Kyrgios wore a red cap to Wimbledon. Here’s why that’s controversial.

Kyrgios wore a red cap to Wimbledon. Here’s why that’s controversial.

Throughout Sunday’s three-hour Wimbledon final, Nick Kyrgios was on his best behavior — at least when it came to the tennis tournament’s notoriously strict dress code. Then it came time to accept his trophy.

For that occasion, which took place minutes after the Australian lost in four sets to defending champion Novak Djokovic, Kyrgios swapped out his white cap for a bright red Nike Jordan cap, a move that flouted nearly a century and a half of tournament tradition calling for players to wear white clothing on court.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who handed Kyrgios his runner-up trophy, did not noticeably react to Kyrgios’s faux pas. Other observers, however, were astonished — especially because Kyrgios had gotten flak after donning the red cap earlier in the tournament.

One journalist called the move Kyrgios’s “final act of defiance.” Others pointed out that Kyrgios might get fined. As of early Monday, a Wimbledon spokeswoman was unable to confirm whether Kyrgios had been penalized.

The rule that players wear white on the tennis court dates to the tournament’s beginning, in 1877. At that time, it was generally believed that sweating was improper and that white clothing would either curb a player’s perspiration or hide it, Time reported. Yet as times have changed, the dress code at Wimbledon has not eased up. In fact, it has become stricter, with tournament officials even checking the color of players’ underwear during matches.

Now, the rule is that players must wear “suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white … from the point at which the player enters the court surround.” Acceptable clothing “does not include off white or cream,” and colored trim around the neckline or sleeves “must be no wider than one centimetre.” There are other highly specific guidelines, although some players this year were allowed to wear colors supporting Ukraine.

Far from its sweat-phobic origins, Wimbledon has more recently embraced the all-white rule as a “great leveler” and a way for “letting the tennis and the players stand out,” rather than their clothing.

But even the game’s finest champions have challenged the rule. Roger Federer, an eight-time Wimbledon winner, said in 2014 that a dramatic tightening of the dress code that year was “too strict,” the New York Times reported. A year earlier, Federer was forced to change his shoes after he wore a pair with orange soles during his first-round match, according to the Associated Press.

Before winning Wimbledon in 1992, American Andre Agassi had boycotted the tournament, eschewing its traditionalism and dress code. “Why must I wear white? I don’t want to wear white,” Agassi wrote in his 2009 memoir. “Why should it matter to these people what I wear?”

This year, protesters showed up at the tournament’s main gates, demanding that organizers change the dress code because female players may feel anxiety wearing all-white clothing when they’re menstruating, according to the Guardian. The demonstrators wore white tops and red shorts — outfits modeled after Tatiana Golovin, a French player who in 2007 got away with wearing bright red knickers on the Wimbledon grass.

Though Kyrgios is not alone in rejecting Wimbledon’s dress code, he has rankled observers in other ways. He was fined $10,000 in late June for spitting toward a spectator who Kyrgios said was heckling him. During his match with Djokovic on Sunday, Kyrgios hounded the chair umpire to remove a distracting spectator who he said looked to have had “700 drinks,” and he was fined $4,000 for audibly cursing during the match.

Following his fourth-round win over Brandon Nakashima last week, Kyrgios donned a red Nike cap along with a pair of red-and-white Air Jordans.

After the match, a reporter asked Kyrgios why he would flout the rules.

“Because I do what I want,” Kyrgios replied.

Do the rules not apply to him?

“I just like wearing my Jordans,” Kyrgios said.


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