Wimbledon has long required players to wear outfits that are “predominantly in white” or “almost entirely in white”. But this year, a 10-part decree was introduced in the competitors’ guide stating that “white does not include off-white or cream” and allowing only “a single trim of color no wider than one centimeter”. The almost-all-white rule now explicitly covers caps, headbands, bandannas, wristbands, shoes and even “any undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)”.
Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club, said the time was right to make accessories subject to the policy used for shirts, shorts and socks. Small sponsor logos may include colour, and medical supports can be colored if “absolutely necessary”, the guide said.
The usually unflappable Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, sounded exasperated this week when asked about the rules. “White, white, full-on white,” he said. “I think it’s very strict. My personal opinion: I think it’s too strict.”
Last year, tournament officials told Federer that the colour of the soles of his shoes was too much and that he had to change his shoes for the next match. “If you look at the pictures of Edberg, Becker, there was some colours,” Federer added, referring to the Wimbledon champions Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.
The more specific dress code, which clothing designers and players were notified of months in advance, has been strictly enforced. In the qualifying rounds, the American Rhyne Williams was told to cover the black underside of his hat brim with white tape before he could continue playing. Even Martina Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion, was told that the pale blue stripe on the skirt she was wearing for an invitational doubles match was against the rules.
Navratilova questioned how a tradition was being upheld if the type of clothing she had been allowed to wear for decades, some of which is in the Wimbledon Museum, was suddenly forbidden. “I think they’ve gone too far,” she said.
The crackdown comes after years of clothing manufacturers’ adding more pops of colour to Wimbledon ensembles in an effort to stand out in a sea of white. In 2010, Serena Williams wore an off-white dress with red trim and bright red undershorts. She described the outfit as a tribute to strawberries and cream, Wimbledon’s traditional snack. When she won her fifth Wimbledon title, in 2012, Williams accented her white dress with a headband,