Why Wimbledon Wears White

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

It’s a wrap on another exciting Wimbledon Championships. Every summer the best players from around the world descend on SW19 for two thrilling, nail biting weeks of tennis.

I definitely had lady luck on my side this year. On three separate days I just chanced it and managed to get not only into the grounds but into the coveted Court no. 1 and Centre Court. Yes, I was beyond excited to watch some amazing matches.

Walking around the grounds, I couldn’t help notice just how well the All England Lawn Tennis Club use colour. Their iconic purple and green combination are everywhere and on everything. That’s just good business.

Wimbledon 2018 | Using your Brand Colours makes good business sense

But what they are also known for is having the strictest colour dress code of any Grand Slam tennis tournament.

You can wear any colour as long as it’s white.

All players must wear white. Not cream, not ivory or off white. It must be white.

Why? Tradition of course. White has come to symbolise and be associated with Wimbledon.

Apparently, the all-white dress code originates from the 1800’s. The sight of sweat spots through coloured clothing was thought unseemly, especially for women, and “tennis whites” became regulation. Those were the days when it wasn’t deemed at all ladylike to sweat.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club is steeped in tradition, so much so that in 2014 a
10-part mandate was added to the competitors’ guide stating that

  • “white does not include off-white or cream”
  • only “a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre”
  • accessories such as caps, headbands, bandanas, wristbands, shoes and even underwear must be white that “either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration).”

Many manufacturers were injecting colour in an effort to have their clothing, shoes, accessories stand out and over the years a sea of multi-colour was beginning to creep in and you only have to watch the other Grand Slams to see how much colour is worn. And this is what Wimbledon are clamping down on. Allegedly in 2013 one of the turning points for these stricter guidelines is when Federer wore white shoes with luminous orange soles for his first-round match. He didn’t wear them for the next match so it’s likely an official had a quiet word with him.

Wimbledon 2018 | John Isner won’t be falling foul of the non-white sole policy | Doubles partners Abigail Spears and Alicja Rosolska wearing all white yet still getting in some personalisation with the frills.

Some players have voiced their opinion thinking they have gone too far. Nine time winner Martina Navratilova was told the blue stripes on her skirt was not acceptable. She challenged this as she had worn the same type of outfits at Wimbledon throughout her career. The irony here is the Wimbledon Museum have some of these pieces…

I read the 10 points and I was surprised to see that even “Medical supports and equipment should be white if possible but may be coloured if absolutely necessary.”

Interestingly it appears the tennis rackets can be in any colour.

Wimbledon 2018 | Martina Navratilova clearly not wearing the now unacceptable skirt with the blue stripes and opting for white shorts instead.

Wimbledon 2018 | Rafael Nadal with the one centimetre colour trim on his socks. It appears the same rules do not appear to the colours on the racket.

I can remember Aussie Pat Cash wearing a black-and-white checked bandanna at Wimbledon which become his trademark. I read in the news he was due to play at this year’s tournament but pulled out due to back pain, or perhaps it was the new rules which would have seen him have to forgo his trademark bandanna for an all-white one.

What are your thoughts? Stick with tradition or go multi-coloured like the other Grand Slams?


All Images: Karen Haller

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