Tennis lesson No. 1 was fun and no one said a word about my hairy legs. I mean, I didn’t overhear any words about my body hair. It probably helped that the other women in the group didn’t know each other. Sometimes it takes a while for such things to develop among strangers.
We also didn’t have much time to chat with each other. We were all too busy. The lesson fun and fast-paced and light-hearted and we mostly encouraged and cheered for each other. And since the lesson suspended dinner for most of us, we immediately scattered in search of food afterward. Not much time to stand around and inspect each other.
No one made fun of my clothes either, although I did learn there is indeed a dress code and I broke it on Day One. I wore the skirt shown above. When I previously wrote that I would be reporting for lessons in old running clothes, this is what I meant. I wore this running skirt with a tank. I noticed as I looked around the tennis center that NO ONE was wearing a print of any kind. Although our instructor was wearing a tennis skirt, it was solid black. Recalling the internet research I’d done earlier about the venue, no tennis player in any of the photos was wearing anything with a print. Bright colors, yes, but only solid swaths of those colors; no prints.
Turns out that private tennis clubs have dress codes and these codes usually require solids. On public courts I can wear whatever I want to wear but on private courts there are rules for members and their guests. I was excused for breaking the rules with my Wonderland print because a) my student status meant I didn’t know any better, and b) I was a patron of a paid program designed to make me a member, whereupon I would know better. Some of the swankier clubs dictate all-white apparel designed specifically for tennis by specific tennis brands. Although most are not this strict most still define appropriate tennis apparel as solid tops and bottoms.
Upon graduation from this program it will be my responsibility to know and follow the dress codes whenever I play in a new venue. If I wear solids by default I probably can’t go wrong, which is what most people do. I didn’t ask if said codes also addressed body hair on women but if the rules about clothing are this strict I have to wonder if a hairy conversation will happen at some point.
So far I only play in a city park (a public court) where my kaleidoscope skirts are never going to be an issue there. I was advised that should I desire to play in tournaments or in leagues, these events are often hosted by private clubs and I should invest in some solids because a club can refuse to let me play in inappropriate attire or a referee can order me to either change my clothes or forfeit my match. Wow, y’all. That’s pretty damn snooty. Maybe this has been standard in tennis for eons and it only seems snooty to me because I’m new, but with the exception of executive holiday parties, I’ve never spent much time in country clubs.
So what about all these fashion-forward pro players wearing whatever the hell they want? At the pro level you earn the right to wear whatever you want (except for Wimbledon). Or you design your own. Or your sponsor designs special duds especially for you. As a pro you can use the international stage for self-expression and risk-taking as you see fit. When you’re an amateur you follow the damn rules or get your unruly ass back to the city courts with your paisley print.
Back in my competitive running days I always packed a spare running bra in my race bag. I never wanted to get stuck far from home without a back-up because the steel-belted models I required could not be easily or quickly replaced just anywhere on the planet. Anything else I forgot to pack I could probably find — even shoes — but not the bra. For example, my current preferred over the shoulder boulder holder is only available in Europe. Now I’m wondering if I’m going to need to keep a spare skirt in the trunk in case I want to play tennis somewhere other than my own neighborhood.
I did a quick search to see what it would set me back to pick up a solid tennis skirt and that’s when I really got pissed. Scrolling through the retail offerings I found TONS of brightly printed tennis skirts, and TONS of those prints were even sassier than my Wonderland skirt. And not just a few but page after page of them. So these options are readily and widely available to tennis players but the majority of tennis players opt out of them? I screamed at my screen, This is BULLSHIT! Same fabric, same length, same style, same function, same coverage as the solid skirts but with colorful prints. Ladies, this rule is aching to be broken.
Tournaments, clubs, and leagues do not exist for the sake of rules. They exist to generate revenue. If half the women in a tournament showed up in printed skirts and refused to change clothes the rule makers would have to cancel the tournament or let them play. Tossing players leads to boycotting. Cancellation means refunds, or in the case of no refunds, bad press and backlash. Lost revenue. Loss of sponsors. Yada yada yada.
The only way rules like this change is by breaking them and someone usually has to risk going first. I am already pushing it with my body hair so I might as well go the full nine and keep wearing my printed skirts too. Next week at Lesson No. 2 I’m going to wear this one:
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve had one lesson. I’m technically not even involved in the sport yet. But I am already suggesting a revolution. Did I learn nothing from raising hell over bullshit in the yoga community five minutes after I got my teaching certificate?
True, true, true, and yes. I learned that if you cost people enough money they will change their rules. And in doing so they will illuminate the fact that those rules only existed in the first place to attract people with money and to keep them obedient to those rules with prizes. Every pro player with a trophy room could have been every bit as successful wearing the same winning skirt, dress or shorts in a Wonderland print.
If it only took me five minutes to figure this out, why hasn’t the revolution happened long before now? Maybe no one really cares and this is not a revolution anyone but me really wants. I’ve got a drawer full of wildly printed skirts and no solids and I don’t want to go shopping, so yeah, it’s a personal issue that tennis at large may not share. It’s my problem but not necessarily a tennis problem, judging from the ranks of obediently uniformed club players in my zip code.
That’s fine. But when you read an Internet headline about some hairy-legged lady throwing a hissy fit at a private tennis club for the right to wear a rainbow-striped skirt, you readers will be the only folks who get it.