Crisp whites with just a few hints of color, a collard shirt, tortoise shell glasses, and a simple gold necklace sported around his neck. This is none other than style icon and three-time major champion Arthur Ashe. The '70s traditional tennis-club style is being intertwined with the modern-day Los Angeles park players by owner of Racquet Club LA Sasha Paskal.
The online "club" has stolen the keys to the typical rigid and uptight tennis club and is making way for the new and more exciting era of playing tennis. Racquet Club LA isn't just about practicing technique and match play, it's about appreciating the slow moments that the sport seems to forget too often.
RCLA's "Boys Club" shiny tortoise keychain.
"I had recently moved back to LA from a couple year stint in New York and was in a dark headspace when my mom suggested I get back into tennis," Paskal tells Baseline. "After several years away from the game, it was so refreshing to get back out on the court with a whole new appreciation for it and the community of people I was meeting."
RCLA might not be an actual facility, but its Instagram, along with the website, is vastly different than any other tennis club. It's a refreshingly tight-knit community filled with members of all backgrounds and ages that "live life leisurely." The online club is where players slow down and enjoy the moment, alongside parents and retirees alike.
The Instagram page isn't just a collection of merchandise and updates on what's going on in the professional tennis world. Instead, it's a "nostalgic, cheeky, lighthearted" collection of photos that in turn make up a color-coordinated mood board that goes beyond court lines.
"When I first made the account in 2019 I knew I wanted to have a creative outlet to share with an audience, big or small, of photos that made me happy," Paskal says. "It has been interesting learning that a lot of the people on the page came for the tennis content, but stuck around for the vintage and old-school vibe as well. The best though has been several people that reached out to let me know they've only just picked up the sport because of my constant tennis content. Love the mix of tennis and non-tennis players on that platform, it's become a real community."
As a woman in her late twenties, Paskal is an outlier at her tennis club in LA. She has no pension, no children, and she's not retired, but she enjoys slow living. The type of living where conversation flows effortlessly, genuine relationships are formed and there's no staring at phone screens.
RCLA may be an online social gathering for now, but Paskal hopes to bring it to fruition with people from all walks of life connecting on and off the court.
RCLA's Classic Champion Pullover.
"My ultimate goal with RCLA is to have a functioning tennis shop in Southern California (and beyond) that also serves as a meeting place for players of all levels," Paskal says. "I envision a place that brings the best aspects of private clubs (socializing, routine, community), but merging it with a modern and updated one stop tennis shop."
For now, Paskal is working hard to bring back the classic tennis outfits from the '70s. Currently on the Racquet Club LA site customers can purchase hats, bags, oversized sweatshirts and even the keys that were "stolen" from the club.
"It was the very first design I thought up after talking to my mom about the idea I was playing around with [a tongue-in-cheek take on the country club]," She says of the fun times growing up in the '70s where she and her friends were constantly being kicked out of the club for not abiding by the clubs' archaic and stodgy rules. "I had a lightbulb moment where I realized this was exactly what I wanted RCLA to look like, a club for all of those that have shed those restrictions and dated rules, but are still a closed knit community of people in the know. We were stealing the keys from the old guard and starting a new, way more fun club."
With nearly 9,000 followers on Instagram, it's safe to say that the club of like-minded individuals is growing and is eager to break the rules of tennis' rigid past.
"The biggest takeaway I would love people to have from my brand is the ethos, 'Live Life Leisurely'. You can have your cake and eat it too, get out there on the court and dress in those tennis whites and pearls, while also being the person who just picked up the sport a few months back and has never stepped foot in a country club. This sport isn't for just one group anymore," she says.
The average Joe might not understand the joke behind RCLA's "Tennis Mom" hat, but that's what makes RCLA different from any other athleisure company in tennis. It's not just a brand, it's a club. If you know, you know.