From July 2nd to July 15th of this year, people from all around the world will tune in to watch one of the most famous tennis championships of all time. The Championships, Wimbledon, usually referred to simply as Wimbledon, is the oldest tennis tournament in history. It is one of the four tennis grand slam tournaments along with the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open.
While many people watch the tournament and cheer on their favorite players, very few know the history of the tournament, or some of the traditions associated with it. Like why do players wear white at Wimbledon? Let’s find out!
In 1868, the home for the tournament, the All England Club was established in Wimbledon, London. The club was originally founded to be the host of various croquet games, however, it quickly adopted the sport of lawn tennis, incorporating the specific lawn facilities into its four acres of land.
In 1877, the club released an announcement in a local sporting magazine inviting all amateur lawn tennis players to partake in a multiple-day tournament. On July 9th of that year, twenty-one amateur tennis players showed up to compete, thus starting the very first national tennis tournament.
Over the years, the tournament has become much more prestigious and the athletes much more professional. In 1993, leaders of the tournament unveiled a long-term plan to improve the event’s quality for the benefit of all who are involved from spectators to players. The first stage of this plan, completed in 1997, involved three new courts, a broadcast center, and a tunnel linking Church Road and Somerset Road. Stage two, completed in 2009, provided extensive facilities for all involved with the tournament, including players, officials, members, and press. It also included an extension of stands, adding about 728 extra seats for spectators. The final stage of this long-term plan was completed in 2011, with completed construction on the entrance building, club staff housing, museum, and ticket office.
Why Do Players Wear White at Wimbledon?
Wimbledon today looks a lot different than it did in the late 1800’s. The tournament is broken into singles and doubles, with about 128 players making up both the lady’s and the men’s singles, and doubles consisting of players based on international rankings.
The event has also become extremely strict with etiquette over the years, even enforcing an extremely strict dress code for the players.
If you watch the event you might recognize that every player is wearing white. This goes far deeper than the fact that the event is held before Labor Day. This dress code actually dates all the way back to the 1800’s. While the 1800’s tournament was considered to be much more of a social event rather than the national phenomenon that it is today, spectators found the sweat spots shown on players uniforms to be unseemly, particularly for the women athletes. The “tennis whites” became a strictly enforced institution for the tournament, and this dress code has held strong over the years. In fact, even as the US Open allowed colored clothing in 1972, Wimbledon has only gotten stricter.
In 2014, the club even instituted a ten-part decree to clearly express the depth of the dress code:
- 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.
- White does not include off-white or cream.
- There should be no mass or panel or coloring. A single trim of color around the neckline and around the cuff of the sleeve is acceptable but must be no wider than one centimeter.
- Color contained within patterns will be measured as if it is a solid mass of color and should be within the one centimeter guide. Logos formed by a variation of material or patterns are not acceptable.
- The back of a shirt, dress, tracksuit top or sweater must be totally white.
- Shorts, skirts, and tracksuit bottoms must be totally white except for a single trim of color down the outside seam no wider than one centimeter.
- Caps, headbands, bandanas, wristbands, and socks must be totally white except for a single trim of color no wider than one centimeter.
- 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. In particular shoes with pimples around the outside of the toes shall not be permitted. The foxing around the toes must be smooth.
- 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 color no wider than one centimeter. In addition, common standards of decency are required at all times.
- Medical supports and equipment should be white if possible, but may be colored if absolutely necessary.
Lucky for you, there is no dress code for watching Wimbledon from the comfort of your own living room.