Chris Evert’s Influence on the Iconic Tennis Bracelet Is Still a Mystery: ‘The Misinformation Snowballed’

Tennis fans mostly enjoy the on-court action. Still, the world’s top players often develop fashions as iconic as their signature moves. The sport’s popularity influences styles around the world — from Wimbledon’s pristine white outfits to Bjorn Borg’s unruly, flowing hair. Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention the iconic tennis bracelet.

This courtside cuff has made its way into the most glamorous wardrobes and even modern-day rap songs. Though widely attributed to ’70s tennis star Chris Evert, the dazzling accessory’s true history is a bit mysterious. 

Chris Evert kept up a family tradition of tennis dominance

Tennis player Chris Evert at the 1989 U.S. Open
Chris Evert exits the 1989 U.S. Open | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

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Florida-native Chris Evert is one of the great stars of women’s tennis. As Britannica records, she began captivating audiences and devastating opponents at a young age. Throughout her impressive career, Evert achieved accolades and clinched records only rivaled by her long-time nemesis, Martina Navratilova.

Evert has a claim to many tennis firsts. She was the first to win 1,000 singles matches of all male and female competitors. She was also the first in women’s tennis to earn $1,000,000. Unsurprisingly, Evert’s name frequently landed in the headlines. According to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the Associated Press named Evert the Female Athlete of the Year four times. 

As Evert gained more acclaim, she began to have an influence those outside of tennis. Her high-profile relationships and break-ups with other sports stars were favorites of the tabloids. She even received credit for starting an iconic fashion trend. 

The legends surrounding the star extended beyond the court

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In the early 2000s, Allen Iverson shook up NBA fashion with his jewelry-laden, baggy looks. But before he was bringing bling to the pros, a young Evert shone on the tennis court. Beyond her two-handed backhand, Evert was known for her lace outfits and thoughtful game-day accessories.

It’s no surprise, then, that when fashion-enthusiasts searched for an explanation as to how a diamond wristlet came to be known as a “tennis bracelet,” many point to Evert and one fateful U.S. Open

As Sotheby’s tells it, Evert wore a thin strand of diamonds on her wrist during nearly every match. When the delicate piece broke off during the 1987 U.S. Open championship, Evert insisted gameplay stop until she found it. While the style existed since the 1920s, the media covered this disruption by calling Evert’s diamond accessory a “tennis bracelet.” 

It’s unclear if we should thank Chris Evert for the ‘tennis bracelet’ 

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The story of the 1987 wrist malfunction certainly has charm. It spread like wildfire and has become a classic tennis tale — an impressive feat, considering that it’s untrue. 

A deep dive by Vogue into ’70s tennis reporting shows that the term “tennis bracelet” was well-established long before the U.S. Open championship. Many sources, like the Adventurine, maintain that Evert could likely take credit for the term; her influence simply began much earlier than many realize. The publication theorizes that, somewhere along the way, someone transposed the years 1978 and 1987, and “the misinformation snowballed.” 

Evert herself has acknowledged the publicity she created for the look. The now 66-year-old lamented to AOL that she never received a free bracelet, despite her iconic advertising of the look. Still, with Celebrity Net Worth placing her at $16 million, we’re confident that Evert can fund her obsession no matter how many bracelets fall off her wrist.