An RF-monogrammed zip-up with gold piping, the jacket sported the number 15 – the record-breaking total of grand slam titles Federer had won upon his match victory – in cursive embroidery.
Was it presumptuous? Had Fed brought it out hidden in his bag in quiet hope? Or did a Nike representative hand it to him before the trophy presentation? Whatever it was, the jacket generated plenty of column inches, just like Federer’s attire throughout that year’s tournament. Take the suit trousers teamed with a military-inspired jacket – a sort of All England Club Sergeant Pepper – under which he wore a tailored waistcoat, only stripping down to shorts after the warmup. Then there were the subtly pinstriped shirts, or even gold-accented trainers. This was the kind of aesthetic panache Federer was becoming known for.
It is an unfortunate cliche with stylish men, but Federer credits his wife, Mirka, with his initial fashion awakening, once telling GQ: “I used to wear jogging shoes, jeans and a practice shirt, then when Mirka met me, she would look and go, ‘Errr, are you sure about this look?’
“Then, I started really getting into it. I was travelling more and going to different cities and meeting interesting people. The next thing you know, you look around yourself – maybe it’s in Milan, in New York, wherever – and you notice everyone is giving it a good effort.”
He has hands-on design involvement with Uniqlo, with whom he signed a $300 million, 10-year deal in 2018, ending his longstanding association with Nike. Federer approached the Japanese brand, famous for its comfortable, pleasing basics, and he collaborates closely with designer Christophe Lemaire, who is creative director at Uniqlo’s research and development centre in Paris; and he has certain edicts (no yellow). Comfort is his number one priority, closely followed by flair.
Separately, Federer has a footwear deal with the Swiss brand On, with his line rather amusingly – to British audiences at least – called The Roger Collection. His signature shoe, The Roger Pro, which began life with a 3D scan of his own foot, sold out when it launched last year. Meanwhile, the Roger Advantage model is Stan Smith levels of understated.
He has become an astute analyst of his personal style past, and that of his sport in general. He recognises, for instance, the long-gone days of the looser fit, and now actively embraces a sleeker silhouette on the court, telling GQ magazine: “Was I crazy to wear XL at 17? You want to think you’re big and buff. Now [players] look stronger and slimmer.”
He (perhaps cheekily, but entirely accurately) used Rafa Nadal’s unfortunate capri-wearing era as an example of how important image is for the modern sports star. But Federer refuses to be harsh on his younger self about the pony-tail era: “Everything was part of an evolutionary process. Do I regret having long hair? No, I’m happy I had it and I’m happy I got rid of it again!”
“We tried to push the envelope – sometimes a bit too much. But it was fine. These moments stay memorable, and I was willing to take chances. I’ve tried to bring a little bit of style into tennis.”
Sometimes he did go too far. At least, according to the Wimbledon officials who banned his orange-soled shoes in 2013, deeming them a breach of the strict all-white dress policy. But, he has never been reproached, as such, in the way that, say, Williams was (most memorably when the president of the French Tennis Federation appeared to call her Roland Garros catsuit disrespectful). Federer has never been accused of caring more for style over substance, which perhaps reflects enduring double standards.
Although Federer has – along with Williams on the women’s side of the sport – done more than anyone to progress the modern tennis aesthetic and bring athletes into the world of fashion, he is not, strictly speaking, the first.
Federer has alluded to the fact his preppy, V-neck knit cardigans worn on Centre Court were a throwback to the likes of tennis champions René Lacoste and Fred Perry (who founded their eponymous brands in 1933 and 1952 respectively). Suzanne Lenglen, the charismatic women’s world number one in the 1920s, had a propensity for walking on to the court in glamorous furs. Arthur Ashe played in Buddy Holly specs, and, when fashions changed, aviators. And you might say that Andre Agassi cultivated a dubious kind of “pirate chic”. But, especially in the men’s game, Federer’s influence on his younger colleagues and the wider tennis sphere is undeniable.