Why tennis players wear white

Why tennis players wear white at wimbledon

Since the late 1800s when the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club was founded there has been a strict dress code: competitors in their Tennis Championship games could wear any color… as long as it was white! But every time I watch Wimbledon I can’t help but wonder why this rule was established. Why do tennis players wear white at Wimbledon?

It seems that there are quite a few theories in circulation regarding this time-honored tradition. The following four reasons are the most often touted ones:

Reason 1: White masks sweat

In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was considered extremely unladylike and ungentlemanly to show signs of perspiration. As a result, white tennis outfits were encouraged because the color white is particularly good at masking any dreaded sweat marks. (Atkin 2010)

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Reason 2: White reflects the summer heat

The Wimbledon Tennis Championships occur in the summer months so one often-suggested idea is that the white dress code is a practical matter to ensure the competitors keep cool as their clothes reflect the sun’s heat more efficiently.

Considering that in the early days of tennis long sleeves, long pants and ankle-length dresses were expected to be worn by gentlemen and ladies, the white color was particularly important as the main method to relieve heat.

Reason 3: The high standard of the club was reflected in the high standards and requirements from club members

Some sources suggest that the all-white dress code at Wimbledon was strictly adhered to in order to create an exclusive, high-class feeling at the Tennis club. Crisp, white clothes carried an underlying implication that all their members were well-kept, clean, civilized, respectful of rules and generally “high-class”.

To this day critics are heard saying that the white clothes rule adds an air of classiness to the Wimbledon Championships.

Reason 4: Tennis players wear white because it’s become a tradition

After a while, the rule that tennis players wear white at Wimbledon became a tradition, which lent yet another reason for the dress code: adhering to it simply to respect the history of the Wimbledon Tennis Club.

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Tennis players wearing white through the ages

Although the color code hasn’t changed much over the years, the fashions have changed immensely! Check out some of these earlier tennis outfits worn at Wimbledon in the late 1800s and early 1900s:

Men’s tennis fashion in 1880:

why tennis players wear white

Image Source: Wikipedia

Yes, in the early days long white pants were worn to play tennis! The first man to wear shorts at Wimbledon was Bunny Austin in 1932.

Women’s tennis fashion in 1884:

why do they wear white at wimbledon

Image source: www.wimbledon.com

I know it doesn’t look like it but these women holding the rackets are dressed for tennis! The first women who played tennis at Wimbledon had to wear a white heavy flanel-like material, bustles, hats, corsets and some even opted for furs! The tennis fashion remained conservative for many years. Here’s another picture from 29 years later in 1913:

Vintage tennis fashion: Women wearing white at the Tennis Champions, 1913

It was only in 1919 that corsets vanished and lighter calf-length frocks with short-sleeves were introduced to Wimbledon, as can be seen in this 1920s photograph:

Vintage black and white photo of Womens Tennis Fashion in the 1920s

We’ve come a long way since then!

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Atkin. R. 2010. AELTC, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club official website. Fashion at Wimbledon.

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2 Responses to Why tennis players wear white

  1. mumble says:

    I recently discovered the story (I don’t know whether it’s true or not) that the English rugby team wears white following the school colours of Rugby School, where the game was supposedly invented.

  2. hodia says:

    Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thank you

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