Wimbledon: Does Jannik Sinner's Gucci duffle bag signal a shift in tennis fashion?

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner brought his Gucci duffle bag to the Men's Singles second round match during day three of The Championships Wimbledon 2023 on July 5. Photo credit: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

By Leah Dolan of CNN

On Monday, July 3, Italian tennis star and Men's Singles contender Jannik Sinner arrived on the center court at Wimbledon with a custom Gucci duffle bag slung across one shoulder. It was a far cry from the typically non-descript kit bags: the brand's iconic monogram pattern featured Sinner's name embroidered on the classic tri-color webbing.

At the quarter finals, the opulent piece - which required special dispensation from officials due to it not being white - made another appearance.

It's not unusual for high-profile players to use the hallowed ground of Wimbledon to, well, serve up their fashion chops: Elsa Schiaparelli, founder of the inimitable French couture house, designed a tennis skort for Lili de Alvarez back in 1931. In 1965, Lea Pericoli wore a fashion-forward rose-trimmed mini dress by designer Teddy Tinling to the courts.

More recently, sartorial statements have come from players such as Serena Williams, whose penchant for controversial catsuits and Off-White tulle tennis dresses worn to the US Open have gone down in fashion history. In 2021, Grand Slam champion Emma Raducanu fused fashion and tennis together even further when she became the face of Dior, Tiffany's & Co. and even attended the Met Gala.

The industry has been slower to embrace their male counterparts. In reality, there has been less to work with: Since the 1990s, on-court men's style has been dominated by up-to-code whites and sponsorships from Adidas and Nike. But it hasn't always been that way. In 1975, Arthur Ashe - the first Black man to ever win at Wimbledon - accepted his gleaming trophy in a navy Varsity jacket so iconic that it was last year redesigned and released by US brand Rowing Blazers.

Swedish player Bjorn Borg was known for his Babe Ruth-inspired, pinstriped Fila polos, shirts which he re-wore religiously; 1987 Men's Singles winner Pat Cash would seldom be seen without his gaudy checkerboard headband - an act of rebellion against the then-newly-mandated rule that all accessories should be white. Andre Agassi famously refused to play the tournament at all between 1988 and 1990 due to his dislike of the all-white dress code and its forbiddance of the flashy clothing that had become part of his personal brand at the time.

By 1995, Wimbledon had tightened its dress code further still, from requesting "predominantly white" outfits to "almost entirely white," extinguishing any display of personal style on the court. But attitudes are shifting. This year, for the first time in the tournament's 146-year history, female players are permitted to wear dark-colored undershorts in case they get their period.

Loosening uniform regulations could herald a much needed rebrand of male tennis stars, too. Luxury fashion is already watching from the sidelines - Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is a regular face in the Wimbledon Royal Box - and the rising stars have been earmarked. 20-year-old wunderkind and current world number one Carlos Alcaraz was announced as a Louis Vuitton brand ambassador last month, and appeared in a Calvin Klein campaign earlier this year. Sinner became a Gucci ambassador in 2022. The next generation of tennis players are even experimenting with jewelry: Russian player Andrey Rublev is known to layer several silver pendants, while Nick Kyrgios is rarely seen without his double hoop earrings.

But while Sinner's Gucci hold-all was the first high-end luggage bag to be brought onto the London court, it's not quite the watershed moment fashion fanatics might hope for. Permission for the highly-engineered moment was granted after a lengthy approval process involving the International Tennis Federation, Association of Tennis Professionals and Wimbledon. More spontaneous, individual displays of taste and personality are still a ways off.

Last year, Kyrgios was given a warning after his decision to wear a pair of red and gold Air Jordan 1 Lows to a post-match interview. But it's a step in a new direction. As Sinner told Women's Wear Daily, "(This bag) will create a conversation."