Let's take it back to the '70s.
A time that influenced modern tennis in a big way as the '70s were the first full decade to see professional tennis. The sport was introduced in 1968 and bloomed to international status by the '80s. With legends like Jimmy Conners and Björn Borg leading the rankings, a dynasty reigned until McEnroe emerging to begin the next era of tennis.
Also a key decade for sneaker culture as the new playing level brought on by pro athletes demanded sneakers that could withstand the performance. Sneaker uppers went from canvas to leather for a more durable surface, inspired by jogging trends and basketball's growing popularity. Just like the legends themselves, the kicks of yesterday were the start of a new level of competition for tennis.
To see where it all began, here are The Best Tennis Sneakers of the '70s.
No. 15 - Ken Rosewall
No. 14 - Dunlop Volley International
Australian tennis player Mark Edmondson made these popular when he won Wimbledon in 1976 as a nobody. The Volley International are as simplistic as it gets. The canvas upper makes for a lightweight feel on the court and the toe cap help keep the foot remain stable. The outsole is made of the popular herringbone pattern for traction and are still sought after in Australia 'til this very day.
No. 13 - Tretorn Nylite
The Nylites dropped in the late '60s as the first luxury sports shoe. They feature a canvas upper with a meshecoOrthoLite midsole and non-marking outsole. Their clean look made them a go-to sneaker on the tennis courts during the 70s.
No. 12 - Fred Perry by Eaton
The Fred Perry brand started off making sweatbands and tennis shirts. They eventually ventured into sneakers and in 1978, they collaborated with Eaton. The sneakers were made of a leather/mesh upper for durability and breathability with extra padding to promote support. Fred Perry was one of the first great tennis players to come out of the UK and was one of the first athletes to build his own brand.
No. 11 - Nike Killshot
The Nike Killshot were originally made for racquetball, but translated well on the tennis court. They're made of a suede and mesh upper for breathability and comfort. The outsole have pimples for traction with a rough toe-guard. John McEnroe wore these during the early '80s before he got his own signature shoes.
No. 10 - Converse All-Star Pro Leather
Made famous by Dr. J, American tennis player Roscoe Tanner wore these during the late 70s. The upper was made of a durable, flexible leather and the outsole featured a brick-like pattern that promoted traction on multiple surfaces. Many athletes of the time, wore these on both the basketball court and the tennis court.
No. 9 - Nike Tennis Classic
The Tennis Classic were based off the Nike Wimbledons and were originally made specifically for clay courts. Like many tennis shoes of the era, they featured a leather upper for durability. The outsole has a tougher toe-guard than their predecessor and deeper herringbone ridges to take on the clay. Cats still rock these today because of their vintage look.
No. 8 - adidas Matchplay
The Matchplays were Arthur Ashe's signature shoe before he switched to Le Coq Sportif. The upper features a nice flexible leather with perforated three stripes on the side panels and a pimpled outsole for good traction. The silhouette is nearly identical to the Stan Smiths, but who cares? These are clean and just as classy as the man that wore them.
No. 7 - Nike Wimbledon
The Nike Wimbledon was one of Nike's first attempts at tennis sneakers. The quality leather made for a durable upper and they were comfortable enough for Romanian tennis great, Ilie Nastase. He was the number one player in the world at the time and was Nike's first endorser. John McEnroe also rocked these when he won Wimbledon in '81.
No. 6 - Le Coq Sportif Arthur Ashe
These had a very clean look. The upper was made of leather with perforations on the side for breathability. The Arthur Ashe signature added some class to an already classy shoe. They featured a pimpled outsole for maximum traction. He wore these in 1975 when he became the first African-American to win Wimbledon.
No. 5 - Puma Top Spin
The Puma Top Spin were worn by Guillermo Vilas and were later redesigned in '81 as his signature model and named the Puma GV. The upper is made of a light full-grain leather and are perforated at the toe box to keep the feet dry. They also feature two soles in one—one part is springy and the other is tough to make for great shock absorption. The bottom of the sole has a herringbone pattern for traction, a turning circle for pivoting, and a five-ribbed arc to prevent wobbling.
No. 4 - Diadora Heritage Elite
Two of the era's best players wore the Elite's. Bjorn Borg had his own signature edition and Guillermo Vilas rocked them before he switched to Puma. The kangaroo leather upper made them very comfortable and also made the Elites one of the most expensive sneakers of their time. The pimpled outsole made for good traction and as an all-around shoe, they were one of the best on the market.
No. 3 - adidas Rod Laver
The Rod Lavers are made up of a mesh upper for breathability, a suede toe-guard and a herringbone-patterned outsole. Laver is the only player to win two Grand Slams, in 1962 and 1969, so adidas made a shoe for him. He had a say in the designing process and we must say Mr. Laver has impeccable taste. Like the Stan Smiths, these are still being appreciated today. The three stripes sure know how to make a classic sneaker.
No. 2 - K-Swiss Classic
Two Swiss brothers out of California wanted to make a good tennis shoe. So, in 1966 they came up with the first leather shoe. The all-leather Classic features the five stripes on either side to work as a lace-lock system. The outsole was made of Pirelli rubber and featured a herringbone pattern for the best traction on the market. K-Swiss is still eating off of this design.
No. 1 - adidas Stan Smith
In 1971, adidas approached Stan Smith about endorsing Robert Haillet's signature shoe that was first introduced in 1965. That turned out to be a good move as Stan turned them into the highest-selling tennis sneakers of all time. Adidas still manufactures them and hasn't changed the classic silhouette in 40 years. The upper is made of high quality leather which helps them last forever and the outsole features pimples for traction on any court.