February 6, 2015
Have you ever wondered why every player at Wimbledon wears white? It’s more than just the grass courts that differentiate The Championships from other tennis tournaments – for decades, Wimbledon has involved a strict dress code.
From headbands to shoes, players at Wimbledon are required to follow the event’s historical dress code. White is the colour of choice, with strict rules on every aspect of players’ clothing, including the colour of their underwear.
Wimbledon’s focus on white clothing dates back to the earliest years of the famous tennis tournament. Read on to learn more about Wimbledon and the colour white and look at some of the tournament’s more unusual clothing regulations.
Wimbledon’s famous all-white dress code
There’s a reason you don’t see the colourful outfits of the US Open at Wimbledon. In order to compete in The Championships, players need to pay attention to the event’s dress code, which covers everything from headbands to underwear.
The Wimbledon clothing and equipment rules spell it out pretty directly: clothing is to be almost entirely white, with a single trim of colour measuring one centimetre or less acceptable, but only around the neckline and the cuff of the sleeve.
Large logos are discouraged, as are medical supports and equipment in any colour other than white. Even off-white and cream are forbidden – players are expected to dress in white clothing from head to toe.
Wimbledon’s dress code applies on the tournament courts and the practice courts at Aorangi Park, although rules on logos and apparel are relaxed slightly while players are practising.
While Wimbledon’s dress code may seem strict when compared to the clothing rules at other events, the clothing and equipment rules are an important aspect of helping the tournament retain its famous culture.
Orange soles, hair beads and other Wimbledon faux pas
The All England Club’s infamously strict dress code has occasionally caught some of the world’s top tennis players off guard. Orange-soled trainers, bright hot pants and even Andre Agassi’s famous denim shorts have all raised eyebrows over the years.
In 2013, Roger Federer was told by officials to take off his orange-soled shoes in the first round of the tournament. Journalists speculated that the violation of the white-only clothing rule was intentional, aimed at generating coverage of the Nike shoes.
Intentional or not, Federer’s performance at the tournament suffered after his first game. In 2013, the third-ranked player was knocked out of The Championships in the second round – his worst ever performance at a Grand Slam tournament.
Federer isn’t the only champion to have received attention from Wimbledon’s dress code team. Maria Sharapova, who famously defeated Serena Williams in 2004 at the age of 17, has been “spoken to” by officials about her bright orange hot pants.
Some players are pickier about Wimbledon’s dress code than others. At the start of his tennis career, former World No. 1 Andre Agassi refused to join the tournament since he wouldn’t be able to wear his trademark denim shorts.
In 1991, Agassi changed his mind and took part in Wimbledon. While he donned an all-white outfit for the tournament, his trademark earring and blonde mullet made him stand out from the crowd.
Tattoos, beads and other surprising Wimbledon-approved looks
While Wimbledon’s dress code is infamously strict, the tournament’s rulebook still allows for a surprising amount of flexibility. Visible tattoos are allowed, as several inked players have shown over the years.
Likewise, the all-white dress code doesn’t extend to hair accessories. During the late 1990s, future women’s champion Venus Williams wore green and purple hair beads, attracting plenty of stares – but no disapproval – from Wimbledon officials.
From time to time, some players have even managed to get away with violations of the strict dress code. John McEnroe’s famous red headband was a common sight at Wimbledon in the 1980s and one of the dress code’s most famous violations.
Even though I know white is only for Wimbledon, seeing #tennis players wearing colours makes me feel like it’s their non-uniform day.
— Sophie Law (@Brucey1) February 1, 2015
What happens if a player violates the Wimbledon dress code?
From time to time, players accidentally (and sometimes intentionally) violate the All England Club’s infamously strict dress code. According to The Guardian, players that violate the rules receive a compliant outfit much like the spare PE kit at school.
Spare clothing hasn’t always been available to players. Anna Kournikova was asked to change her shorts once due to their excess colour – after changing, she was then asked to cut out a corporate logo that was visible on the replacement shorts.
Aside from changing, there’s no serious consequence to violating Wimbledon’s strict dress code. Replacement clothing, while perhaps not as fashionable as the clothes of most players, is always on hand, making a quick change of clothes easy for players.
Are you prepared for Wimbledon 2015?
Wimbledon’s dress code might seem strict, but’s an important part of the culture of The Championships. From the green courts to the famous strawberries, there’s lots of colour off the court to balance out the All England Club’s all-white dress code.
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