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The Wimbledon dress code

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus - The Freeman

In the oldest and the most prestigious tennis tournament, players, for more than a hundred years, must follow a strict dress code which partly states that participants must wear “suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white” upon entry on the playing courts. Likewise, shades of cream or off-white are not allowed.

Launched in 1877, tennis whites at Wimbledon were believed to be the ideal color to be worn by players. During the Victorian era, it was considered improper to perspire so to hide sweat stains as much as possible while playing, white outfits were instituted. White was also considered ‘cooling’.

The “almost entirely white” had players get around the rules which prompted the All-England Club to cover loopholes, thus rules were updated in 1963, then in 1995 and in 2014 where the 10-part equipment and clothing decree was issued.

Variation to the rules allows non-white trimmings not more than a centimeter wide which can only be on “the neckline of the shirt, sleeve cuff or outside seam of shorts, skirts or shorts leg”. Also within the one centimeter rule are manufacturer logos and sponsors.

Shoes, caps, bandanas, sweat bands, wristbands and socks must adhere to the all-white rule with large manufacturer logos “not encouraged”.

Stars were not exempt to the strict rules. Between 1988 and 1990, Andre Agassi, known for his brightly colored tennis outfits, opposed the rule and refused to play at the All-England Club. He finally wore the tennis whites in 1992 and won his first Wimbledon title.

For wearing a black and white headband, Pat Cash was reprimanded in 1987. In 2013, Roger Federer’s attention was called when the shoes he was wearing at the tournament had bright orange soles. The rule book says, “Shoes must be almost entirely white. Soles and laces must be completely white.” A few days ago, reigning tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios, who will be facing Novak Djokovic in the finals, was fined for wearing red sneakers and a red cap.

The rule includes undergarments. They must match the all-white outfits if they can be “visible during play”. This recently had gotten some women players reprimanded because their sport bras were non-white. A few were forced to play braless. This skirted the phrase on the rule book that says ”common standards of decency are required at all times”.

The English are known to be prim and proper. Wimbledon is in England and they have their rules, like it or not. Anyway, it’s only two weeks on the tennis calendar where players are required to wear white. Yes, it’s a nice contrast seeing white-clad players on Wimby’s grass courts.

It’s a fitting end to a somewhat controversial Wimbledon year when two equally controversial players in Kyrgios and Djokovic fight for the trophy.  The Australian holds a 2-0 edge over Novak in their head-to-head duel.

Djokovic is gunning for his 7th Wimbledon title, Kyrgios for his first ever majors title.

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