Why Do Tennis Players Have To Wear White At Wimbledon? The Tradition Goes Back A Long Way

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon

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Tennis has a history that stretches all the way back to the 12th century, and while it’s evolved a great deal over the years, it’s also steeped in close to a millennium of the various traditions associated with the sport.

There’s really no event where those customs are thrust front and center quite like Wimbledon, the Grand Slam that’s been held at All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club since the inaugural tournament was hosted at the iconic venue all the way back in 1877.

Spectators who make the trek to Wimbledon will get the chance to experience a few of those traditions thanks to the Pimm’s Cup cocktails that serve as its unofficial drink and the strawberries and cream that are popular to the point where organizers move 38 tons of fruit on an annual basis.

Players are also expected to abide by a number of restrictions, including refraining from swearing, breaking rackets, and “ball abuse.”

However, none of those rules are more noticeable than the strict dress code that requires every single competitor to don a white outfit before heading out to one of its hallowed grass courts (Andre Agassi boycotted the tournament multiple times because of the rule, and Nick Kyrgios said he got hit with a $10,000 fine for wearing a red hat and shoes during the trophy presentation in 2022).

The existence of the dress code is pretty evident to anyone who watches the action unfold at Wimbledon, but what may be slightly less clear to many people is the reason it exists in the first place.

Why do players have to wear white at Wimbledon?

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When you consider the first Wimbledon tournament was held near the height of the Victorian Era, you may not be shocked to learn the all-white dress code is inextricably linked to the fairly conservative sensibilities that defined that span.

With that said, the French beat the English to the punch when it came to prioritizing white, which was the color of choice for tennis players in the former as early as the 16th century and the aesthetic adopted by wealthy players when lawn tennis took the latter by storm (the idea was that members of the working class couldn’t afford to consistently wear white due to how easily it displays stains).

White also had some practical benefits, as it was easier to stay cool in the heat by wearing the shade as opposed to darker clothing. It’s also believed the end result of playing tennis in the summer led to Wimbledon adopting the dress code, as sweat marks that were viewed as “improper” in Victorian times were harder to detect on an all-white outfit.

While plenty of players have taken issue with Wimbledon’s borderline draconian stance on white clothing, the event’s organizers have made it very clear they have no plans to change course based on the discipline that’s been doled out to players who’ve supposedly crossed the line by wearing a pink bra or rocking shoes with orange soles 

You kind of have to respect the dedication.

Connor Toole avatar and headshot for BroBible
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.