The History of Wimbledon – Part 2
After each of the five major competitions are completed, the traditional Wimbledon trophies are presented to the winners. Having been forced to replace the Field Cup in 1883, as well as the Challenge Cup in 1886, the Club made the decision that all trophies from that point would no longer belong to the winners of the Championship. They would instead be given a replica, while the Wimbledon museum would house the originals.
For the winners of the men’s singles competition, the trophy was introduced in the form of a silver gift cup engraved with the words “The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World”. The winners’ names are also inscribed from 1877 onwards. When a lack of space meant that no more names could be included, there was a black plinth added with a silver band to facilitate the addition of further names.
The introduction of prize money
The ladies receive a sterling silver trophy, called the ‘Rosewater Dish’, which made its first appearance in 1886. A silver challenge cup is presented to winners of all three of the doubles tournaments. While the trophies were highly coveted, prize money was later added in 1968. That was also the year that the Club first allowed professionals to compete in the tournament. It was only recently, however, (2007) that prize money became equal between both genders.
The accepted fashion for players at Wimbledon in the 19th-century was plain white shirts and trousers for men, with full-length white dresses with hats for women. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s, however, that players began to develop a fashion conscience, female players especially. Sleeveless tops, along with shorter shorts and skirts were introduced, with some being more daring than others. This not only helped to convey individual personality but provided a greater ease of movement.
Sponsorship and designer labels
French Grand Slam winner René Lacoste, going all the way back to the 1930s, promoted his own fashion label when he wore crocodile emblazoned shirts during a match. Today, however, sees the game besieged with sports logos, as tennis fashion is no longer about individuality or comfort, but more about sponsorship deals with sports companies worth millions of pounds. Even ball boys and ball girls no longer convey the traditional purple and green once so associated with the tournament. They have instead been wearing cream and navy uniforms designed by fashion icon Ralph Lauren since 2006. Although there have been numerous changes since the first tournament in 1887, when we picture Wimbledon today, there are a number of traditional images that come to mind: strawberries and cream, of course, the almost all-white fashion dress code, and the strong links to the Royal family being just a few. These images combined continue to honour Wimbledon’s place in British heritage, as well as in the world of tennis itself.