Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Summer a time for cool clothing, like Wimbledon whites

Ninety-plus-degree temperatures for as far out as the forecast goes. Welcome to the heat of summer.

The most dogged days of August may be a month off, but temperatures have ratcheted up, and there doesn't appear to be any respite or relief in sight.


In the words of the great Adrian Cronauer, "It's hot! [Expletive] hot!"

I've already fallen victim to one summertime car-based clich?, as the "actuator" on my air conditioner started acting up almost a month ago. (Yes, it's as if the auto repair folks told me my flux capacitor was on the fritz, and it would cost four times what I'd anticipated to get if fixed.) The joke's on them, as I've figured out how best to blast music as best as I can from my one functioning speaker, drowning out the clicking noise as my temporary Duck Tape on a hose-typed fix.


Again, my day job prevents and/or prohibits me from talking about certain basketball and/or professional sports-related topics — most specifically, the make-it-rain-in-a-phone booth phenomenon (as viewed from the outside) that is this summer's NBA free agency bonanza.

(Though, on a related note, and though an NBA lockout next season is still up in the air, there will most assuredly be an NFL lockout when next their collective bargaining agreement comes up for renegotiation, thanks in large part to what has happened in the NBA since July 1.)

And again, given my weekly submission deadline, timing does not always afford me the opportunity to write about the outcomes of relevant sporting events. (The Wimbledon women's final is being decided as I write this.)

And so, and to the dismay of some of you, there are weeks where what I write about fits into the being about sports space more like a pair of beltless, old school baggy jeans than their below-the-butt, modern-day, skinny (jean) counterparts; more like a sun dress than a prom dress; sweat pants versus yoga pants — which is to say, much more loosely so.

Hopefully this week's falls somewhere in the "relaxed fit" region; like a nice, sensible pair of khakis. Not a box score-based recap by any stretch of the imagination. But, also not so far afield as to offend those of you who just don't understand why some people just don't buy a belt and pull their pants up.

I mentioned it was hot outside, right? And that Wimbledon was wrapping up, correct? Well, that got me to thinking ...

What's with the rules requiring all-white attire at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club? (Yes, it's a croquet club too.)

Any rule requiring or permitting only all-white anything seems to scream of injustice on its face. And yet, in 2014, Wimbledon did the unthinkable —— it went even whiter, putting out a 10-part decree, tightening, and/or whitening its dress codes for its competitors even more.


Traditionally, Wimbledon required its players to wear outfits that were "predominantly in white" or "almost entirely in white." But, apparently, having grown tired of apparel brands and manufacturers pushing the otherwise allowable limits for accent colors and non-white accessories on the outfits worn by their sponsored athletes, the All England Club bleached its already anti-colored clothing, anything other than white isn't right, bigoted-like ban on anything other than bland, old, whiteness.

As if the control over the colorlessness of its competitors clothing wasn't easily enough made mockingly analogous to its previous practices of prohibiting membership to persons of color, women, and/or believers in certain religions, the All England Club seems to have re-upped its seemingly racially-based and/or borne rules, codifying the fact that, when it comes to colors, "white does not include off-white or cream" and that only "a single trim of color no wider than one centimeter" shall be permitted on the competitors clothing.

The almost-all-white rule also covers caps, headbands, bandannas, wristbands, shoes, and even "any undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)."

Sadly, it's there, in that almost an afterthought of a parenthetical, that the almost-all-white rule was written in the first instance. Pit (and other sweat) stains.

According to one tennis historian, "one problem which simply had to be addressed very early on was that of perspiration. As increased skill at the game led to more movement on court, this in turn led to the dreaded problem of perspiration causing the appearance of embarrassing damp patches on colored fabrics. It was quite unthinkable that a lady should be seen to perspire."

Apparently, white was borne and worn out of tradition(s), not necessarily racist ones in this case, but chauvinistic ones (too).


Competitors attempted to introduce a little bit of color in the late 1940s, at which point, a sign was posted in Wimbledon's dressing rooms saying, "Competitors are required to wear all-white clothing."

Over the years, there have been some well-played vogue-derived volleys, including the introduction of colored accents and/or undergarments, returned like a (one or) two-handed backhand by way of a rule requiring clothing to be "predominantly in white throughout."

To its credit, the United States Open became the first international tournament to allow colored apparel – albeit not until 1972. Ten years later, Wimbledon's competitor's guide still stated that "The British Public still likes to see tennis and cricket played in whites." (What's with the capital P?)

Some antiquated traditions make sense. Some even add a certain sense of class and of timelessness. When it comes to sports, I like teams with tradition, including those whose uniforms have remained just that (uniform in and unchanged in design) regardless of how long the teams themselves have been around — Penn State's single-striped helmets and grab-your-pail-and-go-to-work-inspired, simple blue-and-white uniforms; the Celtics shamrocks; and, of course, UNC's touch of class that is their argyle-lined shorts.

But, wasn't Under Armour created as a wick-your-sweat-away alternative to needing to wear all-white (and/or 100 percent cotton)?

Don't Nike's Dri-Fit, Under Armour's everything, and the other sportswear and apparel companies' wick-your-sweat-away imitations thereof do away with the need to require all-white to be worn as a rule?


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And, while I'd like to like the richness of tradition that goes along with Wimbledon's crisp, clean lines as they happen to be drawn and/or worn in white, the rigidity and insistence on being "all-white" makes it hard to go all-in or be overly on board.

I agree with Venus Williams, who, in support of the All England Club's dress code for competitors said that she thinks "it's a nice change" and that she thinks "everyone just glows in white."

When a rule first designed to give a nod toward a certain then-stylish and/or social sense of sports sartorialistism as a fashionable assist to decorum in the face of otherwise oppressive heat becomes itself analogous with and/or just outright oppressive, it's time to consider easing-off on the wearing of all-white and letting the lines blur and the colors pop.

The British can be known to be a bit bland; buoyed by boorish traditions. But, they also have some national sports treasures — like Sir Ian Darke, whose color commentary on soccer is among the best in the world, and is anything but vanilla.

There's a crispness to the color contrasts of the whites when worn against the backdrop of the All England Club's well-kempt, emerald green lawns. But, at this point, the club's all-white rules would seem to outlaw even Adidas' iconic, and Wimbledon-inspired, Stan Smith shoes, and at that point the bleaching seems to have gone a bit over-board.