The '80s were the pinnacle of sneaker culture in the tennis game.
Players became faster and stronger, with new technology being introduced. Not to mention a growing sub-culture of sneaker fiends that demanded style as well as performance. John McEnroe and a kid named Andre Agassi were Nike's guinea pigs in their quest for dominance. Bjorn Borg brought Diadora some fame and Guillermo Vilas' Pumas are still sought after decades later.
Companies began aggressive marketing campaigns towards the end of the decade, placing pressure on each other to come up with the next big thing. This decade delivered timeless classics and established the foundation for the sneaker industry today. Check out The Best Tennis Sneakers of the '80s.
No. 10 - Fila T1
The Fila T1s were worn by tennis buffs and street hustlers alike. This sharp kick helped Fila compete against the likes of Puma, Nike and adidas in the market with a classic look from the then-snobbier tennis brand. The leather upper featured a speed-lacing system and the sole had a bunch of Fila's trademark "F's" to serve as traction. Fila has been basically eating off of this design ever since.
No. 9 - Reebok Club Champion
The Club C features Reebok's classic styling and is one of their best-sellers. The leather upper was built to last and the interior padding made them extremely comfortable. Unfortunately, these have been relegated to department stores, but at least you won't have a problem finding them. No wonder gym teachers loved them so much.
No. 8 - adidas Lendl Competition
Former No. 1 tennis great Ivan Lendl's signature shoe featured a leather, mesh, suede upper. The flat sole was made with a fast court playing style in mind. He won his fair share of majors in the 80s with these on his feet. The Competition was one of four other models in the adidas Lendl series which also featured the Lendl Pro, Lendl Supreme and Lendl Comfort.
No. 7 - Nike Challenge Court
After rocking Wimbledon's early in his career John McEnroe had some explosive moments in these legendary kicks. The 3/4 cut made for a versatile sneaker on any kind of court, while the full-grain leather and nylon mesh upper guaranteed a long shelf life, complete with a sole to match with pimples for supreme traction.
No. 6 - Diadora Borg Elite
Bjorn Borg dominated during the '80s rocking these kangaroo leather joints. The kangaroo made the Borg Elite's lighter than the average sneaker (as well as more expensive) and one of the better looking on the market. The tire track-like grip outsole allowed for great traction and the sole was comfortable enough for Borg to make history in. These were popular in Europe and were also used by indoor soccer players.
No. 5 - adidas Grand Slam
Steffi Graf is often considered the greatest women's tennis player of all-time. In 1988, she achieved the unachievable while wearing the Grand Slams. She won all four Grand Slams and the gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Grand Slam featured a leather upper and adidas' 3-Peg adjustable cushioning system in the midsole. The sole was injection molded, the first of its kind at the time.
No. 4 - Nike Air Tech Challenge
The Nike Air Tech Challenge changed the game. Usually, tennis sneakers were low-key and "traditional." These ushered in the Agassi era of loud tennis kicks and gear. The toe piece on the sole featured with Durathane for longevity and full-length Nike Air. The upper resembled leather, but is actually Durabuck which made these machine-washable.
No. 3 - Puma California
The California's perforated nubuck and mesh upper made them extremely comfortable. Like its older brother, the Puma Top Speed, they featured two soles in one—one part springy, one part tough—and were also worn by Guillermo Vilas. They eventually became Vilas' signature shoe and we name the Puma GV. The California is one of those silhouettes that will never die.
No. 2 - Wilson Pro Staff
Another favorite of gym teachers across America, the Pro Staff was a good tennis shoe too. The leather quality and the Duralast Supreme outsole made these one of the most durable shoes on the market. The sole featured Goodyear rubber with a heavily cushioned interior for superior comfort. The sneaker was made for hard court play and was a favorite among hardcore tennis players.
No. 1 - Nike Air Trainer 1
Tinker Hatifield and Mark Parker really out did themselves with this model. Just by looking at them you knew they were indestructible. The Air Trainers were meant for this new thing called cross-training, but the likes of Agassi and McEnroe preferred to rock them on the tennis court. The upper was made of leather and the velcro strap helped keep the foot secure while making quick cuts. The sole featured various gripping patterns and Nike Air for comfort and the ability to use them on multiple surfaces.