Founded in 1911, Fila primarily manufactured underwear for customers in the Italian alps. But in 1975, the Italian clothing company made arguably the most important decision in its history by signing a promising young tennis player named Bjorn Borg.
Fila didn’t know it at the time, but the young Swede would quickly evolve into a generational icon, something of a sex symbol with 11 Grand Slam titles to his name. Stylistically, he was like the Roger Federer of his era.
In addition to making headbands instantly cool, Borg would provide immediate brand recognition for Fila. Even more importantly, he would help inspire a massive resurgence in popularity nearly 50 years later. When you think of “vintage” tennis apparel, you think Bjorn Borg.
While everyone may be living in the “Golden Era” of tennis with four GOAT’s (Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic) still dominating the podiums, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s is the true Golden Era in terms of the sport’s popularity.
For the younger generations, for the brand ambassadors and influencers in the wild, it’s not about Federer’s Uniqlo, Djokovic’s Lacoste, Serena’s catsuit, or Nadal’s raging bull logo, it’s all about the old school. The vintange tennis aesthetic was a vibe, and no brand encapsulates that era more than Fila.
Slowly and quietly, Fila has built an arsenal of the world’s best tennis talent. The company now sponsors a plethora of top pros including world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Karolina Pliskova, and Kiki Bertens—that's four of the Top 10.
The men’s group is growing fast, particularly with American players. John Isner, Sam Querrey, Reilly Opelka, Mackenzie McDonald, and rising star Brandon Nakashima all proudly wear Fila.
For Opelka, arguably the ATP’s most enthused fashionista, Fila fits are more appealing than anything Nike or Adidas has to offer.
“Fila’s place in tennis history is what appealed to me the most,” Opelka told Baseline. “Outside of the tennis world I’m big into fashion, especially vintage clothing. Fila is the first brand in tennis that comes to mind when I hear the word 'vintage'.”
Nakashima, who turned pro earlier this year and enjoyed immediate success in his ATP debut, agrees.
“They have a wide variety of elegant and old school clothes both on and off the tennis court that attracted me to the brand," he says.
Tennis players aren’t the only ones attracted to the style. Now owned by Fila Korea, headquartered in Seoul, the clothing company has been making waves with streetwear inspired by the vintage tennis flavor. It’s impossible to scroll Instagram these days without stumbling upon one of Fila's legendary tracksuits, made popular by the "Iceman" himself.
A shoot we did for @filaeurope ????! Absolutely in love with the tracksuits of the Newstalgia collection ????! ‘Stronger Together’ @kenzoalvares ❤️ go check out the full article on @nlvogue ✨! . Styling: @mr.dhlberg Visagie: @suzannevanschie Production: @the_brandfolk #FILATRACKSUIT #FILANEWSTALGIA
While the old school vibe is Fila's bread and butter, they are always experimenting, and welcome athlete’s input of styles and designs. Since signing with Fila in 2018, Kenin has given plenty of feedback to their design teams on current and future collections. They even introduced a new 12-inch skort based on her feedback, which she was rocking this past weekend in Charleston at the Credit One Bank Invitational.
Fila boasts four WTA Top-10 players as well as three of the Top 4 Americans. Whatever they paid Borg in 1975 wasn’t enough, as the Swede almost single handedly owns the vintage tennis aesthetic. Borg not only put Fila on the map as a sportswear company, his iconic fits also still inspire the younger generations both on the court and on the ‘Gram.