The Supreme Weekly is a regular column examining and breaking down the influences behind the brand’s weekly drops, courtesy of our resident Supreme expert, Ross Wilson.
For its latest release, Supreme continues to flip the script on what a skate store can apply its branding to by releasing a set of tennis balls by Wilson.
The box logo-branded balls are the latest left-field release from the New York brand, but not the first time Supreme has taken influence from the world of tennis.
Here, I look back on some of its previous references to the racket sport that originated in 19th-century England.
Originally named Schwarzschild & Sulzberger in 1913, the company was based in a New York meatpacking slaughterhouse producing tennis racket strings before Thomas E. Wilson acquired a knitting mill to produce athletic uniforms, renaming the brand after himself. The sporting goods company would become renowned for producing quality footballs, basketballs, tennis balls and tennis rackets, and soon became the now-legendary Horween Leather Company’s largest customer.
Wilson Sporting Goods Company grew into a multi-million dollar brand thanks to sponsorships and endorsements with the likes of the NFL, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and his “Airness,” Michael Jordan.
The box logo-adorned tennis balls are not the first collaboration between Supreme and Wilson, however. Back in 2010, the New Yorkers released a dual-branded mini football available in classic brown and Supreme red which remains a collectible favorite to this day.
Strongly rumored for several years, the Spring/Summer 2017 season finally saw the arrival of a collaboration between Supreme and French tennis apparel brand Lacoste.
The extensive collection featured a pastel Harrington jacket; a tennis sweater; pique crewneck and shorts; a long-sleeve polo shirt; camp cap; and a two-tone '90s style tracksuit: an appropriately nostalgic tribute to the retro sports brand founded in 1933 by tennis player Rene Lacoste.
Lacoste, who was nicknamed “The Crocodile” due to his tenacity on the court, partnered with Andre Gillier, the owner of France’s largest knitwear manufacturer of the time, to produce clothing specifically designed to be worn for playing tennis.
Although mostly worn for fashion rather than sports, Lacoste still remains true to its tennis roots by sponsoring events such as the Australian Open. Last year, it announced the Grand Slam-conquering Serbian Novak Djokovic as its global brand ambassador.
In 1911, the Italian Fila brothers founded their eponymous brand primarily as an underwear company. But when they partnered with young Swedish tennis ace Björn Borg in the 1970s, their production shifted focus to sportswear. With his shaggy long blond hair, patchy beard and beaded necklaces, Borg looked more rock ’n’ roll than lawn tennis, and part of his signature style was his FILA gear — namely the tight polo shirt, short shorts, terry headband, and his Settanta track jacket. Winning five consecutive men's singles titles at Wimbledon, Borg was a superstar and his on-court steeze catapulted FILA to global success.
In 2007, Supreme released a small vintage-flavored capsule collection with FILA that included a set of headbands and wristbands, a short sleeve polo, and a Gucci-inspired track jacket featuring “World Famous Supreme Team” branding across the back.
Rather than the golden era of Wimbledon, the collab could be interpreted as a subtle tribute to New Jersey’s favorite family, The Sopranos — who regularly wore FILA tracksuits – or perhaps a nod to the fashion choices of late ’80s MCs like Schoolly D and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D.
In an interesting twist, Supreme actually made their own version of the classic FILA Fitness tennis shoe back in 2002. In a similar vein to its Air Force 1 homage (the Downlow and Midtown), this sneaker was pretty much an exact remake of the original, but with Supreme’s logo replacing FILA branding. The shoe was sampled but never released, possibly due to copyright infringements.
During its 15-year relationship with Nike, Supreme has collaborated on running, basketball and lifestyle shoes, but has mainly focused on the Swoosh's skateboarding collection for most of their joint projects. Much like their basketball counterparts, the Blazer and the Air Jordan 1, Nike tennis shoes have long been appropriated for skateboarding, with styles such as the Nike GTS and Challenge Court developing a cult following.
Over the years Supreme have gravitated towards some classic tennis silhouettes for the following releases:
Nike Air Zoom All Court
In 2011 Supreme collaborated with Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragment design imprint on a trio of dual-branded Nike Air Zoom All Court sneakers. Stripping the classic tennis shoe of its signature Swoosh, the sneaker featured canvas uppers adorned with a repetition of logos from both brands and was presented in three simple black/white/red variations. Supreme pulled the general release on the shoes' final release, but a few pairs managed to sneak their way onto the Japanese market.
Nike SB Tennis Classic
For its Spring 2013 Nike collaboration, Supreme returned to the SB line with a skate-friendly variation of the Tennis Classic from the mid-'80s. The Tennis Classic was itself an updated cupsole version of the 1975 court sneaker named after the world's most famous lawn tennis tournament - Wimbledon. Now with added Zoom Air technology, Supreme offered its version of the Tennis Classic in four exclusive colorways: white, black, blue and a banging tennis ball-style volt yellow.
Nike SB GTS
Having abstained from the SB line for two whole years, Supreme was back working with Nike on another skate shoe for summer 2015. Much like the previously updated Tennis Classic, the Nike GTS (“Great Tennis Shoe”) was a budget off-court tennis kick previously appropriated for skating by the likes of Guy Mariano and Pepe Martinez.
Supreme’s take on the GTS featured a herringbone canvas upper with a vulcanized rubber sole and was available in an extended five-color palette option. Although leaked images of the sneakers surfaced online two years prior, the shoes didn’t see a release until July 2015, right at the tail end of Supreme’s spring/summer season. The launch was accompanied by a Bill Strobeck filmed promo starring Kevin Bradley, Brian Anderson and Alex Olson, simply entitled “Swoosh."
Here are some of our favorite Supreme accessories to cop right now.