Wimbledon is known for traditions and royalties and strictly adhering to rules and recommendations. In order to maintain that prestige, the organisers have to ensure that players, officials and ball kids follow the rules to the tee. For players there is a strict all-whites policy, for officials a green and purple code and for ball boys the blue t-shirts and shorts. But the all-white gets the most attention because, obviously, the players get the most eyeballs. Keeping that in mind, all-white has been a rule that is enforced on both men and women since the 19th century. Previously the officials used to make a little leeway but now that is not extended – even if you’re 18 years old and playing in boy’s doubles.
That was the case for boy’s doubles top seeds Zsombor Piros of Hungary and Wu Yibing China who were ‘checked’ by an umpire after their black underwear became visible not over or under their white shorts but apparently through them. If the bizarre nature of an inspection on court wasn’t enough, they were given white underwears to go out and change to!
On Thursday, there was a repeat of the incident with the player asked to go change before the match could begin. After a ten minute delay, the match began but not without some hilarity for the audience (or grossing the people out) and relief for the strict organisers.
As per the rules, which were revamped in 2014, athletes may only break up their all-white outfits with a coloured trim of 1cm in width.
This isn’t the first time Wimbledon organisers have strictly laid down the law as far as the all-white rule is concerned. “I believe some of the girls didn’t have suitable sports bras and had to go without them. It has absolutely gone ridiculous,” 1987 Wimbledon winner Pat Cash told the BBC. “It’s archaic thinking. One of the players was called into the referees’ office because he had blue underwear that showed through when he got sweaty so he was told not to wear dark underwear.”
Previous instances of breaking the all-white rule
In 2013, Roger Federer was told he could not wear his orange-soled shoes because they violated the dress code of completely white.
Two years later, Nick Kyrgios of Australia was asked to to turn his headband inside out because it was too colourful. The decision to warn him got even more comic due to the fact that it was part of Official Wimbledon merchandise and he slammed the call as “utterly pathetic”.
Venus Williams supported the all-white dress code in 2014. She had then said, “I think everyone just kind of glows in white. Obviously not all year, because anything every day is boring. But during these two weeks, it’s nice.” But a few days back, Wimbledon had pulled her up for a pink bra. Even though neither the officials nor the player would confirm the rumours. “Yeah, so I don’t want to talk about undergarments. It’s kind of awkward for me. I’ll leave that to you. You can talk about it with your friends. I’m going to pass.”
Last year, the Nike dress for women was called back for being “too revealing”. The dress labelled “Premier Slam Dress” was slammed by many for being too revealing, a nightie and later Nike acted on it and asked the players to hand over the dress so changes could be made. The Email by Nike to the players reportedly said, “We need to make a small change to your dresses per Wimbledon rules. Could you please bring them by the Nike Wimbledon House? This is VERY important.”