Wimbledon, the oldest tennis championship in the world, began today. And as has been the case since 1877 both players were dressed in all-white apparel and shoes.
That's right. 137 years later, the tradition of all-white apparel endures at the All England Tennis Club. Not only does it endure, but this year officials, displeased with players' attempts to introduce color while also abiding by the dress code, are cracking down on players' clothing and footwear choices. Notices were posted in locker rooms and officials will speak with players who fall “out of line.” The whole thing sounds a little crazy. Not to mention, the only reason that players have to wear white is tradition. Silly, right?
Wimbledon is often considered the most prestigious grand slam in the tennis world and the tradition, heritage, all-white dress code, fancy hats, and general decorum all contribute to the emotions and beliefs people have about the tournament. Without the formality and without the tradition, would Wimbledon be what it is today? Who's to say, but there is certainly a strong argument to be made for those who are in the “no, it wouldn't” camp.
In fact, players including Andy Roddick and Justin Gimelstob, both of whom believe that tennis needs to change to appeal to the masses, believe that we shouldn't change a thing about Wimbledon.
So aren't we just making a big deal about nothing?
Perhaps not. Sure, it may take away from the tradition of the tournament, but let's not forget where the “tennis whites” tradition originated and what it meant at the time that it was introduced. Tennis whites were introduced because white had become a popular color of leisure for the wealthy in the late 1800s, and by wearing tennis whites one further proved that he could afford to get his clothing dirty and pay for it to be washed and/or replaced.
So the seemingly harmless tradition isn't so harmless, and we believe that it's worth discussing.
Something tells me that Wimbledon won't abandon it anytime soon though.
After all, they were the last of the tennis grand slams to institute equal pay for men and women's champions. It took them two years longer than the U.S. Open and Australian Open and one year longer than the French Open.
Therefore, while I will definitely watch my fair share of tennis over the course of these next two weeks, I can't say that I'll appreciate the pomp and circumstance that accompanies Wimbledon. The price of tradition might just be too high.