There is no question that tennis and fashion go hand in hand, and the history of tennis fashion proves that the style for this game has certainly evolved over time. But one thing that has not changed (much) when it comes to tennis fashion is the standard of wearing “tennis whites” on the courts. In fact it is the most famous tennis Open of all, Wimbledon, that has created this tradition, and in a 127 year history, Wimbledon’s tradition is one that is still revered and respected today. Wearing tennis whites is still an important part of the 127 year long tradition that is Wimbledon, but the fashion standard of wearing tennis whites has certainly changed over time.
As with most fashion standards, it has been the women players of this sport that have led to evolutions that exist today in tennis fashion. It was women that led to the shorter skirts and sleeveless tops that are standard tennis attire today. In 1890, Wimbledon imposed a strict tennis whites rule as this became the common color to wear on the court, as it was the color that best hid sweat stains. Because playing tennis, even back in 1890, was an elite sport where one wanted to “look good” the form of tennis whites became a sport staple.
From 1890 to present, Wimbledon wants athletes to maintain a conservative look, and has carried the tennis whites tradition to contemporary Wimbledon fashion. It was shortly after World War I when women players began to express a more open minded approach to tennis fashion. 1922 was the first time when color appeared on the court in bandeau form, when Suzanne Lenglen bravely donned a hair bandeau in a bright bold color that definitely had people talking. For other women players at the time, with no heavy criticism from Wimbledon, this meant an open door to bend the rules on “tennis whites”.
Tennis fashion that strayed beyond the golden standard of tennis whites would not change so drastically until the Williams sisters came on the scene. Serena and Venus Williams dominated Wimbledon and many other of the infamous tennis opens throughout the late ‘90’s. And people were not just talking about their amazing talent, but also about their fashion. These were players that knew how to play with the Wimbledon Cup traditional standard, with Serena still showing on court for the U.S. Open in a denim skirt and boots!
Does this mean that “tennis whites” are gone for good? Never. Tennis is a sport that revels in tradition and respect, and Wimbledon will never veer from a 127 year old tradition. Even the infamous Williams sisters who love to push the envelope respect the Wimbledon rule.
As you can see here, both Serena and Venus adopted stylish and sleek tennis whites for Wimbledon 2010. Serena went for a more streamlined look by Nike adopting the strawberries and cream theme inspired by Wimbledon, where her sister Venus went a little more flashy in traditional tennis whites she designed herself, in a look inspired by one of her favorites, Tina Turner.
Tennis whites are not a thing of the past, it is all about making it your own, and the Williams sisters are perfect examples of staying with tradition, and making tradition contemporary. What has changed is the conservative nature of how strict these rules are kept, ensuring the world of fashion and tennis always stays en pointe with a contemporary world, in one of the world’s most traditional sports.