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The history of Fila and Bjorn Borg

Already in the early 1970s, Fila manager Franchey had watched the young Bjorn Borg play at a tournament in Monte Carlo, being impressed by both his court performance and charisma. At that time, tennis hadn’t yet developed the pop culture for its star players as it has nowadays, and Borg promised to become the first such: He was young, handsome and also mysterious because of his silent nature. Ever since he had experienced Borg for the first time, Franchey had the idea in the back of his mind to make him Fila’s future flagship, and in 1975 an endorsement contract with Borg came about. As a matter of course, Franchey let Pier Luigi Rolando design a completely new, significant look for the aspiring youngster. The outcome was the legendary pinstripe polo shirt Borg started wearing in 1976 (which at the very beginning was manufactured on an undershirt machine). That garment, very much reminding of a classic baseball shirt, quickly became a well-recognized fashion statement that should basically define the look of the 1970s. Rolando about the Borg baseball shirt design: “As I looked at the strength of present past players on the New York Yankees, their vertical stripes showed their power, so that design came to me quite easily.” Rolando soon diversified Borg’s pinstripe polo shirt, varying the colours of collar, snap placket and stripes. Also the red collar version proved to be very popular for example. It was preferably worn by Borg at his USA appearances, becoming his trademark US Open look.

So Fila had its shining new super star. Bjorn Borg was so huge he quickly proved to be able to open up markets beyond Europe, gaining big market shares for Fila also in the USA and Japan for example, which was a new phenomenon in sports fashion industry. He helped Fila grow into a very successful global brand. After the first three years with Borg, Fila announced that its turnover had increased from 25 to 53 million US$. It didn’t take long until Bjorn Borg himself became a trademark within the Fila company, when the signature Borg Bj line was introduced in 1977. Borg and Fila melted into an iconic signature badge: The famous Borg Bj logo. Borg was Fila, and Fila was Borg. Borg wore Fila throughout the world, apart from his home country Sweden, where he was contracted with Jockey. At Wimbledon, the Fila Borg Bj label became King Borg`s majestic signature look. Year by year we saw Borg winning the final in his pinstripe Borg Bj polo shirt with a green snap placket and Borg Bj shorts with a green-blue waistband, afterwards receiving the champion chalice in his trademark Fila Settanta Mk1 track jacket in Red. So the Borg Bj label was the label of maximum success and highest honours, the label to be seen in, the holy grail of luxury tennis fashion - however, not many people could afford the price.

The red Fila Settanta Mk1 jacket (Mark I), made of 70% acrylic and 30% wool, was the first tracktop especially designed for Borg (in the early days of his Fila contract, Borg had worn a pre-Settanta model that was relaunched by Fila in 2005 as “Ocean Multi” tracktop). The first version of 1976, before the Bj line was launched in 1977, had a simple “F” badge on the chest. Then at Wimbledon 1977, when Bjorn Borg proudly lifted the trophy after having beaten Jimmy Connors in the final, there was the signature Bj badge on his red Settanta. Other heavy popular Settanta versions were the Kelly Green type (though not often seen on Borg at tournaments) and the Navy Blue tracktop with cream panels and trim, red stripes, frequently worn by Borg at the US Open.

   
   
     
   
 

The Borg Range

Fila did not only launch Borg Bj shirts and tracktops/tracksuits, but also jumpers, cardigans, tank tops and vests. Each year a new Bj polo shirt line was created and marketed, showcased very well by Bjorn Borg at tournaments all over the world. Other essential Borg Bj polo shirts were e.g. the terry toweling Solicio polo with navy and red trims on the left shoulder and the chequered Trezzan polo shirt. However, Fila Borg Bj tracktops were the most iconic clothes one could have and show in the public, off court gaining particularly much popularity in the British football and terrace culture, shaping the 80s casual look. Fila launched new Borg Bj tracktops at irregular intervals and not year by year so that each one became an essential classic. After the Settanta (Mark I), it took four long years until the next Borg Bj tracktop was released - the Mark II type in 1980, available in navy blue, light blue and red, with a white horizontal stripe on the chest and two trims on the left shoulder. The Fila Terrinda (Mark III) came in 1982 and was the last Fila Borg Bj tracksuit/tracktop, being well ahead of its time with its biker style collar and padded shoulder detail. Highly fashionable, expensive and exclusive ­ the Terrinda became the 80s casual crown jewel. Back then, it was popularised also by stars such as Wham. Today the Fila Terrinda is the most sought-after, super rare Borg Bj item, and ebay prices achieved for it are still astronomic. We all are desperately waiting for a Terrinda reissue, but obviously Fila still is in search of the right fabrics. Update 2009- Fila found the terrinda fabric just in time for Nick Loves remake of 80s casual film The Firm- 2009 releases have been the navy and Red terrinda only available via film associates and vintage and original suppliers www.80scasualclassics.co.uk.

