A shock Wimbledon champion at the age of 17 in 1985, Boris Becker has been dressing for centre court for 30 years. He played that final in striped polo shirt, appropriately-80s short shorts and a pair of Puma Match 74s. Now collaborating with the brand on a version of those shoes for the rest of us to wear, he talks on-court style, rituals and tennis players’ feet.
Shoes need to provide comfort, protection. I had weak ankles and the halftops were new, to protect the ankle a bit more. In that final, we played around three-and-a-half hours. You stop and go, stop and go … I was fine with it but other players get blisters or, when their feet are really squashed, start bleeding. Tennis players’ feet are not pretty.
If you have a winning routine you stick with it. It’s across everything – what you eat, what you wear, how long you sleep. When I win a tournament with that shirt, shorts and shoes on the final Sunday, I’m going to wear that again the next time because it worked.
I’m not a fan of too many different colours at Wimbledon … especially with the green background. White just looks the best. I don’t mind a bit of design with the shirt and the shorts but tennis fashion has gone very colourful, a bit too colourful for my taste. But they [the players] have to be relevant, speak to the younger audience.
You get a range of shirts that the company you represent want you to wear.
They can’t tell you on the morning of the match which shirt to put on. That’s your own piece of freedom that you have. It was important me that I had the final say over the shirts and shirts. We had times when I was asked for a little bit more [colour] but I managed to avoid that. Look at me: do you think yellow or pink would suit me very well? I like blacks and blues and browns. If it’s red it has to be a strong red.
Shorts in particular are important … because tennis players have good legs. If the shorts are too tight, it’s no good; if it’s too baggy, that’s even worse. When I first came on the scene, the shorts were super short.
I like my suits to be shaped, not too big and not to too hanging. I like Ralph Lauren for the combination of stylish-yet-sporty with high quality. I like a bit of colour in the shirts. The collar is important. I’m not a big tie fan, so the collar is important to make that statement.
I am so glad we have bent the rules of what you can wear with a suit. I have a hard time fitting into tight shoes when you dress up. If I wear trainers [now], nobody gives me a look or comments. It’s, ‘Wow, that’s very cool,’ and my feet are very thankful for that. I like the mix of it; the polo shirt under a suit for example. I like to loosen up a little bit the look, but to have a nice time with it. It’s about balance.