Why do Tennis Players Wear White? [From Function to Fashion]

By Lin
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Perhaps you have watched plenty of men’s and women’s competitions on TV, and whenever Wimbledon comes around, you have one question that goes unanswered.

Why do the players have to wear white clothing?

It is a question that many tennis fans (and even some players) often ask but often doesn’t get answered.

In this article, we will look at the science and tradition behind wearing white clothing and why it is so fiercely upheld as the Wimbledon dress code.

Table Content

The Science Behind Wearing White Clothing

Scientifically speaking, wearing white is potentially the best option for all athletes, especially in warmer weather.

The white material is excellent for reflecting light, ensuring clothes do not absorb as much heat as other darker colors.

Therefore, while playing long sets in the height of summer, wearing weight will help keep players cool and hydrated.

Why do Players Wear White at Wimbledon? Explaining the Grand Slam dress code

Wearing white at Wimbledon is not a new phenomenon.

In fact, the rule has been in place since 1890, when the club first introduced that players must wear predominantly white attire.

While the rule may seem outdated to some tennis fans today, it was perfectly in keeping with the times when it was introduced.

Many tennis clubs required players to wear white clothing in this era, but over the years, other major tournaments have moved with the times, allowing players more flexibility over their clothing.

As a result, the Wimbledon clothing rules have grown in stature before becoming renowned for their strict rules and prestigious traditions.

The Official Wimbledon Dress Code

The technical rule for players at Wimbledon is that they must wear “almost entirely white.”

However, cream or off-white colors are strictly off-limits. There are small areas of color allowed, but they must be no wider than 1cm, ensuring white remains the predominant focus.

The color rules spill out into other aspects of the player’s attire, including tracksuits and caps and even any underwear that may end up on display.

If you are attending Wimbledon as a spectator, you are not expected to wear white, and the rules are significantly relaxed, although there are still some clothing choices that are discouraged.

These include sports shorts, dirty trainers, vests, or ripped jeans.

How do elite-level players feel about the dress code?

As you might imagine, there are some divided opinions on the all-white dress code that Wimbledon requires of its players.

Some believe the tradition is part of the event and that wearing white at Wimbledon is as symbolic as playing the French Open on clay, whereas others believe that the traditions seem somewhat outdated.

Even some of the top players, such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams, have been vocal about their discontent with the strictness of the rules.

Have players broken the dress code before?

Unsurprisingly, there are a few memorable examples of players breaking the strict dress code.

The lace undergarment – 1949

Photo Credit: George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images

People have been breaking the strict Wimbledon dress code for many years, with one of the most notable examples occurring way back in 1949 when Gertrude Moran wore lace undergarments.

The Catsuit – 1985

While technically still wearing white, Anne White (yes, that is her real second name!) caused a stir back in 1985 as she played in an all-white ensemble.

The Bandana – 1987

Photo Credit: ATP Official

Pat Cash is one of the most popular tennis players of all time, but even his career was not without some controversy.

In 1987, Cash sported a black and white bandana, yet still managed to go on and win the title that year.

The ’15’ jacket – 2009

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Although Federer didn’t technically break any dress code rules, he still got himself in hot water in 2009 when he wore a jacket that had the number 15 on the back to commemorate the Swiss great’s 15 grand slam wins.

The issue? He wore it before even winning the final!

While the Wimbledon dress code does not cover outer attire and tennis equipment, it is still an unspoken rule to show respect to your opponent.

The pink bra straps – 2017

Photo Credit: USAToday

Another memorable moment occurred much more recently in 2017 when Venus Williams was forced to swap bras in the middle of a match after an official noticed she was wearing a pink bra.

The Rules at Other Tennis Grand Slam Tournaments

For the French, Australian, and American Open, there is no specific dress code, and players are certainly expected to wear all-white clothing.

However, it is expected that players wear clothes that are of a respectable length and appropriate for a professional sporting competition.

All men tend to opt for a pair of shorts, a short-sleeve t-shirt, or a vest, and some choose to wear a cap.

Women tend to open for a pair of shorts or a sporting skirt, a t-shirt or vest, and some opt for a cap or visor, spending on how they have styled their hair.


Why do people wear all white to play tennis?

It is a tradition upheld by the England Lawn Tennis Association to ensure any players competing in Wimbledon must wear white clothing.

Is it mandatory to wear white at Wimbledon?

Yes, and it is a rule that is fiercely enforced. Tennis whites are non-negotiable at any Wimbledon tournament.

Do tennis outfits have to be white?

Tennis outfits only have to be white when playing at Wimbledon due to the strict dress code. However, there is other suitable tennis attire players can wear for other competitions.

Final Thoughts on Tennis Players Wearing White

As you can see, the reasons behind tennis players wearing white at Wimbledon are rooted in tradition and show no signs of going anywhere any time soon.

The next time you watch Wimbledon, be on the lookout for player attire to see which players are sticking to the strict traditions and which ones attempt to place their own style on the all-white requirements.

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.