Simon de Burton

Should Wimbledon ditch its all-white dress code?

  • From Spectator Life

As this year’s Wimbledon Championships will demonstrate, tennis has moved on a bit in the past half-century: rackets are no longer wooden, ‘Hawkeye’ settles the ‘You cannot be serious’ moments and the winner of the ‘gentlemen’s singles’ competition will trouser £1.7m (compared with the measly £5,000 Stan Smith took home in 1972).

But what happened to those great outfits from the days of Smith, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors? The striped shirts, the short shorts, the groovy track tops. Where did all the style go?

The answer dates back to the late 1990s when the organising committee tightened-up the dress code, side-lining the previous protocol requiring clothing worn on court to be ‘predominantly white’ in favour of a ’90 per cent’ rule.

And in 2014 the regulations became even more draconian with an edict that forbade any non-white clothing that could at any time become visible during play ‘due to movement, lighting or perspiration….’

Bjorn Borg wins Wimbledon dressed in Fila in 1978 (Getty)

In an age when anything goes, traditionalists (such as me) usually like to see old standards being upheld – but, when it comes to tennis kit, some people of a certain age (such as me) feel nostalgic for those golden Wimbledon years when favourite players could be instantly identified by what they wore.

Since the enforcement of the all-white dress code at Wimbledon, the only look that sticks in my mind is Rafa Nadal’s sleeveless shirt worn in the 2006-2008 finals

One man who misses it more than most is Miguel Seabra, a tennis journalist and broadcaster who has commentated at some of the most memorable matches of the past 30 years.

‘I grew up watching tennis from the second half of the ‘70s on. Even then there were long standing associations between clothing and former champions from the 20s and 30s such as René Lacoste and Fred Perry, and there were a few players fully outfitted by Adidas such as Stan Smith, Ilie Nastase and Tom Okker,’ says Seabra.

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