Flashback Friday: Rafael Nadal’s sleeveless shirts

Today’s Flashback Friday is dedicated in equal parts to Nike and Rafael Nadal’s biceps, both of which made an otherwise not-so-flattering shirt style into a thing of beauty. The sleeveless shirt will forever be fondly enshrined in our memories of a younger Rafa.

When Rafa first wowed us with his talent, he cut a remarkable figure in his parachute pants, long hair and headband, his rippling muscles on full display. He looked formidable; one just knew that any shots hit by those arms would be killer. He looked particularly good ‘vamosing’, pumping his fist and lifting his knee. It became a signature of sorts. Nike dressed him in bright colors that made his tanned skin glow.

And then, just like that, the sleeveless shirt was gone. People had mixed reactions to this. Some were happy, others disappointed. There was even a petition to Nike to bring it back. Rafa was asked about it in his pressers, and Jim Courier even brought it up in an on-court interview, asking Rafa to bare his arms once more (Rafa obliged).

When asked why this change was made, several explanations were given. Rafa was no longer a teenager, and he needed to dress more age-appropriate. Nike needed to make shirts that were more buyer-friendly. It was simply time to reinvent. Whatever the reason, Rafa’s look went from unique to more mainstream. He still stood out, though. He looks great in anything he wears.

Nike did make it up to us. We may not have sleeveless shirts anymore, but we have short shorts. 😉

Enjoy the photos!

Photos: AP, AFP, EFE, Getty Images, Reuters, Zimbio, Fanpop, JustJared, & RNFC archives.


  1. My thoughts exactly, even though Nike took away the sleeveless shirts, the super short shorts are very much appreciated. Great post, am loving the photos!

  2. siempre es nuestro RAFAEL ,cierto que nos gusta con o sin mangas,es su actitud y su tenis la que en lo personal me tienen como su fan .pero sus respuestas su madurez y su sonrisa lo hacen completo .gracias por tan lindas fotos

  3. I must admit, the sleeveless shirts and longer hair were really hot. I wish he’d go back to them. I’d be a RAFA fan either way. He’s got me always on his side of the court.

  4. Mahalo for years of inspiration—-I can now follow through on a forehand above my head like you (albeit I have had some nasty bruises)—and I am 53! Took me years—–I always used to dress my husband (who looks a bit like you will later in your life) in the sleeveless tanks like you used to wear…..why did you ever stop wearing those? You are still YOUNG! Again, thank you for being such a role model—–ALOHA! Maybe you could play in Hawaii sometime? Larry Ellison now owns Lanai——

  5. can you go back to those kind of shirt and that gorgeous long hair. That’s one of the reasons I started liking him yrs ago great player of the same time .pS I have one of your hoodies that says this nurse loves her Rafa. Thanks

  6. Nostalgie..nostalgie . Que tu étais beau Rafa avec ces tenues vestimentaires ; et tu avais un visage de poupon ! Mais nous t’aimons toujours autant …et même plus . VAMOS CHAMPION

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