In the post-lockdown world, tennis-core is perhaps the most obvious trend to emerge. Like other niche fads of recent times (I’m looking at you, coastal grandmother), tennis-core feeds our collective hunger to commit to the bit; escapism by way of athletic cosplay. When Gen Z adopted it as their own, they converted the tradition-bound sport into an online phenomenon—under a catchy new name. As they've proven, it's a lifestyle above all else, one that can be executed equally well in professional stadiums and on your TikTok page. The allure of tennis-inspired fashion isn’t revolutionary or even new, but “Tennis-core” poses two questions: Why dress for courtside when you can dress for the courts? And what’s Tennis-core really without actual tennis?
At the start of the pandemic, there were record-breaking increases in recreational (outdoor, socially distanced) tennis play. With that, spectator demographics shifted too. “We’re seeing entertainment and sports programming being a big draw for the Millennial and Gen Z demographic,” says Lindsay Ulrey, Vice President of Global Brand Sponsorships & Experiential Marketing at American Express—a partner of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. “Americans have always romanticized these things,” she adds.
Back in July, I got to experience the Tennis-core lifestyle firsthand while attending Wimbledon with American Express, which, through its partnership with the tournament, offered VIP spectator packages and luxury on-site amenities like lounges stocked with sunscreen, fans, and Evian-branded face mist. While the tennis itself was a joy to watch, what unfolded beyond the stadium was equally entertaining. The 42-acre All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, normally for members only, is transformed each year into a flowery oasis of restaurants, shops, lounges, and other “activations” (tennis-themed manicure stations, complimentary sunglasses cleanings, etc.), each more Instagrammable than the next. While the bustle of game-day grounds is reason enough to attend (you can even buy grounds-only passes via the legendary Wimbledon “Queue” for just 21 pounds), I did delight in the fact that I could retreat to private lounges to rest and refill my Pimm’s cup as I pleased.
As with Wimbledon, the US Open draws spectators interested in more than sport. “People are more willing to travel for the right experiences,” American Express Travel Consultant Antonia O. says. For some clients, she will curate entire vacations around the tournament. While many ask for the classic offerings from Amex's Fine Hotels + Resorts properties (think: The Carlyle on the Upper East Side, or Casa Cipriani by Battery Park), “there’s more of an interest in trekking to Brooklyn or Queens” these days, she says. Just as one might travel to Iceland for the aurora borealis, others journey to New York for the earthly joys of a Grand Slam tournament in Queens.
The experience of tennis spectatorship feels like a luxury even without all the perks. This is the final weekend of the year to live out your Tennis-core fantasies (at the US Open, running through September 11). Whether you’re gunning for the best bang-for-your-buck (tickets are still being sold for as low as $28) or are prepared to splurge (meet me at the Centurion Suite?), there’s a way to indulge at any level.
So if you’ve already committed to the trappings of Tennis-core, maybe it’s time to take them out for a spin in a suitable setting. “Some people come for the tennis, some come because they want to have a lovely day out,” says Alexandra Willis, the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s Communications & Marketing Director, “and some come because it’s their chance to dress up really nicely.” And others, perhaps, for all three.
Lucia Tonelli is the Social Media Editor at Marie Claire, where she oversees and creates content across the magazine’s social platforms. In addition to her work on social, Lucia writes about fashion, interior design, royals, and culture. Prior to Marie Claire, Lucia held positions at Town & Country and ELLE Decor. When she’s not sleuthing the internet, she can be found tending to her sourdough starter or placing bids on vintage furniture she doesn’t need.