The oldest, most prestigious tennis tournament in the world returns to London next week, with stars like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Iga Swiatek expected to grace the courts.
While spectators’ eyes are firmly focused on the talent on display and the incredible skill being demonstrated, the media lens often finds itself attracted to the ‘off-the-court’ style instead, snapping some of the most traditionally fashionable fits on the planet.
Would it be fair to say that Wimbledon has established itself as one of the world’s most glamorous events? Let’s take a look…
Wimbledon has had a longstanding relationship with The Royal Family. The first royal visit was in 1907, when King George V and Queen Mary, then the Prince and Princess of Wales, attended.
Despite being a patron of the All-English Lawn Club, the late Queen Elizabeth II only attended Wimbledon on four occasions, the last of which was in 2010 to watch Andy Murray beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.
There is no denying that, just like the FA Cup and the Grand National, the Royal Family’s association with the annual South London event instantly enhances its stature and makes it, well, regal!
When it comes to fashion, however, it was the late Princess Diana and, in more recent years, her son’s wife, Princess Kate, who really made a unique, albeit impressively stylish royal stamp on Wimbledon.
Diana’s bold prints in the late 80s and 90s were well-received by both fashion critics and the wider public. These outfits, often a classic blazer and power shoulder combo, delicately negotiated a fashion-forward look from the 90s while in-fitting with what was a rather strict Wimbledon dress code that, if broken, could easily be a cause for controversy (more on that to come).
Kate, meanwhile, a now-regular attendee at SW19, often sports old money glamour, choosing ‘quiet luxury’ chic as her go-to for the July tournament. The Princess of Wales has often graced the Royal Box with a fitted, sleeved dress in a bold tone.
A Vogue-style piece in the build-up to last year’s event delved into the celebrities and what they’ve chosen to don at the tennis club. One simple observation is that of the sheer amount of Ralph Lauren on show.
Hollywood actress Sienna Miller is a regular visitor and quite often chooses Ralph Lauren as a go-to – having worn a simplistic yet equally stunning striped jumpsuit in 2021. The same year, Derry Girls’ star Nicola Coughlan and model Poppy Delevigne also wore Ralph Lauren, while in 2019, it was Kendall Jenner and Tessa Thompson.
Of course, much like the Royal Family, Ralph Lauren and Wimbledon have a strong, lengthy relationship. Since 2016, Ralph Lauren has been the official outfitter of Wimbledon, owing in many ways to the unique, classy style.
Writing about the collaboration, Tatler journalist Chandler Tregaskes notes: “While all-white is strictly the only way to go for competitors, Ralph Lauren concocted his own elegant colour code for his official uniforms: purple and green (the All-England Club Colours) juxtaposed with a striking navy and embroidered accoutrements. Umpires, ball boys and girls, and linesmen ooze preppy perfection in timelessly elegant uniforms as they regulate the annual games on the sidelines.”
So, the officials dress smart, the Royals and the celebs are draped in stylish threads, but what about the competitors and the rest of the spectators?
Since tennis was introduced to Wimbledon more than 145 years ago, a number of traditions have established themselves, some that we’re very accustomed to and some that we might not know too much about…
Pimms? Yes. Strawberries and cream? Yes. An all-white attire to prevent any signs of perspiration because it was deemed improper? Really?
The all-white vibe at Wimbledon is something that was written into the dress code back in Victorian Times when sweating was considered improper and white was introduced in a bid to disguise perspiration!
According to the Wimbledon dress code: “white does not include off-white or cream, and while a single trim of colour around the neckline and around the cuff off the sleeve is acceptable, it must be no bigger than one centimetre.”
Shoes, caps, headbands, wristbands and socks all follow the same rules, with undergarments that are visible during play also expected to align with the same standards as above – the latter of which having been amended in the build-up to this year’s tournament to allow female players to wear dark coloured undershorts.
This change comes after current and former players described the stress of having to wear an all-white ensemble at the tournament while on their menstrual cycle.
Many players have previously tried to find loopholes in the Wimbledon dress code in a bid to brandish their own styles at the event but have had little joy. Roger Federer was one such competitor who abided by the ‘white trainers rule’ only to unveil his orange soles, for which he was later reprimanded, and the club then solidified the rule on soles for the next year.
Meanwhile, tennis great Andre Agassi chose to boycott Wimbledon between ‘88 and ‘90 because of the all-white dress code, as he preferred to wear colours.
Outside the Royal Box and the seats of the celebrities, what do things look like for the ‘everyday’ spectators? Well, while there is no official dress code for spectators, there are a few forbidden items on the clothing list and an unwritten rule or two that sheerly out of respect for the event are most usually respected.
The things that will get you turned away? Ripped jeans, running vest, sports shorts, and dirty sneakers!
While these are the only things that are actually enforced, it’s somewhat of a given that people will dress formally. Men, traditionally, wear suits of the summer variety, and while women have a bit more to play with in terms of what’s acceptable, expect white dresses and typically summery fits.
Spectators often treat the event a bit like a summer wedding, especially when the weather lives up to expectations, and therefore the event becomes an ever more glamorous occasion.
A combination of royal attendance, celebrity spectators, written and unwritten rules for visitors, and traditional albeit sometimes outdated enforcements make for a truly fashionable fortnight at one of the world’s most sought-after events. As of yet, who knows what will be unveiled this year – but we’re confident that it’ll look good!