Ask the MB: Performance Tennis Shoes With Vintage Style
Q: I am trying to find something that I am not sure exists. I play tennis fairly regularly and I am looking for a performance tennis shoe that doesn't look like I just stepped out of an Academy. Currently I wear these (Asics). I like these a lot performance-wise, but I want something with a more vintage look like these (Nikes) or this (K-Swiss). Am I chasing a unicorn here?
A: John, those Asics you're wearing have "gel" in the model name, which we're pretty sure is a footwear prereq for enrollment into IMG/Bollettieri.
We play tennis year-round on clay, hardcourt, and even grass (see below) and have recently struggled with the same problem. For many years we wore the Rod Lavers — which are similar in style to the Nikes you admire — and while hardcourts shredded them faster than a 4.5 playing a 3, it was a small price to pay for their comfort and low-key iconicism.
Then in 2014 Adidas ruined the Rod Laver. They made them "freakishly heavy" with a sole that "feels like a 100lb slab of concrete," per the reviewers at adidas.com, with one critic adding, "If I could give a zero-star rating, I would." It's all true. Now they're discontinued entirely, which has led to the creation, naturally, of a Save the Adidas Rod Laver shoe" Facebook page. (BTW, please Like.)
But you didn't ask for a recent history of the Rod Laver. You want a performance tennis shoe with a vintage aesthetic, and we have it: The Puma GV Special. Now, Guillermo Vilas was no Rod Laver, and they were released a decade later than the Rods (1980), but they're far more rugged, and maintain compatibility with white Borg-inseam shorts and McEnroe headbands. Plus, if you look hard enough you can sometimes find them for about 35 bucks. Try 'em out and let us know what you think.
About those grass courts...
One of the many great treasures of our home state of Wisconsin is Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa. Besides 36 terrific walking-only holes (with 18 more coming in 2021), they have 9 grass courts. So along with your 3-wood and white balls, pack your woody and white balls.