Lately, I have been watching more women’s tennis tournaments and noticed that nearly all the players wear skirts in spite of other apparel choices being available to them. So I set about finding out why.
The main reason why female tennis players wear skirts is comfort. Most modern tennis skirts have built-in compression shorts. The combination of compression shorts and skirt gives the player unrestricted freedom of movement allowing them to cross the court quicker to reach the ball.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly why the vast majority of female players on the professional circuit choose to wear skirts in spite of other options being available.
One of the primary reasons that female tennis players wear skirts is because they are comfortable. When you combine the modern women tennis skirt with the compression shorts that are sewn into the skirt it makes for a very comfortable combination as it allows for freedom of movement as the players run across the court.
It must be stated that female tennis players are not compelled to wear ladies tennis skirts. The rules simply state that they must wear standard tennis attire that must be clean. This means that they can wear a tennis dress or they can wear a pair of shorts combined with a top. However, most of the players on the professional tennis circuit choose to wear a skirt simply because it is the most comfortable option.
There have been a couple of controversies over the years with players wearing outfits that are not in line with standard tennis attire as defined by the general rules of tennis, but these are the exceptions rather than what is generally happening.
When it comes to casual tennis, players just simply wear what is most comfortable for them out on the tennis court. The important factor for the clothing you choose to wear while playing tennis is that it shouldn’t restrict your movement out on the court. It is also important to take note of the weather conditions on the day that you play tennis and choose your outfit accordingly.
There is nothing at all in the Grand Slam rule book that forbids female tennis players from wearing shorts or leggings or something similar instead of a skirt. The Tennis Grand Slam rulebook simply states that it requires clean and customarily acceptable tennis attire as determined by each respective Grand Slam Tournament. This last part of the rule is where problems could arise as different tournaments could impose specific dress codes on the players.
As we already know, Wimbledon has a more conservative/traditional outlook on tennis attire and their rule book requires all players to wear a white outfit. Players are permitted to have colors on the outfit but the colors are limited to the collar, cuffs, and hemline of any pair of pants, skirt, top, or dress.
If a female player at Wimbledon were to wear an outfit that is not a standard white tennis skirt or tennis dress they are required to submit the planned outfit to the rules committee for approval before the start of the tournament.
If a player arrives at Wimbledon with an outfit that does not conform to the Wimbledon rule book, the player will face a hefty fine and may even be prevented from going onto the court until such time as they have acquired an acceptable alternative outfit.
The majority of both womens tennis skirts and dresses have compression shorts built into them. There are several reasons for this. The compression shorts allow for greater freedom of movement while still giving the peace of mind that the skirt won’t reveal too much should it flip up while playing a shot. Some compression shorts also have pockets so that players can keep a second tennis ball while serving.
This inclusion of compression shorts under the tennis skirt and dress is one reason that many players choose a skirt over a dress. If a player is wearing a tennis dress that has built-in compression shorts they will need to get completely undressed every time they go to the bathroom. A skirt and top make a more practical choice of tennis outfit when you factor in bathroom breaks.
Female players are permitted to wear shorts at Wimbledon as long as they adhere to the dress code of being white. The shorts are permitted to have non-white trim at the end of the shorts leg and down the outside seam.
Some top players such as Maria Sharapova and Helena Ostapenko have worn shorts at Wimbledon. In the case of Sharapova, she fell foul of the rules in the year that she wore shorts but it was her top that broke the rules, not her shorts.
The point is that it comes down to personal choice for the players, working together with their apparel sponsor. For instance, Ons Jabeur who often chooses to wear shorts on the professional circuit has, at times, worn a skirt instead of shorts at Wimbledon and has not been in trouble for either option.
The issue of wearing leggings as tennis apparel in top tournaments was put back on the table for discussion in 2018 when Serena Williams wore her infamous black catsuit at the French Open. After that happened the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was forced to modernize its dress code.
Under the new rule, players are permitted to wear leggings and mid-thigh compression shorts without needing a skirt or dress over them. Again, the Grand Slam titles tournaments have their own rule books and each of these tournaments can amend its dress code regulations.
In practice what I have seen is that players will often wear leggings and a top on the practice court and warm-up area. They will then put on their skirt or dress over the leggings prior to going onto the court for their match if conditions are such that they want to wear leggings for the match.
Professional tennis players have personal brands and wearing the same outfit throughout the tournament increases their brand recognition. Tennis players also have apparel sponsors who rely on the players’ brand recognition to draw attention to their apparel brand.
Prior to a tournament, a player will often meet with their apparel sponsor to decide on the outfit choice for that specific tournament. Once that choice is made, the apparel sponsor will send the player multiple sets of the same outfit so that the player can maintain consistency throughout the tournament.
Most players make their outfit selection at the start of the season and wear the same outfit to most of the tournaments during the season. This helps with the player’s brand awareness across all the tournaments during the season. However, there may be tournaments that have specific dress codes where a change to the player’s outfit is needed such as Wimbledon, for example.