The twilight of Roger Federer’s career—if you can even call it that, given that his “late period” has stretched on for half a decade now, with no end in sight—has been about crushing expectations with all the sublime power of his backhand. In a sport where most phenoms peak in their mid-20s, he’s racked up three major titles since turning 35. In 2018, after a whopping 24 years on the Nike payroll, he jumped ship for a $300-million sponsorship deal with Uniqlo—and then beat the Swoosh in court for the rights to his iconic “RF” logo. And the cherry on top: this past December, he outlasted sartorial heavyweights like Pharrell and Jonah Hill to earn the Most Stylish Man of the Decade crown from GQ’s readers. Now, Federer’s stepping into the void once again, unveiling his first signature sneaker with a company that’s never actually made a tennis shoe before: On, the cult running brand beloved by hardcore marathoners and triathletes the world over.
Weirdly, the most notable thing about On’s first at-bat is how much it looks like, well, a tennis shoe, in the most classic sense. “The Roger,” as it’s been simply christened, is an elegant outlier in a field of overly technical kicks—a throwback to the days of Stan Smith and Rod Laver. But make no mistake: beneath that retro vegan leather facade is a veritable war chest of On’s cutting-edge technology, including its signature agile CloudTec soles and a plush inner sock construction that hugs your foot firmly in place. It all adds up to what Federer claims are the lightest and most comfortable sneakers he’s ever played in. As far as we’re concerned, the shoe from Fed’s Swiss countrymen is something else, too: the rare tennis sneaker you can scorch your pals on the hardcourt in, and then keep right on wearing the rest of the day without looking like a complete dork.
With the pro tennis circuit on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19, it’ll likely be some time before we see whether Federer’s new kicks can help him extend his already unprecedented second prime. But if you’re lucky enough to nab one of the 1,000 first-edition pairs that On is currently raffling off for $250 a pop, you’ll still be the proud owner of one of the most sneakily advanced, easiest-wearing, GOAT-approved sneaks ever created. (Non-Jumpman edition, anyway.) And if the Swiss maestro keeps turning out signature shoes this good well into his 40s? He’ll be a serious contender for another Most Stylish Man title come 2029.
Originally Appeared on GQ