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Why Do the Players at Wimbledon Have to Wear White?

(Photo: Rakkhi Samarasekera)

White became the color of tennis uniforms as a result of the Championships at Wimbledon, UK. It is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s, when tennis was one of the few sports available to women. Sweaty clothes might create the impression that women perspire, which is, of course, something that must be concealed from public view. So the All-England Club mandated white clothes for the players. A 2014 article in the New York Times explains:

In his memoir “Sixty Years in Tennis,” Tinling recalled the uproar caused by a similar dress he made for Betty Hilton the next year when she played in the Wightman Cup, a team competition held at Wimbledon. Hazel Wightman, the namesake of the event and a matriarchal figure in American tennis in that era, objected to the intrusion of color and even suggested that Hilton had lost because she was “self-conscious about the color on her dress.”

The next day, Wightman asked the Wimbledon committee to ban the dresses, and in 1949 there were signs in the Wimbledon dressing rooms saying, “Competitors are required to wear all-white clothing.”

Although Wimbledon officials have occasionally deviated from this standard over the years, recently, they've enforced it rather strictly. Business Insider describes the current rules:

Last year, the Club issued 10-part "decree" included in the competitor's guide all players must follow. Included in the decree are new rules revolving around the wearing of white, including stipulations like:

  • "White does not include off-white or cream."
  • There can only be “a single trim of color no wider than one centimeter.”
  • "Any [colored] undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)” are not allowed. 

-via The Presurfer


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