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Do You Have To Wear White When Playing Squash?

There used to be a time when wearing white on the squash court was compulsory.

03 December 2022 / 3-Min Read

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I was recently messaged with a question.

Hi Phillip! Got a quick question for you on squash attire! What’s your opinion on proper squash attire for matchplay? White or light colours? Dark coloured frowned upon? Thank you in advance 👍

Patrick Reincke

Now, the question isn’t asking if coloured clothing was allowed, but whether I thought it acceptable for matchplay. So, I thought I would use it as a prompt to talk about squash clothing in general and then answer the direct question.

Originally

I’m not sure “originally” is the right word to use in this case, but once squash was being played in clubs, wearing white was a rule, both of the clubs themselves and within the official rules (citation needed). the clothing was directly linked to the social status of the sport; so sports like tennis, cricket, lawn bowling, and squash were “white”, while football, hockey and other sports were “coloured”. Of course, team sports inherently mean that there needs to be different coloured-clothing used, but there was still the social status involved.

The often quoted reason being that if you wore coloured clothing and the ball passed your body the opponent would lose sight of it. In hindsight, that’s a silly reason because we lose sight of the ball during the matches plenty of times. But if something is repeated enough, it’s believed without question. I am sure I repeated to new players too.

Two squash palyers in white clothing

Two people following the white-only rule

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Pre-1983

For a few years before 1983 players were allowed to wear pastel clothing; basically light colours. Baby blue and baby pink were the new white. But the clothing was still very reserved and even though pastel colours were worn, very little patterns or designs were used. Everything was subtle. Which is hilarious considering the fashion of sports clothing in the 1980s.

screenshot of 1980s sports fashion

Oh, how I wish were all wore this nowadays

Post 1983

In 1983, the World Squash Federation removed the colour clothing requirement from the rules completely. YAY! We are free, right? Well, no, not really, because many clubs and tournaments still had (have in some cases) rules regarding clothing.

Clubs and Tournaments

I distinctly remember two occasions. One in the World Open in 1987, where I was told to change my T shirt because it was “too coloured”. I didn’t have any other types with me, so turned it inside out, which made it more or less white. It wasn’t a fully coloured shirt, just had a lot of printed colours. By the way, I won one match in the qualifying rounds and got 6-0 up in the second round and suddenly doubted myself and lost pretty quickly after that.

The other time was in the early to mid 1990s. I was running the Dunlop Roadshow and we visited a club in the middle of England and told that only white was allowed on court, including shoes! Eventually they agreed to allow the coaches to wear our sponsored kit, but it was a fight. And I remember other situations with similar restrictions.


A group of juniors squash players behind two crouching pros

Image stolen taken from the Old Pats Squash Club.

Nowadays

You only need to perform a cursory web search to see that players wear pretty much anything they want as far as colours are concerned, and I fully support that. I’ve seen football kit, vests, blouses, fancy dress costumes, super hero capes, you name, I’ve seen it. Any why not?

What Should Your Wear?

I’d like to recount an interesting story. I was doing my Part 3 Squash Coaching Award (the highest at the time) and one of the two tutors was a very well known coach. She was also highly qualified in tennis (used to be more common than now). During a discussion on what clothes should be worn during matches, she advised against grey-coloured t-shirts as they looked terrible when wet and sweaty. She insisted that we need to look smart at all times “Just like us tennis players“.

The group rebelled. How could she not understand that showing the sweat was a sign of pride? It should how hard we were working on court. it made players feel better. And he is the point that stayed with me all these years: Wear whatever makes you feel the best! Within reason of course. Super Hero capes are terrible to play in and your opponent wins many points simply because of that. But if your clothing gives you confidence and doesn’t break any club, tournament, or other official rules, then wear it.

Final Thoughts

I liked to wear a plain white T-shirt, with navy blue shorts, white sock and whatever shoes I found most comfortable. Ultimately, clothing should be functional. It should allow free movement and not cause distraction to your opponent (within reason). After that, it’s only your sense of style, or lack thereof, which limits you. Squash should be fun, so have fun!

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