Whether you’ve heard the sounds of hollow balls bouncing in your neighborhood or scrolled through TikTok to see videos of people volleying with paddles, there’s no denying that pickleball is the It sport of 2023. (Need further proof? According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is one of the fastest-growing athletic activities in the United States.) While some of the popularity may be attributed to the relative ease with which the sport can be picked up, others have turned to the activity for a more unexpected reason: pickleball fashion.
“Half the fun in pickleball is wearing the outfits,” says Jackson Moehler, who lives in Atlanta and took up pickleball in May. “With other sports, besides tennis, you don’t get to dress up.” Moehler — who recently documented herself wearing aqua blue shorts and a neon orange jacket for a pickleball game on TikTok — is far from the only player who is cherishing the sport’s style potential: On the social media app, searches for “pickleball outfit” have grown nearly 900 million views while the hashtag #pickleballoutfit has over 6 million views.
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While according to Thomas Shields, founder of the pickleball website The Dink, the activity doesn't require specialized clothing, and players can sport any tennis-ready shoes or attire in moisture-wicking materials and lightweight fabrics, this hasn't stopped fashion brands from entering the space. Earlier this year, designer Norma Kamali debuted a “Pickleball dress” with a built-in bodysuit. Meanwhile, LA-based label Staud launched a pickleball collection, that features polo tops and matching skorts, and Venus Williams’ athleisure brand, Eleven, released a “pickleball edit,” full of skorts, long-sleeved shirts, and matching sets.
More pickleball-specific brands are also starting to emerge, following in the footsteps of labels like Recess, Tangerine, and Luxe. After taking on the sport during the pandemic, Atlanta-based entrepreneur and former Ralph Lauren executive Chris Rork saw a “space” in the market: “I noticed that the brands that [people] would wear would be traditional tennis brands or athleisure brands.” This led him to develop Muev, an athletic clothing brand that will “mix fashion with performance” and include details like pockets that accommodate the larger balls used in pickleball, launching in 2024.
Despite the similarity in silhouettes, Moehler says that most of the outfits she sees on the courts and on TikTok are more stylish than tennis, listing "workout dresses, matching sets, bright colors, and floral prints" as some of the pieces that define the scene. (This styling extends down to accessories like the paddle, with people looking for ways to match theirs to outfits and names like J. Crew releasing a collection of brightly-colored paddles in collaboration with Recess.) This is in contrast to traditional tennis attire that often calls for white uniforms (a rule that stems from racquet clubs and that is still in place at tournaments like Wimbledon in London) and monochrome sets.
This makes sense: Having been invented in the ‘60s, pickleball doesn’t have a long history of rigid rules and allows people of all athletic levels to participate in the low-stakes game, which makes for a much more creative and diverse display of personal style that puts aesthetics over function. “It’s more of an athletic chic kind of vibe,” says Moehler. While pickleball grows into an established sport, people like Moehler are not waiting for the market for standardized pickleball clothing to grow, paddling their way through courts, one outfit at a time. And, unlike the clatter of balls, that sound is music to the fashion-loving ears.
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