Words | Katia Dragotis
London, UK –
The dignified cheers and echoed chants of “Novak” and “Halep” may have been buzzing through center court, but behind the respective championship hardware, the fashion stir was at a lull.
Moreover, a dull white.
Minus a few grass stains, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep had more in common this year than just the respective hardware they took home from the lawns of the All England Club.
They also had matching outfits.
Along with every other competitor to step foot on the sod of summer’s hottest tournament, honoring a timeless tradition and static history of sport and fashion by doing one thing in common.
Much in part to the strict dress code in place at Wimbledon, every athlete wears an all-white fit.
And not just a shade or a trim. We’re talking head to toe, blanco.
To enjoy the privilege of playing tennis before the Queen, you have to wear enough white on the court to earn entrance into one of Dwayne Wade’s famous, color-themed, South Beach soirees.
Where many sporting events and venues open dialogue and discussion about what the players ARE wearing, Wimbledon serves as a rare athletic contest that focuses more on what players are NOT allowed to wear. As in colors, or any kind.
Which, on paper, may sound a little bit restrictive, fascist, and regressive. But when you look a little bit deeper, what lies within those restrictions is the ability for athletes to shine through the fashion they sport in the most elite way.
The history of Wimbledon’s ‘tennis whites’ dates back to the Victorian era, a nod to the social event status of the sport. The white hue was believed to expose less sweat on players, thus making the sport more proper. And still today, in the social media era of 2019, that same ease of social properness still reflects off the bleached apparel of its champions.
There’s no greater way to exhibit one’s self-expression than through said individual’s sense of style and fashion choices. However, at Wimbledon, it’s the fashion-backward, blank canvas that aids in showcasing the greatness of the athletes on stage. While some regard the neutral dress as rigid and archaic, what Wimbledon’s dress code provides is an open book of excellence to exude from.
There’s an honor in toeing the lines in stark tones and tennis shoes. But don’t get it twisted. Sometimes a lack of color… can bring out a surfeit of creativity.
Soon after, athletes in the 1930’s like Alice Marble and Helen Jacobs, once again found a way to break boundaries in their ‘tennis whites,’ sporting more masculine shorts outfits for the first time at Wimbledon. The implications of these fashion choices were only escalated by the neutral tones, further allowing “masculine” fashion choices to be normalized amongst competition for women.
Weaving the web of personality touches within the fashion of Wimbledon, ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ aka Gertrude Moran was a pioneer in athletic design that modern day players can look to today. Her collaborations with designer Ted Tinling edged the boundaries of regulations, revealing at the time, a scandalous peek at lace undergarments. Noting that women in 1949 “… Could be dominant and athletic, while also allowing a sexy personality to appear.”
As modern day functional tennis outfits have turned more fashion-focused, the current field of Wimbledon athletes have found a delicate balance of meshing fashion with athletic function in their outfits.
Serena Williams, the tennis fashion icon herself, showcased her excellence in the early 2019 rounds with a subtle nod to her success. The Nike emblem that adorned her Monokini style gear featured 34 Swarovski crystals, the age she was when she won Wimbledon last.
Without the distraction of elaborate fashion expression, the Wimbledon White dress code allows its athletes a chance to showcase their unique talents, while simultaneously affording them an opportunity to push the social boundaries of their sport.
Take 15-year old Wimbledon phenom, Coco Grauff, for example. Don’t get us wrong, we love Gucci, Chanel, and Amiri as much as the next sports fashion editorialist. But Grauff didn’t need any of them to make a statement to the tennis world that there’s a new girl in town… and she’s coming for that Rosewater Dish.