Thursday, September 3, 2009

Men (& Women) in Black Win Points on Style

Maria Sharapova in winning form on court in a dress inspired by a city. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

AT one point during the first-round U.S. Open match between Argentines, Juan Martin Del Potro and Juan Monaco early yesterday evening, Brad Gilbert made an observation. DP was something of a showstopper, and not just in his total domination of his homeboy.

“Del Po looks good in black,” he said, seemingly a little bored and somewhat at a loss for what else to say in the lopsided contest.

Cliff Drysdale, calling the match alongside BG, didn’t see his point at all. “It’s hot down there and he’s wearing black,” he said incredulously.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say Cliffie missed the point. DP looked hip (though now that he’s 20 and perhaps done growing, he should build up his pecs/biceps/triceps) in his Nike ensemble: sleeveless tank top w/white piping across the chest and white swoosh on left breast, black shorts w/white trim on hem and white swoosh on left leg. A yellow headband w/black swoosh and yellow wristbands w/black swooshes completed the look.

New Media, digital technology, "America’s Top Model," "Project Runway," “What Not to Wear” and myriad red carpet broadcasts and carp sessions are largely responsible for making fashion accessible to the masses, including athletes. Nowadays, they are just as likely as movie stars to be sitting in the front row or hanging out backstage at fashion shows and sporting designer frocks on the red carpet at galas, premieres and awards ceremonies. In an individual sport like tennis, where players are not required to wear a uniform, they have more of an opportunity to bring a bit of their fashion sense to the office, so to speak. Not surprisingly, Nike and the maker of the omnipresent swoosh, is the couturier of virtually all of the A-list players.

At this year’s U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal is looking more like a tennis player and less like a footballer in a yellow polo-shirt w/polka-dot detail across the chest and navy, above-the-knee windowpane shorts; Jelena Jankovic is as giggly as ever and very girly in a red dress with Ruffles!Ruffles! Ruffles!(from Chinese sports apparel company, Anta); Venus Williams has got it, as she always does, in a pink, A-line shirt dress w/black and white stripes streaming down its front from near the shoulder to the hem and a crown detail on the back. It’s from her semi-eponymous clothing line, EleVen.

But it is DP, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova who are making the greatest impression. It is their choice of black that sets them apart. Whether DP’s outfit is for both day and night matches is not yet clear, but his colleagues have day looks (red shirt w/touches of black and black shorts for RF, muted fuschia dress w/touch of black for SW, and pinkish dress w/color blocks and piping in green for MS). MS’s night look is actually midnight blue, but it is so dark it merits honorary black status.

At the 2007 U.S. Open, Federer walked onto court in black and set tongues awagging and inherited the nickname, Darth Federer. Now, he routinely wears black when he plays evening matches at both the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. Last night in a surprisingly strong challenge from journeyman player Simon Gruel of Gemany, RF wore black shorts w/red waistband and white swoosh; black polo shirt w/red collar and lapel and white swoosh; red headband and wristband w/black swoosh; black socks w/two white swooshes on each, and black athletic shoes w/red swooshes. It was cool, crisp and classy. Like the man, himself, who advanced to the third round.

Also last night, in a 53-minute beatdown of Hungarian Melinda Czink and staredown of the lineman who called a foot fault on an ace serve, SW was svelte and fierce in a black, sleeveless A-line tunic dress, w/squarish neckline, piping at waist, muted fuschia swoosh and trim on the hem, single muted fuschia darting in back, muted fuschia headband w/swoosh and muted fuschia tennis bloomers.

It is MS, though, who is the greater among equals. In her so-dark-it may-as well-be-black sleeveless, A-line dress w/a crisscross in back, geometrically arranged silver color blocks and piping in front and back and silver head band w/swoosh – she can easily go from the tennis court to the nightclub. In the post-match interview Tuesday night after her victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, Pam Shriver informed MS that fans in an ESPN2 poll gave her outfit a thumbs-up. MS seemed genuinely surprised and pleased.

“You never know because some people like it, some people don’t. It can be 50-50” she said, disclosing that her dress was inspired by the skyline of New York and (architect) Frank Gehry, who designed her Tiffany earrings.

MS (and Andy Roddick) will be in motion tonight.

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