When Tennis Married Fashion: Spotlight On Rafael Nadal

Poulomee BasuCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

Well the French Open is upon us and i daresay it will be incomplete without a little chit chat about Fashion!

And who else to focus on than the flavour of the season. Rafael Nadal. So here is a mini tribute of sorts to the man gunning for making it five in a row in the fashion capital.

The two words which have become synonymous with Rafa these days seem to be -Gifted and Gorgeous! And not to forget he remains a photographer’s ultimate delight. It could be the sheer power of his shots, the entertaining on and off court antics, or the very visible abdomen; the reasons hardly matter. What matters are the results. And boy do we like them.

Ever since his early days Rafa’s style has been a natural extension of his persona - a young, powerful guy who likes to defy convention. The fact that he comes from a relaxed “holiday” island is also very evident – in his choice of bright colours and tendency to refrain from grey or black. But there are exceptions to this rule – like this photo shoot which he did for Spanish vogue after his first major in 2005.

I think these are some of my favourite shots of him till date, mainly because he looks so like the effervescent teenager that he actually was. He looks 19. Not someone who is trying to be fashionable. And that’s a key element with Rafa – when it comes to fashion – he never tries too hard.



Enough has been spoken about his on court apparel already. In my opinion his sleeveless t and Capri pants, along with cheeky bandanas was the most distinct style statement that men’s tennis has seen in ages. By switching to a more orthodox (read boring) gear, Nike has taken away a bit of good old fashioned Rafa from the fans. Although I understand the intention to create a more marketable “world number 1”, Nike’s decision to  single handedly rob Nadal of his signature style does seem like overkill.

All that notwithstanding, the “emperor’s new (and very bright) clothes” might have the potential to generate more revenue, what it doesn’t have is enough character. Or oomph.

But just as I am writing this i wonder that although he is guaranteed a lot of flak for sporting a bright shade of fuchsia; who else on the tour would be able to carry it off?

It would be safe to say none.





Any mention of his fashion sense would be incomplete without talking about his Nike adverts. Varying from pure commercial to editorial, these shots have always worked very well for Rafa. Not only does he wear the clothes, he takes to the Nike ideology like a fish to water. And being a “t shirt and shorts kinda fella” in real life works beautifully to his advantage.










Now it’s practically a given that having a good body is a huge asset in the race to be fashion forward. And this is where Rafa scores big time. Not only does he have the chocolate-meets-mahogany complexion, the famously overdeveloped upper body, and an incredible bone structure; Rafa is willing to take risks. Willing to pose shirtless. Willing to be ogled at.

The images below are from the New York magazine and from the Lanvin Pour Homme Sport collection which will have Nadal endorsing his signature perfume.

I can recall a very funny story about the New York magazine photo. The pictures came out last august and screamed the title – Beefcake in the Backcourt. And to everyone’s surprise Rafa didn’t like them! The reason – he thought he looked too sexy!! Huh what? Now that’s a first!



I have to say I was particularly impressed with the Lanvin advertisement. Instead of putting him in a full suit and making him look dapper, they chose the simple unbuttoned white shirt, loose tie, and messy hair – all of which scream Rafa! Rugged yet stylish. Sophisticated yet careless.

And just when we thought he could only look one-dimensional, these two photos caught my eye and took me by complete surprise. The first was taken right before the Olympics and has Rafa sporting the colours of the Spanish football team and the second one appeared in the Le Officiele Magazine in 2007.

Who is that coy boy who is almost hesitant to look at the camera?

Surely not our “intense” Rafael Nadal





Who is this young man who looks calm, serene and almost angelic? Our tennis superstar or just a simple young man from sunny little Mallorca? Maybe he is both.


His style and obvious sex appeal notwithstanding, Rafael Nadal’s most attractive trait for me, is this contradiction that defines him.


The fact that he looks like a raging bull on court and like a harmless teenager off it. The fact that he still prefers having long meals with his family rather than rolling out of nightclubs. The fact that he is genuinely surprised when women swoon over him although the reasons are fairly obvious.

The fact that he can do an editorial shoot for Lanvin one day and still go fishing in Mallorca the next day. The fact that he is admirable and relatable at the same time. The fact that he is still thinks of himself as a “just a regular guy” although there is nothing “just regular” about him.

The fact that in an era when everyone wants to be a star, he wants to be a normal guy.