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Venus Williams changed her pink bra during a rain delay that halted her 2017 Wimbledon first-round match. | © Mark Greenwood/IPS/REX/Shutterstock
Venus Williams changed her pink bra during a rain delay that halted her 2017 Wimbledon first-round match. | © Mark Greenwood/IPS/REX/Shutterstock

Why Wimbledon Participants Wear All-White

Picture of Michael LoRé
Sports Editor
Updated: 5 July 2017

Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It has been played at the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London, since 1877. With so much history, it’s no surprise the tournament is also full of tradition.

One of the more famous (and somewhat controversial) traditions is the all-white dress code for participating athletes. In fact, proper apparel is at the discretion of the referee, who can force a player to change his or her clothing. Most recently, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams changed her pink bra during a rain delay that interrupted her 2017 first-round match.

But why the big fuss over a dress code?

The rule apparently dates back to the 1800s when the sight of sweaty patches of colored clothing was seen as inappropriate. The “predominately in white” rule was adopted by Wimbledon in 1963 before it evolved into the “almost entirely in white rule” in 1995. Accessories were included in the rule beginning in 2004.

Wimbledon dress code guidelines:

– No solid mass of colouring

– Little or no dark or bold colour

– No fluorescent colours

– Preference towards pastel colours

– Preference for back of shirt to be totally white

– Preference for shorts and skirts to be totally white

All other items of clothing including hats, socks and shoes to be almost entirely white.

And there are no exceptions to these rules, no matter if the athlete is a global star or first-time participant. In 2002, Anna Kournikova was forced to replace her black shorts with white ones, except she didn’t have any white shorts, so she had to borrow a pair of baggy men’s shorts from her coach. In 2013, Roger Federer had to replace his orange-soled sneakers because they violated the dress code. Andre Agassi, known for his outlandish and colorful outfits (and jean shorts), refused to play at Wimbledon until he turned 21.