Winning match points often depends on your game, but earning style points can come down to your gear.
Finding quality apparel at $25 or less can be as challenging as trying to sneak a 55 mph second serve past Novak Djokovic. However, you don’t need to scour store shelves as closely as a pro scrutinizing an incoming Ivo Karlovic kick serve to find good gear value.
We talked to some of the nation’s top retailers and specialty store owners for their views on the best apparel buys for $25 or less. Their suggestions range from some of tennis’ top brand names to some slightly more obscure selections.
Of course, style is an individual expression, so it’s entirely up to you to agree or disagree with the choices here. Please feel free to share your best buys in the comments section at the end of this blog and help us all in our ongoing search for good gear value.
K-Swiss Accomplish Racerback (MSRP: $25)
New from K-Swiss, the Accomplish Racerback may not help you cross the finish line faster, but it does combine a clean line and comfort, courtesy of “chafe-free” flat seams. Ideal for warm weather, the Racerback is available in six sizes (S-2XL) and seven color combinations (black/white, white/white, white/red, white/blue, white/green, white/orange and white/black).
Loriet Pink Racerback Top (MSRP: $22)
Put yourself in pink and contribute to a charitable cause in the process with Loriet’s Racerback top. Half of the proceeds of Loriet apparel purchased through the Tennis Against Breast Cancer web site are donated back to TABC to help find a cure for breast cancer. Constructed from 95 percent cotton and 5 percent elastane, the top is designed to wick moisture away from the skin and comes in white, black, pink and green, in sizes ranging from S to XL.
Under Armour UA Tech Sleeveless Tee (MSRP: $19.99)
A multi-sport shirt designed for the all-around athlete, Under Armour’s sleeveless tee works well on the court, in the gym, or on your favorite running trail. “It’s extremely light weight so it doesn’t get too heavy, even if you sweat a lot, and it stays free of odor,” says Sol Schwartz, Holabird Sports’ retail manager. “A lot of brands make sleeveless shirts, but this one has caught on with our customers. It has good fit and feel as well.” Variety is an asset; eight colors are available.
Nike Dri-FIT UV N.E.T. Men's Tennis Shirt (MSRP: $24.97)
Swoosh supporters and sun worshippers will find value in the Dri-Fit UV N.E.T shirt, which provides protection from the elements. The brand’s Dri-FIT UV fabric is designed to safeguard players from UV rays and wick sweat from skin. The shirt is available in red, blue and yellow, with contrasting white panels on the shoulders and sides of the blue and yellow versions.
Andre Agassi Photo Tee (MSRP: $20)
Andre Agassi will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 9, but you don’t have to wait that long to see him at the historic venue. The image of Agassi poised to hit a backhand, along with his signature, is emblazoned over an image of the Newport Casino and International Tennis Hall of Fame on this shirt. The Hall is home to all sorts of commemorative Agassi products, including baseball caps, polo shirts, towels and key chains.
Rafa Bull Logo Baseball Cap (MSRP: $22.00)
The clay-court season is upon us, and you can show your allegiance to the King Of Clay even if you’re not comfortable rampaging across the red dirt. “Rafa fans often look for that distinctive Rafa bull logo and this cap offers it right on the front,” Midwest Sports' product manager Dave Limke says. “It’s adjustable in the back so it fits everyone, it’s made with the Dri-FIT fabric to keep the sweat off your head and it’s a great way to get in the spirit of the clay season.”
Adams Cape Cap (MSRP $12)
Ivan Lendl left the French foreign legion cap he made famous behind when he squared off against John McEnroe at Madison Square Garden last month. But Adams has revived the concept with its cape cap that provides sun protection for the back of the neck, the head and face. Ideal for teaching pros or players exposed to extremely sunny conditions, the cap reflects UV Rays and features an extra-long visor for added protection. If you’re looking for a similar style cap with a brand name, Asics offers the Sol Shade 2-N-1 cap at a higher cost.
Unique Wristbands (MSRP: $1.75)
If you can live without logos, these 100 percent cotton sweatbands from Unique are offered in multiple colors at a minimal cost. Stock up on any of the 10 choices and mix and match by wearing different colors on your wrists.
Eurosocks Court Cool Ped Sock (MSRP: $8.00)
The Italian-made Eurosocks have earned a reputation for cloaking feet in comfort. “It’s a great performance sock for players putting a premium on their feet,” Tennis Warehouse editor Spencer Boller says. “Eurosocks offer a nice combination of comfort, support and moisture wicking.” The brand plans to fully launch its American web site—www.eurosock.com—soon with its entire new sock line.
Thorlos TMX Tennis Socks (MSRP: $12.99)
Concentrating on cushioning, Thorlos socks are so comfortable your feet may be tempted to tap a thank-you email to you for buying them. Reinforced cushioning in the heel and toe areas provide blister and impact protection, and the socks are known for their durability. Our favorite is the mini-crew. Thorlos is a consumer-friendly brand offering a 30-day money-back guarantee and free shipping when you buy three or more pairs.
Vintage Tennis Shorts (Prices vary)
Miss the days when tennis shorts were so short they could have doubled for super hero trunks? You can step into the past by perusing the vintage tennis shorts available on eBay. Brands include adidas, Ellesse, Fila, Fred Perry, Lacoste and some of the funky Nike shorts worn by Andre Agassi during his denim and dayglow days. Some of these are so small they make Tarzan’s loin cloth look as long as Rafa’s old clam diggers.
Davis Cup Final Recycled Banner Saddle Bag (MSRP $24.99)
You can carry the entire U.S. Davis Cup squad on your shoulders without breaking your back. Okay, so this recycled saddle bag isn’t technically apparel, but it is a cool and creative concept, and you can use it to carry apparel. The bag is made entirely of banners that welcomed fans to the 2007 Davis Cup final in Portland, OR, where the U.S. beat Russia to reclaim the Cup. The 15” long, 12” high bag originally retailed for $50, but is now available for $24.99, just in time for the USA’s upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal against Spain in Andy Roddick’s adopted hometown of Austin, Texas.