As the Wimbledon Championships arrives to our local area of SW19 today, there is growing anticipation for those lucky enough to be going along to the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
As always, we can expect to see immaculate grass, an abundance of strawberries and cream, and of course the tennis players kitted out in all-white attire.
With the reputation of being the world’s prestigious tennis tournament, Wimbledon has quite a task to maintain that reputation. There is a delicate balance of upholding the traditions that make the championship unique, whilst also being at the forefront of technology and progress.
In regards to traditions, there is one that causes much debate - and it’s not the strawberries and cream. Yes, it is the “almost entirely white” clothing that tennis players are required to wear.
Tennis whites became somewhat of an institution in the 1800s because of a very practical reason: sweat. Coloured clothing shows sweat spots much more than white clothing, and it wasn’t considered appealing to be showing your sweat spots, especially if you were a lady. White clothing was the obvious choice.
Anyone who has made the choice of a light blue shirt on a hot day will be aware of this issue of visible sweat marks, and no doubt would have at the time regretted not choosing to wear white.
As time has gone on, sweat no longer appears to be an issue with the design of tennis attire. Evident in the vast array of colours on display at championships elsewhere, some colours fare far better than others. Let’s be honest, the majority of us would prefer not to show perspiration, apart from perhaps if we were trying to prove our level of exertion.
Back to Wimbledon, and to the year of 1962. Maria Bueno wore a white dress with a shocking pink underskirt and panties, designed by couturier Ted Tinling. It was after this that Wimbledon ruled that clothing should be predominantly white.
Since then, there have been those who bent the rules to sneak in as much colour as possible. Andre Agassi famously, in defiance, refused to enter the competition for many years, until eventually he decided to comply. It was fortunate for him that he did, as he was the gentlemen's champion in 1992!
In 2014, a 10-part decree of new rules came into effect where it stipulated that, at most, only a single trim of colour should be visible on the neckline, the cuff of the sleeves, on headbands, and on underwear.
When Wimbledon says white, it does not mean off white or cream either. If you are looking for the brightest white possible, then choose "optic white". Think of optic white toothpaste and you will comprehend the brilliance of this particular hue.
As much as there has been debate as to why the rules are so strict, the practicality of white is something to consider as a good enough reason to embrace the rules.
With parameters in place, it also beckons more creativity. Design does not suffer because the colour palette is narrow. As designers and makers, this parameter of white should stimulate more creativity in cut and in cloth. After all, bridal shops certainly do not suffer from a lack of scope.