reads: “All for tennis & tennis for all”.
These initiatives are ensuring tennis’ future, one that extends beyond the tournament walls and into new creative, and culturally-relevant territories. It is them that will help the sport resonate with a wider, and younger audience. “Just because it is elite at the head of the tournament, doesn't mean it’s elite in the minds of the people,” Hirmane, the founder of The Ace Club tells me. “The Ace Club is there for that, so people can share and enjoy the culture of tennis together.”
Having a sense of community and a people to gather a watch matches with is a great motivator. A tennis match is a slow burner, it’s not the instant gratification that our attention-deficit brains are used to today. But the tenacity of the players and the individual battle they undergo is compelling, and something we can all relate to. “The intrigue in tennis is that it's an individual sport with no coach or any teammates on the sidelines or next to you telling you what to do. You have to find this power, this internal drive, this vision. Basically, you're battling more than an opponent, but yourself, each time you're on the court. So I find it fascinating,” shared Barlage.
Watching the players channel this inner strength on the court is incomparable. The intimate setting of a stadium and that silence that falls before each serve creates an intensity that is palpable, and a world away from the way we passively take in most experiences through endless screen scrolling. So even if you’re not a tennis connoisseur, we strongly recommend you take the chance to experience a day out at the grand slam. Gather your friends, dress up, and embrace the sense of occasion.
Learn more about Lacoste and Roland-Garros' partnership, here.