Tennis is a sport that requires you to run, stretch, twist, jump, and carry out other movements of which you might not have thought your body capable. The clothes you wear to play the game will need to allow you to move freely and should feel comfortable. They should also protect you from the Sun in warm conditions or keep you warm when it is cold. Finally, you will want them to look good. Luckily, several companies have spent a number of years developing materials and designs which can fulfill all of these criteria.
When dressing for tennis, you should wear clothing that has been specifically designed for the challenges of the sport. It will be stretchy and allow sweat to pass through easily. You should wear tennis shoes with non-marking soles. If it is colder, you may add leggings or underlayers and you should wear warm-up clothing designed to support the necessary freedom of movement.
Is There a Dress Code for Tennis?
If you play in the park, or on a public court, there is no such thing as a dress code. You can wear what you like as long as your footwear is not likely to damage the courts. This means that you will need smooth, non-marking soles. Apart from this, the key is to ensure that you wear comfortable sports clothing. Tennis clothes are ideal, but for an occasional player it may not be worth buying them if they will only be used twice per year.
At a tennis club or country club, things will be very different. You will be required to wear recognized tennis clothing, while gym shorts, t-shirts, or workout clothing will be banned. Your shoes will need to be tennis shoes with non-marking soles: running shoes will not be permitted. Essentially, these venues will only allow you on the court if you are dressed according to their dress code.
In professional tennis, the rules are not that different from those at clubs. The principal rule is that players are expected to present themselves in a professional manner and wear recognized tennis attire. Once again, gym shorts and t-shirts are ruled out. At Wimbledon, clothing is required to be predominantly white, but this rule is not commonly applied elsewhere.
Proper Male Tennis Attire
Traditionally, males are expected to wear a polo shirt, featuring a collar and short sleeves. Other styles have been popularized in recent years, including sleeveless shirts and ones without collars. All of these are acceptable if they are designed specifically for tennis.
As far as shorts are concerned, various lengths have been fashionable over the years, but the main requirement is that they are made for tennis. Pockets are useful for storing balls, but not obligatory. Good tennis shoes are supportive and durable, to protect against injury, and will not mark the court. They will have different types of sole for the various court surfaces.
Warm-up clothing should ideally be designed for tennis too, but, as long as it is not worn for matches, any clean, smart tracksuit will suffice. At the 2020 French Open (held in September), players wore all manner of additional layers and leggings to keep warm in the Autumnal conditions, and this is deemed perfectly acceptable.
Proper Female Tennis Attire
Women are traditionally expected to wear a polo shirt or tank top with a skirt, or a dress. These must have been designed specifically for tennis. The wearing of shorts was rare for some time, but is now much more common, as exemplified by leading players such as Victoria Azarenka.
Today, dresses and skirts are normally worn in combination with compression shorts. Skirts and shorts may be combined in a ‘skort’. There has historically been a tendency for women to be censured if they wear anything unusual, as witnessed by the controversy surrounding Serena Williams’ wearing of a catsuit at the 2018 French Open.
In 2019, the WTA clarified that leggings or shorts could be worn for tennis matches without a skirt, which had previously not been mentioned in their rules. At the French Open in 2020, leggings were being almost universally worn, generally with a skort, along with various extra layers. Aside, from this, women’s tennis shoes are normally similar to men’s shoes, but possibly using more pastel shades, and similar rules apply to warm-up clothes.
Practice vs Match Attire
For practice, club players will tend to dress similarly to how they dress for matches. Serious players and professionals will wear slightly different clothing for practice, although once again this will be provided by the specialist tennis clothing companies. For men, they are more likely to wear shirts without collars, and will adopt a slightly more casual look. Women will tend not to wear skirts or dresses, preferring shorts or leggings for convenience and comfort.
The clothing worn for tennis tends to evolve over time, but modern attire is intended to offer practicality in combination with maximum comfort. Technological developments also mean that modern shoes are better than ever in terms of comfort and support. There are still vestiges of sexism in the different attire expected of women at many clubs, but these are gradually becoming less common, helped by the trends at the professional level and the alterations to the rules set out by the WTA.