Today 30 June and we are well into the first week of the The Championships. Of course I am referring to the All England Club Tennis Championships played at Wimbledon. I am a bit sad that I have never attended the Championships. I have been fortunate enough to attend other major sporting events – just not Wimbledon. That must be rectified – maybe they would take me on as Official Tournament Wrapper. I could wrap the tennis racquets in cellophane after they have been restrung ( I would also volunteer to run purposefully onto court to hand it to Andy Murray), or wrap the strawberries and cream or wrap the canisters of balls – I know a great wrap for cylinders. I could even wrap the fabulous Wimbledon biscuits from the Biscuiteers.
If I was the official wrapper, I would no doubt be required to wrap in predominantly white, to comply with the tournament dress code. The on-court attire rules went under an update in 2014, which perversely and because you can is now more extensive than ever with an in-depth, ten-point list of dos and dont’s for players.
The history of the almost entirely in white rule is said to stem from the 1800s, when tennis was a genteel sport played at social gatherings – none of this professional sport stuff. The mere thought of sweaty patches on coloured clothing was considered to be inappropriate, so the practice of wearing predominantly white clothes was adopted to avoid embarrassment. The All England Club which hosts Wimbledon was founded in 1868 (initially as the All England Croquet Club) and introduced Lawn Tennis in 1875,at a time when Tennis Whites were the go.
The Club has maintained it’s all white standards and will not tolerate white creep. In 1972, the US Open relaxed it’s rules on coloured clothing, but if anything Wimbledon is getting stricter and stricterer. Guidelines for clothing include”white does not include off-white or cream,” that coloured trim can be “no wider than one centimetre” and that “undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)” are not allowed. Fair enough. Even the underwear has to be white. Guideline number 10 on the official website is addresses a key point – medical supports and equipment should be white if possible but may be coloured if absolutely necessary.
A number of lead players have had their understanding of all white challenged. In 2013, former Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was told not to wear his Orange-soled trainers again after they were judged to have broken the All England club’s dress code. Seems he may have fallen foul of Dress Code Guideline number 8 which includes the clear direction “In particular shoes with pimples around the outside of the toes shall not be permitted. The foxing around the toes must be smooth”
In 2002, poster girl of the day Anna Kournikova had to replace her black shorts with a pair of white ones borrowed from her coach. Andre Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon early in his career because his signature denim shorts and garish tops didn’t pass muster. That was before he met Steffi Graf and majorly calmed down. In 2014, nine times winner Martina Navratilova was told the blue stripes on her skirt were simply not okay. She pondered how that was possible, since she’d worn similar skirts at Wimbledon throughout her career, some of which are held by the Wimbledon Museum. Seems the Dress Code people don’t interface with the museum people.
Now to the fun facts which are beautifully summed up in the article Wimbledon Dress Code – 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know. I love Fun Fact 2 – the official Wimbledon headband actually violates the Code. And what about Fun Fact Four (actually it’s not a fun fact at all) that according to 1987 Winner and noted traditionalist Pat Cash, female players have previously been “forced to play braless” in order to comply with the tournament’s code. Cash told BBC Radio Live that he had seen players forced to go back into the locker room to remove the colorful pieces of clothing and, with no other options, play without a sports bra on. One wonders how he know this with such precision.
However, they would be quick to point out how they do move with the times. In 2003 a long-standing tradition of requiring players to bow or courtsey to the Royal Box on the Centre Court was discontinued by the Duke of Kent (a largely unknown Royal and All England Club’s President) who deemed it anachronistic. But note to self all you tennis pros – the requirement does stand if the Queen or Prince of Wales is in attendance, because that apparently is not anachronistic. In 2006 the prizes for the Men and Women’s tournaments were made equal – can’t quite figure out why you would trumpet loudly doing the right thing.
I had a little Pimms and thought about this year’s Wimbledon wrap. This time last year, I went for a wrap featuring the Wimbledon colours of white, purple and green – which I now see was a clear wrap code violation. This year it’s all about the predominantly white – so I will have a predominately white pleated wrap to reference a white pleated tennis skirt with a white ribbon with a ball motif and some netting to set the scene . Yes…yes I know there is just a hint of silvery colour which I am bringing in under the medical support exception as clearly stated in the guidelines.