Tennis Identity

White Is (Still) The Word At Wimbledon

Ah yes. The “predominantly white” rule at Wimbledon. Every year there’s a lot of commotion about how stodgy and boring the All England Lawn and Tennis Club is with their strict rules regarding dress. It’s so veddy British, but look, it’s not gonna change. Nobody get a pass on this one, whether you’re The GOAT (see below) or a lowly qualifier. We’re featuring the white lines from various brands, too: like the Italian line Hydrogen, adidas, adidas/Stella, and Lacoste.

We’ve included the rules below just so there’s no misunderstanding.

The following refers to all clothing, including tracksuits and sweaters, worn on The Championship courts both for practice and for matches.

1) Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround.

2) White does not include off white or cream.

3) There should be no solid mass or panel of colouring. A single trim of colour around the neckline and around the cuff of the sleeve is acceptable but must be no wider than one centimetre (10mm).

4) Colour contained within patterns will be measured as if it is a solid mass of colour and should be within the one centimetre (10mm) guide. Logos formed by variations of material or patterns are not acceptable.
5) The back of a shirt, dress, tracksuit top or sweater must be totally white.

6) Shorts, skirts and tracksuit bottoms must be totally white except for a single trim of colour down the outside seam no wider than one centimetre (10mm).

7) Caps, headbands, bandanas, wristbands and socks must be totally white except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre (10mm).

8) Shoes must be almost entirely white, including the soles. Large manufacturers’ logos are not encouraged. The grass court shoes must adhere to the Grand Slam rules (see Appendix A below for full details). In particular shoes with pimples around the outside of the toes shall not be permitted. The foxing around the toes must be smooth.

9) Any undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration) must also be completely white except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre (10mm). In addition, common standards of decency are required at all times.

10) Medical supports and equipment should be white if possible but may be coloured if absolutely necessary.

A more relaxed dress code operates at the Aorangi Park practice courts.

Where does this rule come from? Tennis was a very proper sport, you see. (No Rock N Roll tennis, in other words.) Back in the earliest years of the game white was worn to hide perspiration stains. The color white for men and for women became a uniform of sorts.

Historic tennis painting
By Sir John Lavery 1885

Wimbledon was founded in 1868 as the All England Croquet Club, and brought tennis to the club in 1875 so whites it was and still is.

White was so associated with tennis that it became THE way to dress for the courts well into the 1960s. Street fashion designers continue to reminisce about the classics era with traditionally cut tennis style dresses and accessories. Tennis itself has moved on – except at Wimbledon, where time stands still.

We’ve done fashion reviews for the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s here at TI so take a look at those for more detail. Here are a few videos:

And who can forget Anne White at the 1985 Wimbledon? True to her name, it was all white. Ahem. She got away with wearing it (somehow) until her 1R match was suspended due to darkness. She was told to wear more proper attire for the resumption of play the following day. Off you go, Ms. White, scoot.

Of course, the world wondered whether Andre Agassi would ever capitulate to the AELTC and wear all white. He did, in 1991.

Agassi Nike

From 2013: even The GOAT can’t skate on the Rules. Orange soles on your sneakers? Back to the locker room, Mr. Federer. Yes, we know you’ve won The Championships several times. Off you go. At once.

Federer Nike

And of course Nike promoted this fact. As they should have. As is the case with the NBA “banning” Michael Jordan from wearing an early style of Air Jordan due to its black/red scheme, this ad was another case of Nike thumbing its nose at The Establishment.

Federer Nike

And last year was the year for the Nike “Baby Doll” controversy. Nike knew precisely what they were doing with these designs. A year later, here we are talking about them again. They might have been flimsy, but that didn’t matter. They. Were. White.

*Nike ad from Sneaker Files *Fed shoes image from Business Insider

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