Tennis

Why do players have to wear white at Wimbledon? Longstanding tradition explained

The 2023 Wimbledon is about to start and this oldest tennis competition has numerous odd rules and traditions that in the modern world seem to puzzle and entertain fans more than serve any useful purpose. None, of those bizarre rules is more talked about at this time of the year than the dress code that demands all players dress “predominantly, or almost entirely, in white”. How this rule came about? Well, here is how it all happened.

Wimbledon white
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Why And When The Rule For All Wimbledon Players To Wear All White Was Created?

With the first-ever Wimbledon Championship taking place way back in 1876 it is no surprise that most of the rules were written back then. The dress code for the competition was one of those rules, it was created at some point in the early 1880s.

Back in that era when the dress code was written sweat stains were considered improper and hugely unsightly. That was why the all-men committee of the All England Lawn and Croquet Club decided that all Wimbledon participants should wear white to minimize the sweat stain visibility, sweat is much more apparent on any other colour clothing. This is how the rule was created and for some peculiar reason, it keeps being followed up to this day.

Have Any Top Players Got In Trouble For Not Complying To The All-White Dress Code?

Over the year there had been many frictions between organisers and payers regarding the all-white dress code. Here are the 3 most famous ones.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon from 1988 to 1990 because he was denied the chance to wear his favourite flashy colour clothing. This was a period when Agassi was at his prime, the bright colours of clothing he used were his own brand. Yet, even that didn’t make the Wimbledon organisers flinch or even consider changing the dress code rule.

Roger Federer

Widely considered the best grass court player of all time the 8-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer also got in trouble regarding his clothing in 2013. He was reprimanded for wearing orange-soled white shoes and threatened with being thrown out of the competition. Federer was forced to replace the shoes for the rest of the tournament and he wasn’t very happy about it.

Martina Navratilova

The following year, 2014, the female legend tennis player Martina Navratilova simply said that the tournament officials had “gone too far” when they told her her blue-white stripe skirt was not up to code. Navratilova refused to change it and all her earnings from that year went to pay the fines she received at the end of the event.

Wimbledon white
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Is There A Change To The Rule Coming Any Time Soon?

It is hardly a secret that the English are suckers for ancient rules, even when they make no sense any more. This is why we don’t think that any time soon the Wimbledon organisers will consider changing the all-white dress code etiquette. Even recent criticism from some of the biggest stars of the sport failed to soften the stance on the dress code, so we really think the all-white rule is here to stay for a long time.

That said, it’s money that makes this tournament possible and if enough sport kit sponsors get angry with the organisers and remove their financial backing Wimbledon’s officials might show unseen before flexibility and tolerance for differences very quickly. Or, could they?


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