Made in Italy: Fila

This article is part of our Italian Week on Tennis Buzz.

Extract of John McEnroe’s autobiography, Serious:

The first time I ever saw Borg, I was a ballboy for him.
He would have been 15 or 16, I was 12 or 13. I thought he was incredible-looking – the long hair, the headband, that little bit of scruff on his face that he’d get from not shaving for a couple of weeks.
And the Fila outfit – the tight shirts and short shorts… I loved that stuff! I would have trade anything, back then, to get a Fila striped shirt; a jacket was a big deal. (As a matter of fact, I did once trade about half the contents of my suitcase for a Fila jacket, and it almost fit!)

The cooperation of Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg, and Fila is one of the most famous and successful chapters of Tennis fashion history. Some of those clothes belong to the most beautiful tennis and lifestyle wear ever created. Borg was well known for his signature look of an on court polo and a post match zip jacket that blended a classic look with strong 70’s styling.

Bjorn Borg

Fila Bjorn Borg


Next to Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas was the second most prominent face representing Fila tennis fashion during the 1970s, also shaping the classic Fila vintage look by wearing marvellous designs and blazing colours. Vilas then switched to ellesse in 1980.

Guillermo Vilas

In addition to Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas, Fila contracted a lot of other prominent tennis players: Evonne Goolagong, Andrea Jaeger, Pam Shriver, Monica Seles, and of course Boris Becker, who switched from Puma to Fila in 1988.
(Note: Fila vintage jackets and shirts are on sale on 80scasualclassics.co.uk).

But back to Fila‘s origins:
Fila was founded in 1911 by the brothers Fila in Biella (Piemont, Italy). Until 1973, the company`s focus was on manufacturing undergarment. That year marked the transition from a traditional pants maker to a high-quality, innovative and globally successful major manufacturer of athletic apparel. It was the dawn a of new age not only in Fila`s own history, but also in sports fashion history in general.
Two people were responsible for Fila`s new business alignment: General manager Enrico Franchey and fashion designer Pier Luigi Rolando. Their strategic analysis yielded that tennis offered particularly big creative potentials for the newly aligned sportswear manufacturer. Tennis was still “all white” back then, but potentially open to colours, perfect for establishing new design concepts that would easily attract public attention. (Source: Filavintage.co.uk)
The famous F-Box logo was designed by Sergio Privitera and was strongly inspired by the pop art era of the 60’s.

Throughout the 70’s and 80’s Fila attained a cult status built on a reputation of producing the finest products which were to become a favourite of the Playboy era and worn by some of the greatest athletes from the world of tennis, ski, mountaineering and motorsports.

To celebrate his 100th anniversary this year, Fila debuted the first in a series of 100th anniversary commemorative collections of performance tennis apparel at the 2011 Australian Open.
This new collection, named for another Fila champion, four time Australian Open champion Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, sought inspiration from the brand’s archives of styles worn by Evonne during her 14 Grand Slam title reign in the 1970s and early 80s.

2011 Australian Open: Kim Clijsters Fila outfit

2011 Australian Open: Kim Clijsters Fila outfit

More infos about the Clijsters-Goolagong new collection.

Six-time Grand Slam singles champion Boris Becker recently signed a new five year contract with Fila, and a Boris Becker collection for men and women will debut this spring. More info soon on Tennis Buzz.

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