Bjorn Borg always superstitiously reverted to the traditional green pinstripe shirt for Wimbledon, no matter what other Bj design was the actual look of the season. Fila wasn’t too happy about that, actually they wanted Borg to present the latest fashion line at Wimbledon, the holy ground of tennis with maximum public and media attention, and not the same old shirt again and again. When Bjorn Borg played at Wimbledon for the last time in 1981, Borg had the simple “F” badge on his shirt and shorts only. Maybe this was the reason he lost to McEnroe? That he had lost some of his power, because his wasn`t wearing his signature BJ badged clothes of success? It remains unclear why Fila obviously prompted Borg at Wimbledon 1981 to put on clothes with a simple “F” badge only. Probably it was a market strategic decision. Indeed, after 1981, Fila was starting to phase the signature Bj badge out somewhat. One didn`t see the Bj badge on Borg very often, only in combination with the Terrinda line of 1982, the last Fila Borg line that became a highly popular classic. Borg officially retired from the ATP tour in 1983, and although he remained to be contracted with Fila, the Italians had some idea his brand wasn't going to last forever. In 1986, Fila and Bjorn Borg divorced after more than a decade of huge worldwide business success.

Below are many key re-memorable Bjorn Borg collector original items and other sort after premium ebay styles. Borg’s first sponsor jacket with Bj badge is known as the Settanta first arriving on the scene 1978. All 4 colours below were worn by Borg. A key on Court Wimbledon warm up track regularly worn was the Red and possibly this is the most iconic image ­ Borg kissing the trophy. Ebay has fast become a place where old skool casuals prove their worth in bidding wars a good condition settanta mk1 in rare colours like Kelly Green and Red can fetch £500

Since revisited in 2007-2008 in the exact colours and fabrics without the borg sponsor badge. This picture of 4 together is a remarkable set from Jimmy Paul

 
   
     
   
   
 

The Settanta mk2  jacket the first high neck borg jacket in a far more wearable fit than its quirky predecessor - competing with the Tacchini Dallas in similar colours and design. A mid 80s style often seen worn by Borg in overseas matches. At Wimbledon borg’s superstition meant he continued to wear his settanta mk1 track top in red.

 
   
   
   
     
   
     
   
 

Fila Settanta mk2 matching polo also worn by Danny Dyer entering the club night in polo and shorts ­Blondie blasting out. The Fila 2 stripe velour in dark navy also appeared in white (the business) Red and Ocean blue. Possibly one of the most sort after limited edition finds. The 5 stripe tamar business golf scene in red white blue.

 
   
   
   
     
 

The Borg sponsor 3rd addition was the legend itself the Terrinda track top, settanta mk3. A revolutionary design, biker collar, unique velour like fabric and a very fine piping body detail. No other brand came near to replicating this design. Everyone has differing memories as to just how expensive it was mid 80s, but it was without doubt a premium piece and therefore never afforeded by the masses. In 2008 £700+ is common for a 2nd hand version. There were 5 key colours in 1985 on a track christened “the wham top” largely down to Andrew Ridgeley sporting a terrinda on calendars and artwork.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Borg in full terrinda outfit on court (above left) ­ by now styling a nation of football casuals. The Terrinda Polo and shorts a re ­ release is well over due of a classic polo fetching £200+ on ebay in adult sizing also to find shorts to match and you are a very lucky person. The Terrinda polo had three white variations navy stripe, red stripe and royal (ocean blue) stripe.

 
   
   
     
 

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