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Dressed to Serve: Ralph Lauren’s storied history as the official Wimbledon outfitter

The year was 1877. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premieres; Rutherford B. Hayes is sworn in as the 19th President of the United States; Thomas Edison invents the phonograph. The northern hemisphere sits at the precipice of summer. Here. Here is where the game begins. 

Wimbledon’s first ever Championship — actually, the world’s first ever official lawn tennis tournament; the only that’s still held on grass to this day — was a casual “tennis meeting, open to all amateurs”, hosted by The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. Entrance fees were £11 shilling, no women were allowed and the dress code was a simple “Shoes without heels.”

The new grounds of The All England Lawn Tennis Club at Church Road, Wimbledon during The Championships in 1922. The Centre Court building, designed by Stanley Peach, is the focal point. (Image courtesy of Wimbledon)

144 years later, with the exception of world wars and our current ongoing global pandemic, the tradition held; the tournament — now, colloquially, the Championships — plays on. Wimbledon: the harbinger of great British summers, strawberries and cream, ice-cold serves of Pimm’s and, for the past 16 years, an entire cast of umpires, linesmen, ball girls and ball boys, suped up and fitted in Ralph Lauren gear.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Ralph Lauren’s decades-long sponsorship — in tow, an all-American prep-school moodboard that would feel as at home amid East Coasters and monied Ivy League campuses as an event as quintessentially British as Wimbledon — as something of a homecoming. Despite the American-ness of it all. It’s not to say the appeal of a popped collar transcends culture, make and creed; it’s the idea of age-old tradition. Of old boys’ clubs. Cigar lounges. Tufted leather wingbacks. Varsity sports. And polo. Can’t forget the polo. 

Bronx-native Lauren, who was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for Services to Fashion in 2019, has always threaded through distinct Britishisms in his designs, from a predilection for Savile Row-esque tailoring to a ready-to-wear line named after polo, “the sport of kings.”

Following a year embattled by lockdowns and cancellations, 2021’s sporting calendar is indulgently revived with a flush backlog of events, including the postponed Tokyo Olympics alongside this chapter of Wimbledon. The spirit of athleticism, sportsmanship and incredible feats of humanity is abuzz and heady; a spirit beatifically captured by Ralph Lauren’s campaign leads, which star a broad range of sportsmen including the likes of professional rugby players, principal ballerinas and, for the first time in the world of luxury fashion, a G2 E-Sports League of Legends player. 

Together we inspire values that surpass sport, that surpass fashion, that stand for quality, integrity and a spirit of optimism so important in our lives today.
Ralph Lauren

If a trip to Henman Hill is not in the cards this year, Ralph Lauren’s slew of virtual activations will bring the Wimbledon experience to everywhere a steady WiFi connection exists, from bespoke lenses on Snapchat and Instagram and the New Bond Street flagship’s transformation into a Wimbledon-themed virtual shopping experience to sport quizzes, match reviews and styling sessions hosted on live-streaming service Twitch (on July 10, 1am Hong Kong time). Here in Hong Kong, Ralph Lauren’s flagship store in Landmark Prince joins in on the fervour with tennis matches streaming on both ground and mezzanine levels, with customers able to join in to win tennis-inspired games and souvenirs.

Shop Polo Ralph Lauren’s The Wimbledon Collection — a commemorative apparel collection for which 20% of net purchase price (excluding VAT) will be donated to the Wimbledon Foundation, the charity of The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and The Championships (a registered charity with registration number 1156996) — here.

Dressed to Serve: Ralph Lauren’s storied history as the official Wimbledon outfitter

Joey Wong


Retired Tumblr girl Joey has written her way through fashion trends, youth culture and luxury retail in New York and Hong Kong. Beyond internet adventures tracking down the perfect vintage find, you can probably catch her tufting rugs, swigging back Bloody Marys — her third, probably — and making fastidious spreadsheets about her Animal Crossing island.

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