The high-impact style of tennis champion Naomi Osaka pays scant attention to details such as tradition and temperatures. On a steamy summer day in Melbourne, the stoic defender of the Australian Open title is happy to explain her bold serves of colour in a world dominated by shades of white, from beneath a furry pink hat.
“For me there have been a lot of mishaps and a lot of failures,” Osaka said, in her measured cadence. “I feel like with my style on court, I am OK being bold and daring, and I’m also OK with being a bit too daring.”
On this occasion, promoting a collaboration with TAG Heuer, the furry hat avoids mishap status by providing a casual counterpoint to the $5700 limited edition, pale green watch with diamond markers. It’s a super-cute approach paying gentle tribute to Osaka’s birthplace Japan, where the kawaii aesthetic would be more easily appreciated. It’s also cold enough to wear a furry hat in Japan in January.
While the watch will be most likely to make it onto centre court at Melbourne Park, Osaka’s other choices remain deliberately unpredictable. Along with TAG Heuer, there are deals with Levi’s, Nike and Louis Vuitton providing wardrobes bulging with options, along with making 24-year-old Osaka the world’s highest-paid female athlete, earning $US57.3 million ($78.3 million) in 2021 according to Forbes magazine. Impressive in a year when Osaka made mental health a priority over prize money, withdrawing from the French Open and missing Wimbledon.
“I think it’s really exciting to watch a tournament and wonder what a player is going to wear, and I feel like that feeling should be happening a bit more often,” said Osaka. “It’s exciting to be a bit more daring.”
We have seen Osaka push political boundaries by wearing face masks with the names of victims of police brutality at the 2020 US Open, along with style expectations in a bodysuit with neon orange skirt in her semi-final match against Serena Williams in 2021.
When toy maker Mattel released a Barbie of Osaka for their role model collection last year, the figurine was decked out in more familiar Nike tennis attire, with abstract brush strokes, worn at the Australian Open in 2020.
“I feel like it’s fun to push the limits of what is acceptable… I think that fashion is a way to play around.”