These days, all tennis eyes seem to fall on 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff. Her main-draw US Open debut will add another spark to the New York tennis scene, and she’ll do so in a New Balance style unlike any other: the head-turning rally court print from Gitman Vintage.
“It is fantastic she is going to be wearing something very different and bold,” says Chris Olberding, Gitman president. “It is a perfect outfit for her to have on her debut on Ashe or Armstrong or wherever they put her. It should cause quite a sensation.”
For the 2019 US Open, New Balance collaborated with New York-based Gitman Vintage to create completely different on-court styles for players, plus a range of off-court product. Along with a more subdued tattersall (plaid) design and a “Slambray” dress featuring classic fabrics, Olberding celebrated the public courts of New York City with his rally court print.
The design itself, a “celebration of New York City,” takes an aerial shot of eight public courts, some prominent locations such as Central Park, plus defunct locations and lesser-known spots. “For the most part they are easily identifiable and all places I play,” Olberding says.
With the rise of prints in use for on-court tennis designs, Olberding says there is something deliberate in wearing a court while on the court, “something wonderfully playful and self-referential at the same time,” he says. And with Gauff having grown up playing on public courts in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida, Olberding likes the timing and figurative fit.
But Gauff isn’t the only New Balance athlete looking to make a mark at Flushing Meadows. And the court print isn’t the only design they can do so in. While Reilly Opelka will also wear some combination of the court print—expect to see a bright coral shirt with the rally court short—Milos Raonic is slated to wear the tattersall design and Danielle Collins has a dress lined up for New York.
As a shirt-maker, Olberding says he thought having Gitman Vintage create a chambray shirt—the style that coined the term blue collar with its interwoven blue and white yarns—with a tattersall design offered the “perfect marriage of us working together,” using a traditional checkered cloth pattern with regularly spaced lines of a tattersall with the chambray cloth. The pantone colors found in the shirt reflect the colors of the court surfaces of the Grand Slams: lighter blue Australian Open, orange Roland-Garros, green Wimbledon and navy US Open. By combining the Grand Slam colorings into the chambray fabric, New Balance and Gitman have joined up the “Slambray” design into everything from shorts to a jacket to a dress.
“I would love to see the court print on Reilly because at 7-feet tall it would be quite a statement on him,” Olberding says. “When I was thinking about this and working on the tattersall for New Balance, I had dinner at Indian Wells with Milos Raonic and chatted with him a little more. After our conversation and having spent some time with him to learn about his tastes, (I saw this as a fit for him).”
Raonic will also wear a custom pair of his Fresh Foam Lav on-court performance shoes with the tattersall print placed on the pull tab and liner. “We really draft off what apparel is doing because they are going to be the main story with all the different apparel designs and fabrics,” says Josh Wilder, New Balance associate footwear product manager.
Off the court, Olberding created a graphic tee that uses the rally court image in a circular design inspired by the old New York City subway token from the late 1970s. “I live in Midtown and one of my favorite things to do is take the 7 Train out to (the US Open),” he says. “That has always been a big part of my experience with my family and friends and this was an interesting way for us to incorporate that in a way that not many people would know. The 7 Train becomes this wonderful meeting place for tennis fans, and we thought it would be fun to incorporate that into the design.”
Expect to see players wearing the tee—a performance fabric from New Balance—on the practice court. The off-court collaboration continues with a reversable tattersall jacket, Court 400 lifestyle shoes and Gitman Vintage shirts.
As the collective US Open awareness turns to Gauff’s debut, Olberding and the Gitman Vintage team will be on hand to see both her and the other New Balance athletes in Gitman’s first-ever on-court collaboration. “We are all going to be head-to-toe collab, hopefully easily identifiable in the crowd and championing Danielle, Coco, Reilly or whomever it is,” he says, “It is a bit of a dream come true. It sounds corny, but seeing the product coming to realization and being so fantastic I will be over the moon when I see any of the players step on the court.”
Tim Newcomb covers tennis gear. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.