SHARP & On
Casual shoes come in all sorts of variations. Perhaps you’ve slipped on a classic set of trainers to round out a casual weekend look, or laced up your flashy runners before a jog. Whatever their purpose, it’s undeniable that these shoes have come a long way from their locker room origins. Still, there’s one name for rubber-soled, casual footwear that warrants its own column: tennis shoes. Despite the moniker, you don’t need to play at the Laver Cup level to enjoy a solid pair — as you’ll quickly find, On has made its full spread of footwear accessible to anyone seeking to merge comfort with style. Thanks to an enduring partnership with Roger Federer himself, the Swiss brand proudly offers an entire lineup of tennis shoes built to last, 10k steps/day or not.
With Swiss-made quality and court-ready style, On quickly became the label of choice for active consumers. As the home of luxury watches and heavenly ski slopes, Switzerland has earned several worthy nicknames of its own — the playground of Europe, for example — but after the astronomic rise of one Roger Federer, it might as well be known as Europe’s tennis court.
Federer, naturally, was quick to pair his courtside clout with homegrown On tennis gear. When Federer rocketed to the top of tennis leaderboards, he shared his genuine appreciation for On, stating that he’d been a longtime fan of the brand. The feeling, according to On co-founder Oliver Bernhard, was mutual.
“We noticed Roger wearing On shoes and reached out to him. That’s when we found out he is a longtime fan of On and, of course, we are longtime fans of his. Switzerland is a small place and we started having dinner together,” recalled Bernhard. The relationship blossomed (as natural things tend to) and Federer joined the team in 2019. Federer channeled his expertise into product development, infusing On with an athletic spirit. The shoes had been well-made before, to be sure, but Federer’s input electrified On’s tennis shoes with an active, glowing pulse straight off the tennis court.
By the summer of 2020, the partnership flowered into the ROGER Centre Court 0-Series — this would be the first of many fruitful disruptions from Federer and On. The new kicks were minimalist and light, yet exceptionally powerful. Their vegan leather body bursts with a breezy-white colour to match its lightweight construction. But don’t mistake this lightness for weakness; the ROGER Centre Court made a bold departure from conventional tennis shoes with its new, CloudTec® sole and top-secret Speedboard™.
A brief summary for non-sneakerheads: the Cloudtec® soles are a cushion-y cloud of lightweight material, giving the sole an extra-spongy boost and ultra-comfortable feel. Meanwhile, the Speedboard™ plate adds an extra layer of shock absorption. Inserted between the midsole and upper, the plate transforms each step into a spring. Its technologies propel your feet forward, plunging runners across the track like Federer’s racket hits the tennis ball.
On’s innovation isn’t limited to user-comfort, though — the ROGER Centre Court sets a solid example in sustainable production. For an athletically-inclined brand, it’s a fitting cause. As co-founder David Allemann noted, outdoorsy hobbies breed eco-friendly attitudes: “We love to explore and aspire to protect the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us,” commented Allemann. As a result, the ROGER line uses exceptionally enviro-conscious materials like vegan leather. Its dainty carbon footprint — 30% smaller than animal leather’s — reduces environmental impact without skimping on quality.
As a multi-Grand Slam winner, Federer could’ve slapped his name on the back of any shoebox and enjoyed royalties for decades — but with On, he invested in quality. The technically-based tennis shoes took things one step further in 2021, when Federer brought his signature kicks — the ROGER Pro — on the plane to the Qatar Open in Doha. Federer’s pair are specially-constructed to suit the tennis pro’s measurements, so they’re not available for purchase. Yet, the bespoke pair formed the basis for On’s subsequent tennis shoes, with the Pro’s technical requirements inspiring the engineering of the Centre Court, Clubhouse, and Advantage series. Federer’s rigorous workouts mandated an ultra-durable shoe — tennis players commonly stomp with a force of three times their bodyweight — so his custom pair uses a signature Speedboard™ to capture energy on impact, while a rounded sole makes it easy to switch on a dime. With sophisticated materials and bespoke measurements, the ROGER Pro was officially worthy of the big leagues.
In 2023, On showed that it’s not slowing down; quite the opposite, in fact. Alongside Federer, the brand announced their partnership with stars from tennis’ next-generation, including Iga Świątek, Ben Shelton, and João Fonseca. On’s Co-CEO Marc Maurer was keen to note their active involvement in the brand, following in Federer’s well-documented footsteps.
“Roger, Iga, Ben and João each play a crucial and active role in the design, development and testing of every performance tennis product we create,” he said. With the help of these new voices, On will expand its tennis collection to include apparel. Previous ventures into style-first sneakers — like Federer’s retro-inspired Clubhouse Mid — provide a peak into On’s potential fashion angle.
That said, there’s no use squinting to see beyond the Swiss brand’s horizon: On is dedicated to the unexpected. Maurer seemed to confirm this, saying: “Our product teams — in close collaboration with our athlete partners — are hard at work to reshape what tennis footwear and apparel can look like. You will see something completely new and different from On.” Whatever the future holds, we’re staying perched.