Tennis Core is Already the Trendy Aesthetic ‘Smash’ of the Summer—Here’s Why.

Game. Set. Match! Tennis and its accompanying aesthetic are undeniably taking over the summer one pleated skirt at a time. This shift that has tennis officially getting its tens is driven by a number of factors, both athletic and aesthetic in nature. From our TikTok FYPs to stores across the country, tennis is finding its stride as the quintessential “It Girl,” of the season as the reigning champion of our current trend zeitgeist.

This has been largely influenced by Challengers, the romantic sports drama that stars Disney-darling turned bonafide superstar Zendaya opposite Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in what is arguably one of the steamiest sports flicks of our time.

The tennis romance has inspired a major surge in general interest in the sport just in time for the summer.

This, accompanied by the rise in digital and IRL interest in pickleball as the new outdoor event of the season and one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, has made all racket and paddle-related endeavors not only a commendable physical pursuit but its own fashion niche. Currently, on TikTok, the pickleball hashtag has over 133,000 posts, and it has become the go-to activity for Black celebrities like Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Aisha Tyler and Kelly Rowland. There are also countless outfit idea videos and day-in-the-life vlogs centered on tennis and tennis-esque looks.

Picture it: A polyester pleated skirt and matching lycra top, a pair of above-the-knee shorts paired with a complimentary polo, these are the prep-era vibes exuded by the current resurgence of country club-esque fashion for years.

Now, historically, Black people have had a complicated relationship with institutions centered on wealth, access and, most prominently — whiteness. This jumble of mixed interests can raise some complicated feelings and valid questions about the rise in content we’ve seen centering this particular aesthetic. A similar collective hesitation can be seen in any sports with deep roots in aristocracy, such as polo, both the sport and the brand it inspired, Polo Ralph Lauren, which has had its own unique relationship with the Black elite, as can be seen with their 2022 HBCU capsule collection, which had fashion experts and casual fans alike weighing in on the variety of ways in which this collaboration could be potentially exploitative. Whether or not that is true or can be quantified in real-time is still a bit of a gray area, but there is one theme that needs to be kept clear on all fronts: Black style consistently acts as the blueprint. The Polo Ralph Lauren capsule collection was inspired by the clothing that students at Morehouse and Spelman were wearing on their own accord long before the concept of a collaboration with Ralph Lauren would be little more than a laughable thought. They pioneered a style of dress in an arena that would spend years systematically erasing their contributions.

This erasure-forward trend applies to tennis, too.

Long before the release of Challengers or the meteoric rise in interest in pickleball, Blackness has existed and thrived at the intersections of tennis and style, as demonstrated by the industry-defining talents of both Venus and Serena Williams.

 The influence of these tennis supremes can be seen both off and on the court as they have undeniably inspired the next vanguard of Black tennis stars like Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff.

The fact that Zendaya, who has blossomed into a bonafide fashion darling under the sartorial counsel of Law Roach, played her first lead role in a film about tennis is a happy continuation of this relationship, just on a larger scale.

These synchronicities are enhanced by the legendary archival pulls and homages to the tennis regality that preceded the film. 

One such look that showed the true prowess of the research team behind Zendaya was their reference to a 1998 Vogue spread by the sisters in which they donned floor-length Caroline Herrera gowns. While the black and white color-blocked dress was undoubtedly the focus of what Roach dubbed an “ode to the goats,” the intricate and iconic hair beading featured in the shoot was an integral pillar of William’s sisters legacy and one of the best parts of the recreation of the look for what the beads symbolized in the sister’s career — unapologetic Blackness.

Additionally, as interest in “quiet luxury” and other subliminal wealth signifiers become more on trend, it makes sense that this aesthetic is taking everyone by storm since it is being highlighted at every corner. This has also had a timely 

As conversations around tennis and the aesthetic that comes along with it continue to grow, it’s important that we remember Black people are not “cosplaying” any aesthetics by deciding to partake in this trend. The trends we see today are a cultural culmination of aesthetics that Black people have not only been a part of but have largely shaped and molded into prominence today. 

This influence, coupled with the surge in popularity of pickleball, has created the perfect storm for it to be an on-the-court summer, and the retailers have fallen right in line.

Now, stores everywhere, ranging from Pink to Sergio Tacchini, offer assortments of tennis and pickleball outfits that have you covered; no matter if you’re a pickleball pro or just fancy the aesthetic of the famed green courts, there is no shortage of court-ready looks for you to partake in. To make the hunt a little bit easier, here are a few pickleball and tennis-core-inspired outfits to get you started.

tennis core

Sergio Tacchini
Kalkman Tennis Skirt- Maritime Blue

Price: $63

Shop at Sergio Tacchini

tennis core

Beach Riot
Bria Dress

Price: $158

Shop at Revolve

tennis core

Tom Bolo
‘Fault One’ Tennis Cabana

Price: $138

Shop at Tom Bolo

tennis core

Tech Stretch Pleated Tennis Skort

Price: $45

Shop at Victoria’s Secret

tennis core

Winning Tennis Dress

Price: $118

Shop at Wilson

Updated: May 23, 2024 — 6:01 pm