Wimbledon: The controversy of tennis’s strict 146-year-old dress code

But while some ground has been conceded, the rest of the code remains as straight as the baseline on Centre Court, with competitors being told they “must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white”; it adds: “white does not include off white or cream”. Trims in different colours are allowed, on necklines, cuffs, caps, headbands, bandanas, wristbands, socks, shorts, skirts and undergarments. But, before players start embracing the rainbow, the code is clear that trims should be no wider than a centimetre. And if there was any concern that players would start pattern clashing, the code decrees: “Colour contained within patterns will be measured as if it is a solid mass of colour and should be within the one centimetre (10mm) guide”. Plus: “Logos formed by variations of material or patterns are not acceptable.”

The all-white dress code has, Robert Lake, author of A Social History of Tennis in Britain, tells BBC Culture, ever been thus: “White hides sweat the best, looks clean, sharp and tidy, representing goodness (aesthetically) and, given cricket connections, also reflects upper-middle-class leisure historically.” Although, he notes, it has evolved in some ways: in the late-Victorian period women were expected to dress in line with “cultural expectations of appropriate dress, so (crudely speaking)… modesty”. In the interwar period, he says, it was more about fashion, in the 1950s it became more about “utility, function, comfort”, and, in “the open era… conventional standards of female attractiveness, perhaps even sexiness” are what became key drivers of what players wore.