Roger Federer finally has a sneaker he can call his own. Yes, he was connected to plenty of models during his long run with Nike, but those shoes usually didn't bear his actual name—the most they typically got were his initials. The changes now with the Roger, the fittingly named pair from Swiss running shoe brand On that will be its first release for tennis legend and now-partner Federer.
Federer, who has the most Grand Slam titles in men's tennis history, signed on as an investor in the Zurich-based brand in November 2019 with hints then of future Federer-led product. The product starts with this week's announcement of the Roger Centre Court 0-Series, a limited-edition, tennis-inspired lifestyle sneaker releasing to coincide with the first time he won Wimbledon 17 years ago.
"I'm tired of wearing uncomfortable shoes for a while now," Federer says. "Going into lifestyle is something very special for me. I have always enjoyed this silhouette and I wanted to do it the On way."
The Roger is a Swiss take on tennis heritage made by infusing lifestyle designs with performance comfort technology. "The minimalist design and easy comfort of On's shoes had me hooked years ago," Federer says. "I wanted to infuse the tennis sneaker with the same lightness, comfort, and agility for every day."
On, known for its CloudTec sole, embeds the well-known shape of the outsole within more material, helping give the sneaker a typical tennis styling and hiding the brand's signature geometry. But the technology is still there, along with the brand's Speedboard, designed for agility and energy return, and visible in black on the underside of the shoe. The outsole includes a herringbone pattern.
"The CloudTec is what makes On so famous and so comfortable," Federer says. "I wanted to make sure we incorporated the great things for On. For me, it was to keep it super comfortable."
The vegan leather upper comes in crisp white—referencing, of course, the original dates of Wimbledon—with touches of black stitching and gold lettering for a minimalistic aesthetic. The suede tongue patch offers a bit of tonal contrast, as does a touch of gum sole that peaks out. The upper includes a small red Swiss flag, "The Roger" in gold along the side under the ankle, "Swiss Engineering" written in gold near the heel, and a small On logo in gold.
"I wanted sleekness," Federer says. "I grew up in the '90s where there was always very bold and big logos, and we hid them away and made it more secret and almost like you will not see the logo."
But don't expect the all-white to last forever. "There are definitely different colors coming and different styles," Federer says while looking to On's head of design, Thilo Brunner, for the okay he can share details. "Thilo told me not to tell too much. There will be more series coming, there will be changes to this model as well going forward."
Brunner says On wanted to start developing the Roger silhouette with the basics, making it look sharp in the most minimalistic way before building it up with different color patterns—there will be women's-specific colorways coming—and materials. Federer says he expects to start "having a lot of fun" with colors and design.
Even before Federer inked a deal to become a partner with the On's three co-founders, he was working with the team on designs as part of a series of planned 2020 releases. "I love working with the On team, using my knowledge of performance footwear and personal interest in fashion to contribute to product development," says Federer, who is building a home a 20-minute drive from On's headquarters.
And while the first shoe from Federer comes as a lifestyle offering, he hasn't closed the door on a performance model from the running-focused company. "One day I am sure I will play in an On tennis shoe," he says. "The issue about a tennis on-court sneaker is it just takes a long time to build, to be honest. If you want it absolutely perfect, I would need more time for it."
The 0-Series of the Roger Centre Court comes in a limited run of 1,000 individually numbered pairs. Fans looking to get a pair can sign up for a draw, starting July 6. The draw closes on July 8 and winners will be notified the next day. The shoe will also have an in-store exclusive launch at Dover Street Market. This is the only planned release of the 0-Series, but expect more editions of the Roger Centre Court later in 2020.
"Combining On's years of performance design with our new teammate's contribution has produced an awesome shoe," says David Allemann, On co-founder, "and we've had a lot of fun doing it." On had to create a new production line in Vietnam dedicated to just the Roger, since it is a unique design for the brand.
On launched 10 years ago and has grown to include offices in Portland, Berlin, Yokohama, and Shanghai. Its products, which have expanded past performance running, are now in over 6,000 retailers in 55 countries.
Federer is no stranger to either shoe design or On. Having worked with Nike for 20-plus years until 2018, Federer was involved with the design of his on-court Nike shoes, at times working with Tinker Hatfield on the Vapor series, which he still wears during matches. His Nike line was also notable for its Air Jordan collaborations that fused tennis performance models with retro classics.
When Federer's Nike deal came to an end and he signed a 10-year $300 million apparel agreement with Japan-based Uniqlo in 2018, he started discussing possibilities with On, a brand popular in his home country. The brand was already worn by his wife and friends and had a growing in presence ever since becoming profitable in 2014.
Those discussions led to Federer's investment and the Roger, the second true lifestyle offering from the brand, following the May announcement of the Cloudnova.
Federer says working with On feels different than past projects because he cares as much about the Roger as he does the Swiss sportswear outfit's other models. "I am just happy when the brand does well," he says. But at the same time, he says, this new branch of On is very personal.
"I invested time in it to give them inspiration and anything that came to my mind when it comes to comfort, fit, and sleekness," Federer says. "For me it has been a lot of fun, it has just been nice to work with a Swiss company I know I will partner with for a very long time. We are just trusting each other and seeing where it takes us, which is also very nice."