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Why do players have to wear white clothes when playing at Wimbledon?

The traditions at Wimbledon include the players wearing all-white attire throughout the summer tournament.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Rafael Nadal (ESP) celebrates a point during day eight of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 4, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Simon Stacpoole/OffsideGetty

The Wimbledon Championships are not only the oldest of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments, but are also the most renowned. While the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens each run their tournaments with their own touches, Wimbledon is encumbered with its own long-lasting traditions. From calling the men’s and women’s competitions “Gentlemen’s” and “Ladies’,” respectively, and the historic Centre Court which is still advertisement-free, to requiring all players to wear an all-white dress code. Let’s dive deeper into that last point.

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The reason why tennis players wear white at Wimbledon

So why is it that participants dress “predominately in white” or “almost entirely in white” at the Wimbledon tournament?

The short and straight forward answer is “because it’s in the dress code.” But if we go back in time, we understand the Wimbledon mentality and its English, tradition-loving people.

In the 1880s, when the code was first written, it was frowned upon and considered improper to see a player sweat through their clothes. And because white was the color that least emphasized sweat stains, “tennis whites” became the standard attire for the affluent tennis players who participated at the tournament.

And if there’s one thing we know about the Wimbledon culture, it is that its people love their traditions and take pride in holding on tightly to them.

Coco Gauff during a practice session ahead of Wimbledon 2022.
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Coco Gauff during a practice session ahead of Wimbledon 2022.John Walton - PA ImagesGetty

Has any tennis player ever not worn white at Wimbledon?

While it almost seems impossible to imagine how a Wimbledon tournament would go if a player decides to wear a non-white uniform, there actually have been some players who have tried not to over the years. The player who has tested the tournament’s waters various times is American superstar Andre Agassi, who is considered the most memorable case the tournament has had when it comes to refusing to abide by the rules. Because Agassi could not wear his flashy clothing that were largely part of his personal brand at the time, he refused to play at Wimbledon from 1988 to 1990. When he did finally decide to play he went all in on white, with a legendary moment as he took his tracksuit off...

But he wasn’t the only one who was approached. Even Roger Federer, one of the best men’s tennis players of all time, was not above the dress code. Back in 2013, the Swiss was rebuked for wearing orange-soled white shoes at the tournament, and was forced to replace them in his following match. The year after, legendary Czech-American Martina Navratilova also had an intense incident with the tournament officials, when they told her that her blue-striped skirt did not follow the code.

It would not be crazy to think that the Wimbledon traditions will stay put for as long as the sport of tennis lives.


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