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Wimbledon's motto: If it's all-white, then it's alright

───   16:06 Tue, 26 Jun 2018

Wimbledon's motto: If it's all-white, then it's alright | News Article
The Williams sisters at Wimbledon

Wimbledon starts next Monday and for traditionalists there is nothing quite like it in the sporting world.

For the players around the world, packing for Wimbledon is unique. There are no tricky decisions to make as to which colour combination will match their eyes, sponsors or superstitions. 

The only colour allowed is white, and that includes clothes that are not designed to be seen. 

Wimbledon's dress code is one of many elements that embody the tournament's distinctiveness, as integral a part of the scene in SW19 as the grass and the strawberries. 

In recent years, as tennis clothing has become more colourful, Wimbledon has become stricter.

The ladies have become used to having underwear or bra straps fall foul of the regulation, but last year three of the junior boys were sent off to change their pants, a garment rarely spied undershorts. 

But in an athletic sport like tennis, underwear can become visible through stretching, falling, or simply perspiration.

One reason Wimbledon insists on white clothing is tradition. Lawn tennis was predominantly played in white clothing from the game’s beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. 

The men wore flannels (trousers), and the ladies stockings under long skirts, but they still wore white. Mostly. In fact the flannels were often cream and some early male players wore rugby union-style long-sleeved hooped jerseys.

However, white soon became the convention for both sexes with few real exceptions until 1962 when Maria Bueno, the elegant Brazilian champion who died earlier this month, wore pants designed by Teddy Tingling that visibly featured splashes of colour. 

The following year Wimbledon issued a formal regulation insisting that competitors dressed "predominantly in white". 

With the changing social attitudes of the 1960s, coloured clothing became increasingly common and the US Open permitted it from 1972. 

While Wimbledon held out, the "predominantly white" rule allowed some leeway and the women, in particular, took advantage with champions such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong and, as recently as 1998, Jana Novotna, wearing clothing with significant splashes of colour.

However, successive tightening of the regulations means both apparel and footwear are now almost entirely white - cream and other off-white variants are also banned. 

As the All England Lawn Tennis Club said last year: “To us, the all-white rule isn’t about fashion, it’s about letting the players and the tennis stand out. 

Everyone who steps on a Wimbledon court, from a reigning champion through to qualifier, does so wearing white. 

"That’s a great leveller. If a player wants to get noticed, they must do so through their play. That’s a tradition we’re proud of.” 

African News Agency (ANA)

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