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Fred Perry - The Tennis Champion

Born in 1909 in the industrial town of Stockport, Frederick John Perry grew up to be the most successful British tennis player of all time.

The son of a cotton spinner, Fred's working class roots made him an unlikely champion in a sport traditionally revered by the upper classes. Ironically it was his father's dedication to 'working man's' politics that paved the way for Fred's success. Fred's father, Sam, was an active and dedicated member of the local Co-operative Party. He was offered and accepted a job in the London party headquarters, a relocation that unknowingly would result in a lifelong love affair between his son and racket sports.

Fred Full Flight

The family moved to West London and Fred attended a school in Ealing, where he discovered table tennis and developed his voracious appetite to win. Each evening he would set up his dining room table and obsessively practice for hours. In 1928, Fred became the World Table Tennis Champion. Next, he moved his attention to lawn tennis.

He had discovered tennis a few years earlier whilst on holiday in Eastbourne with his parents. Stumbling across a local tournament he had noticed all the cars parked near the courts and asked his father if they belonged to the players or the spectators. Sam told his son they belonged to the players, to which Fred replied ‘I will become a tennis player’. It was an audacious ambition. Tennis was 'owned' by the upper classes - the sport inhabited a world where he did not belong and would not be welcome. Fred did not care for obstacles and against the odds his ascent to glory was swift. He had a natural ability and equally important he had steely determination;

'I made up my mind early on, that I wasn’t going to let people order me about…bloody mindedness was one of my specialities and revenge was never against my principles either’.

Fred gained notoriety on the court, not just for his wins, but also for his behaviour. He refused to shake hands with his opponents prior to a match, ‘I wasn’t being snooty, but you could lose some of the feeling in your hand’ he explained. He played in buckskin tennis shoes and if a game reached a fourth set, he would change into dazzling white trousers and a new shirt to emphasise his freshness. It was this kind of ‘vulgar‘ behaviour that led him to be snubbed by the class conscious Wimbledon crowd, the chairman of the Lawn Tennis Association reputedly muttered ‘he is not one of us!’.

 

Fred Perry Medal

The snubs merely acted as a propeller for Fred. During his sporting career, he was the winner of 10 Majors including eight Grand Slams, two Pro Slams and three Wimbledon titles from 1934 to 1936; he is also the only player in history to have won at least one Major tournament in both tennis and table tennis.

His unrivalled skill on the courts attracted attention on both sides of the ‘pond’; he dated Hollywood starlets, including Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich and became one of the world's first truly international sportsmen. Fred's charisma and dashing looks would even lead him to be offered a two year deal with Paramount Films amongst others - offers he refused due to commitment to his sport. 

Fred Perry Choice Stars

Fred’s popularity with the people did not go unnoticed and during the late 1940s Toby Wegner, a former Austrian football player, approached him with an idea for marketing a sweatband bearing the Fred Perry name. They adopted the Laurel Wreath as a logo, synonymous with tennis and an ancient symbol of sporting excellence, it was perfectly befitting.

First off they produced a batch of sweatbands and gave them to all the top players to wear in major tournaments. The sweatbands were a huge success and in 1952, the Fred Perry Sportswear label officially launched. Next came an innovative performance shirt, one with a lightweight and breathable honeycomb structure. Fred wore the shirt whilst he commentated and players followed suit, eager to replace their baggy, ill-fitting alternatives. The Fred Perry logo soon became associated with Wimbledon, the world’s leading tennis tournament; customers saw it, liked it and bought it.

Fred Perry Lawn Tennis

From day one, the company enjoyed nothing but success. Its name even reached the highest levels of society. The Queen Mother once asked Fred why his shirt was better than anyone else’s, to which he replied ‘Ma'am, it’s the shirt that fits’, cheekily quoting the company’s ad line of the day.

Archive Tennis Advert

Fred went onto live in various parts of the world, but he always returned to Wimbledon to commentate. Remarkably he never bore any grudges for the LTA’s cursory treatment of him as a player. On the fiftieth anniversary of his 1934 Wimbledon triumph, the Somerset Road entrance was renamed the Fred Perry Gates and a statue of the player unveiled. It was Fred Perry’s greatest triumph.

60 years on the Fred Perry Tennis Collection blends clean contemporary silhouettes with heritage inspired styling details.

View the men's Tennis Collection here and the women's Tennis Collection here.

British Music Experience

Nestled in London's O2 'Bubble' lies The British Music Experience; an exhibition and celebration of the nations music history with a difference - it's almost entirely interactive. On entering the experience you are given a ticket specially designed to capture notes from the many different points of information, ranging from video displays to virtual 'dinner parties' featuring key members of musical movements throughout the decades.

 Bme 1

Another highlight is the exhibition's own music studio, equipped with everything from Gibson guitars to a full drum kit. Visitors are invited to come and try any instrument they like, and can use their ticket to access a recording of their session from the BME's website once home. Dance fans can learn new moves in a specially designed booth, with virtual instructors teaching everything from Madness' moves in One Step Beyond to the Macarena. When you're finished dancing you can watch a hologram of yourself perform on screen, and swipe your ticket to allow you to access a video recording of your moves from your personal computer.

Bme 2

Not least is the experience's impressive collection of musical memorabilia and artifacts, much of which has been donated personally by the artists. Roger Daltrey's iconic white fringed stage costume from his performance with The Who at Woodstock is on display, alongside original artwork and instruments inside specially curated displays from each decade. The Spice Girls may be miffed to hear that the exhibition's smallest costume belongs to David Bowie, whose tiny outfit is rumored to fit a 12 year old child!

The British Music Experience is a registered not-for-profit charity, whose aim is to advance the education and appreciation of the art, history and science of music in Britain. For further information including opening times and directions, please visit: http://www.britishmusicexperience.com/

 

The Writing's on the Wall

Currently celebrating it's 100th year, The Brentham Club in Ealing paid homage to its most famous tennis player this week with a honorary plaque dedicated to Fred Perry. After his father Sam was re-located to London for work, Fred took his passion for table tennis with him and promptly joined the Ealing club in 1919. It was here that Fred discovered lawn tennis, and practiced his game every evening before winning the club's Championship tournaments in 1926 and 1927. Ever ambitious, Fred continued to hone his skills and went on to win Wimbledon in 1934, 1935, and 1936.

Perry Mid Air

Proving that hard work and dedication pays off, Fred's plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Ealing and the CEO of the Lawn Tennis Association Roger Draper. The CEO said it was "an absolute honour to have officially unveiled a plaque to such a sporting legend as Fred Perry”, citing The Brentham Club as being "at the heart of our sport’s efforts to encourage more people to play tennis.” The Club's centenary celebrations continued with a transportation back to 1910, with club members dressing in period tennis attire to celebrate its history; whilst 50 tennis juniors competed in a showcase of future British talent.