When you’re thinking of high fashion events, Wimbledon would probably come close to the bottom of the list. But as the tennis tournament continues to draw international style-stars such as Beyoncé, Pippa Middleton, and Bradley Cooper, it’s worth putting a bit of thought into your getup before setting foot in the stands.
So, if you’ve managed to snag yourself a ticket and thinking about attending, what should you wear when hobnobbing with the great and a the good…and sneakily getting a punt in?
A Brief History Of Wimbledon
Comfortably the oldest tennis competition in the world, Wimbledon has been a solid fixture in UK sports since its inception in 1877. Part of the worldwide Grand-Slam series, the tournament draws an average of twelve million viewers over the course of two weeks. And with the whole tournament being broadcast live all over the world, it has quickly become a place to see and be seen.
When it comes to style, it’s worth keeping in mind that – like many long established British events – the tournament is fiercely traditional, albeit less of an outright fashion show than events like Cheltenham. The overall style and atmosphere is firmly fixed in the 50s with players dressing in simple, conservative white with no permitted advertising. Staff are also expected to dress up to the nines, with umpires and ball boys sporting clothing designed by Ralph Lauren; complete with mandatory sunglasses!
And when the bar has been set so high on the field, it’s natural for attendees to try and compete.
Tuning in the immediate approach to the Wimbledon finals is guaranteed to give you a veritable who’s who of tennis fans from throughout the world. You can spot Keira Knightley in a suitably understated maxi dress, Alicia Vikander in an elegant Ganni number, and – if there’s a Scotsman playing – you are absolutely guaranteed to see Sean Connery make an appearance in a fine-cut linen suit and his trademark panama hat.
So, if you’ve managed to secure yourself a ticket, what should you throw together when rubbing shoulders with the stars of stage and screen?
What Is The Dress Code and What Should I Wear?
First and foremost, it’s worth remembering that there is actually no formal dress code for Wimbledon. Look around the stalls and you’ll be as likely to see a young gentleman sweating into a Thom Sweeney suit, as you are to see a punter in a short-sleeved-shirt, shorts, and newly purchased Wimbledon baseball cap.
But while there is no official code, it’s worth remembering that a few fixed rules do exist when visiting the courts. The ‘restaurant standard’ of no shirt, no shoes, torn or ripped jeans, and poorly maintained clothes or footwear will result in you being seen out. The dining and hospitality areas will flat out deny entry if you’re wearing jeans, trainers, or sneakers. If you’re looking to fit in with the upper crust, member’s areas will require you to be suited with a tailor-made jacket with shirt and tie with dress shoes with ladies expected to dress for a semi-formal occasion.
So, if you’re looking to freely mingle and enjoy some strawberries, cream, and Pimm’s…what should you wear?
A neat suit: As always, men have it a little easier at these events and throwing on a decent suit will work well if you’re looking to balance comfort with class. Depending on the weather, it may be worth taking a leaf out of Sir Sean’s book and go with a linen weave, as the fabric provides a perfect balance between breathability and thickness to let the air circulate and protect you from the wind-chill. If you’re looking to go casual, a good pair of fitted jeans is also acceptable. But you will be judged.
Headwear: If you’re caught unawares by the famously changeable British weather, don’t worry – options are available from the onsite gift shop, but they do come with Wimbledon prices. Alternatively, a classic pair of aviators can help protect you from the sun in style, and a neat panama or straw hat offers shade without blocking anyone’s view.
Footwear: Unfortunately, when you’re making your way to the Centre Court, you have to up your shoe game. If you’re looking for compromise between cut and comfort, a flexible pair of shoes like Ralph Lauren desert boots or black cap Oxfords will pair with anything on the face of the planet and still lend a bit of class. And if you really, really can’t resist popping on a pair of tennis shoes, going for a pair of Adidas’ Stan Smiths will provide the perfect counterpoint to the rest of your getup.
White dresses: When it comes to style and comfort that will beat the heat, a cream or off-white dress is a perfect starting point. Tennis super-fans Kate and Pippa Middleton are usually spotted wearing elegant white sundresses with a pleated skirt, in a nod to the sporty looks seen on the courts. Layering is a must – Wimbledon is famous for its sudden rain showers and blistering sun (often in the same hour), so dress for all weather. Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk are great in hot weather, while a spare cardi or sweater will sort you out if the weather turns.
Headwear: Like the gents, it’s always a good idea to bring something that helps cover your head from downpours and shields you from the glare of the sun. It’s worth remembering that – for Wimbledon – bigger is not always better. While a large sun-hat can be the perfect choice to give you visibility, you run the risk of obstructing the view of the court for those around you. Here, it’s better to go with a classy pair of shades and pair them up with a simple banded fedora for maximum cool and minimum effort.
Footwear: Unlike the gents, women have a lot of leeway when it comes to your shoes. Avoid the temptation to dress up, and go smart and flat – you will be walking a lot over the course of the day. A pair of lace-up sandals with a block heel is about as far as you’d realistically want to go as anything with a fine point will see you embedded in the grass like a lawn flamingo. A lighter shade of backless loafer is also a solid choice, but is a choice that should be guided by the enclosures you’re keen on visiting before and after the event.
Jacket: Almost essential in the British summer, you’ll want something that adds an extra layer if the weather turns for the worse. A blazer sans-collar is a flexible choice that can be easily paired with any dress and a light overcoat can provide a thicker alternative and be worn home if the inevitable post-match cocktails go on a bit longer than thought.