Back to Björn Borg: Fila revives its signature 1970s tennis styles

Terry warmup jacket in navy, $90, and short-shorts, $58, with red and white trim.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WHEN IT comes to sportswear logos, Fila’s rounded “F” is only slightly less iconic than Adidas’ triple stripes and the Nike swoosh. The ‘70s tennis star Björn Borg grand-slammed his way into sports history wearing the F-crest on his chest, and less than a decade later the logo resurfaced as an urban status symbol for New York’s burgeoning hip-hop scene (there was even a group called the Fila Fresh Crew).

The craze for new Fila gear died down in the late ‘90s, but vintage pieces remain in hot demand. (A rare, mint-condition track jacket from the ‘80s fetched $179 on EBay last week).

Now the company -- which was founded in 1911 as an underwear manufacturer in Italy -- is reissuing looks from its first tennis collection, the White Line, circa 1973.

The pieces are instantly recognizable. They’re what the Swedish tennis phenom wore when smashing his way to the top, and what Luke Wilson donned to play a Borg-inspired washed-up tennis champ in “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

The capsule women’s collection includes the signature wool track jacket -- in blue, red, purple and rose -- with cream-colored sides and trimmed with a thick-ribbed collar, cuffs and waistband ($140); a cropped, solid-hued, terry-cloth warmup jacket -- a precursor to Juicy Couture’s terry-cloth separates -- available in deep purple, navy, yellow, black and heather gray ($90); and matching terry-cloth short-shorts with slash pockets ($58).

Guys can go full-on Borg in the tennis pro’s favorite polo shirt, the Terra Rosa, a cream-colored, cotton ribbed shirt with wide navy pinstripes ($110, available with a red- or lime-colored collar); the matching Terra Rosa wool jacket with cream sides ($175, in navy and lime); and the classic wool Vantaggio jacket -- which rapper Nas has been sporting lately -- featuring horizontal blocks of navy, cream and red ($175).

Fila designer Freya Tamayo says the company decided to revive the classics after testing a few vintage looks in stores last year to enthusiastic response.

The line, which feels utterly modern despite its pedigree, will be sold exclusively at Kitson boutique on Robertson Boulevard and on the Fila website starting mid-month.

Although designs were copied down to the stitch (Tamayo tapped Fila’s archival patterns in Biella, Italy, to re-create them), the proportions are slightly different.

“Bodies have changed in the last 30 years,” she says. “It’s a little more of a generous cut, because athletes today aren’t as sinewy. They’re bulkier.”

The collection’s name was gleaned from the tradition of wearing head-to-toe white that originated in the U.K. in the late 19th century, when lawn tennis was all the rage.

But Fila’s White Line always used deep, jewel-toned colors -- including the ones revived for the new collection.

We may have grown immune to Serena Williams’ wild, vivid ensembles, but the subtle navy pinstripes in Borg’s Fila polos were considered scandalous in the ‘70s.

“Fila was the first to bring color into the tennis clubs,” Tamayo says. “We broke the mold.”