The U.S. Open starts today, and both fresh-faced players and tennis legends will be vying for titles at Arthur Ashe Stadium through Sept. 11.
Today, both seasoned professionals and up-and-comers sign big sponsorship deals with apparel and footwear brands — and their tennis shoes, from sportswear giants such as Adidas and Nike, come in bold colors and with highly visible logos — but it wasn’t always that way. Through the mid-20th century, players wore simple white sneakers sans detailing. Shoes worn by stars such as Sidney Wood, Jack Kramer and Vic Seixas didn’t feature the technical details of today’s footwear.
In the 1950s, Lacoste revolutionized the tennis shoe industry, launching a line of performance sneakers. But the person who has had the biggest impact on tennis shoes? 1971 U.S. Open winner Stan Smith, whose eponymous Adidas shoe remains one of the label’s most popular styles today.
After Smith’s landmark shoe, other sportswear companies followed suit: Popular players, such as Nike ambassador John McEnroe, wore kicks with increased technical detailing and extra support throughout the 1970s and 1980s, experimenting with construction as they never had before.
In the 21st century, the once-plain tennis shoe has gotten new updates like never before, with players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams — all sponsored by Nike — becoming legitimate fashion stars by sporting bright colors on court.
To take a walk down the memory lane of tennis shoe styles, click through this photo gallery.