Why Wimbledon Players Wear All-White

Maybe it has crossed your mind while watching Britain’s tennis Grand Slam tournament in the summer season.

The players wear all white. The players must wear all white. That’s the rule, and part of the Wimbledon tradition.

In fact, this strict dress code should be taken seriously. After all, players exert maximum effort to qualify in this tournament, so conforming to this dress code should not be the biggest of concerns.

The requirement to wear all-white dates back to the 1800s, a time when tennis was played more as part of social gatherings more than part of a year-round tennis Grand Slam.

Even as the US Open became more liberal and allowed colored clothing in 1972, Wimbledon continued to enforced the all-white dress code religiously. As a matter of fact, it’s even become more strict in recent years.

Last year, the Club issued a 10-part “decree” expected of every competitor to follow. To be specifically clear with colors:

“White does not include off-white or cream,” and allows “a single trim of color no wider than one centimeter.”

This covers bandanas, caps, headbands, socks, and even undergarments that may become visible during competition (including due to perspiration).

Small sponsor logos may include color, and medical supports can be colored if “absolutely necessary,” the strict guide said.

In 2013, organizers told Roger Federer that the color of the soles of his shoes was too much, and he was told to replace it with a conforming equivalent in time for the next match. When asked about the strictly enforced color regulation last year, Federer sounded exasperated.

“I think it’s very strict. My personal opinion: I think it’s too strict,” he said, as quoted by The New York Times.

The more strict enforcement of the all-white tournament clothing prompted nine-time winner Martina Navratilova to frown over the development.

Implementation in past decades has been inconsistent.

During Bjorn Borg’s reign, which saw him win five Championships, he wore white shirt with green pinstripes and a navy collar, which became a popular for merchandise sponsor Fila. When Pat Cash won in 1987, he wore a black-and-white checkered bandanna, and kept this combination as he transitioned to the senior tour.

But now it’s just bone-white or nothing.

For Venus Williams, who has her own line of clothing and can be seen wearing colorful attire on other tournaments, this all-white dress code is a welcome change.

“I think it’s a nice change,” she said. “I think everyone just kind of glows in white.”

But for others like Navratilova, whose colored clothing she was allowed to wear for decades has even found its way to the Wimbledon Museum, it’s too much.

“I think they’ve gone too far,” Navratilova told the New York Times.

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