SHADES OF GREY IN CONTINUING
DEBATE ON "CROQUET WHITES"
Following publication of our "Issues Forum #1" on croquet whites, the
discussion has continued with some heat and occasional light in many quarters
around the world. We take no credit for initiating the conversation, which,
it seems, is very much in the air. Coincident with our publication, THE
CROQUET GAZETTE went to press with some enlightening letters reproduced below
in part by permission of editor Gail Curry.
At the same time, Dan Horodysky sent a sports page report of a tennis match
at the French Open: "Wearing the little black tennis dress that has launched
a thousand wolf whistles and raised more than a thousand eyebrows among the
sport's fashion police, a quite contrary Mary Pierce....was whistled off
Center Court yesterday in a hail of derisive jeers." Pierce and her sponsor
Nike, it seems, had miscalculated in diverging so radically from accustomed
tennis garb at the French Open.
Most surprising of all, the editor of BOWLS magazine writes to us that lawn
bowlers, more progressive on this issue than croquet players, put aside the
whites standard years ago. The debate continues....
LAWN BOWLERS GIVE UP ALL-WHITES STANDARD
Color versus whites on the green - whether the sport is croquet, bowls,
tennis, cricket, et als - is not really a decision of taste as much as of
sanctity. It's difficult to change what's been! If heart-and-soul croquet
players are like heart-and-soul lawn bowlers, no one is going to change the
religious conviction that whites are what the Lord devined for playing
Of course, the Big Croquet Player (really Lawn Bowler) in the Sky did not
design the original competition outfits. Activities such as yours and ours
were developed for the privileged, way back when (Bowls is known to be at
least 400 years old), and white was symbolic of purity, and later,
Without getting into that arena, be aware that lawn bowling (bowls) has been
using color shirts for major events since at least 1992. At the 1992 World
Bowls in Worthing, England, so-called "home" team players wore red shirts,
while "visiting" players wore blue shirts - in every match. This color
coding took place in England. That's right, England! And, it wasn't without
comment or, better yet, tugging and pulling.
The use of color was prompted by TV coverage. The BBC said, "We want the
players in color so audiences can follow the game better." And, they didn't
stop there. The Beeb insisted every player's bowls be color-coded (with
stickers) to the player's shirt. The World Bowls Association (WBB) did not
have to comply - unless they wanted to be on television.
I don't know how the color-coding worked for TV audiences, because, as
Manager of the Team USA, I was on the green all day. But I do know they
proved to be a wonder for the crowds of four to five thousand paying
spectators each day, because they now had a way to easily follow what was
Four years later, you should have seen the colorful shirts employed at the
1996 World Bowls in New Zealand (the World event is held every four years).
Bright blues and yellows with contemporary designs!
Various types of color-coding have been used in some international
competitions for about 10 years. Here in the U.S., each Division of the
American Lawn Bowls Association has its own regulations. Here in the
Southwest Division (Southern California.), we now encourage bowlers to wear
same-color team shirts. But, few do. Maybe it's because they are
traditionalists; perhaps their investment in white tops requires more "wears"
for better dividends.
While whites are symbolic of the traditions of our two sports, they are also
our albatross - or at least the most visable. If we dress to make an
impression, we impress the outside world as "old, older and oldest". We
accept the title of #1 seed in this area, but how would anyone really know by
looking? EVERYONE LOOKS OLD, OLDER & OLDEST in whites. Yes, we may look
genteel, and traditional, and quaint, and challenging. But we also look like
we don't fit in. Spare me all the retorts as to why that's a good thing!
After all, "not fitting in" is one of the main reasons we play our games.
But considerations of the mere existance and continuation of the sport have
to fit into the formula somewhere. Public bowling greens and croquet courts
are receiving less maintenance or are disappearing all over the country.
City governments' first budget cuts hit the park systems. And, two of the
least understood activities - and usually least populated - activities in
most parks are the bowling greens and the croquet lawns.
Tradition/shmadition! How may times can you cry "character of the park",
when the Park people ask: "Why don't you have more people participating in
Today's sports/activity marketplace is rampant with all sorts of choices.
The four new members the Beverly Hills Croquet Club brings in each year, and
the eight new members the BH Bowling Club brings in annually have so far kept
our entities active. But, for how long?
If you croquet players and we bowlers are going to increase our chances for
survival, we must attract more people to our sports. Too few newcomers are
attracted by our whites. Colors on the court/green won't turn the place into
a mass market. But, maybe it'll say: "The game is old, the people are
No bowler has ever claimed they made a shot or won a match because they wore
color or their opponent did. Nothing about the changes - just the
Some of us bowlers think it's worth upsetting tradition to change that
--Joe Siegman, Editor, BOWLS Magazine
BOWLS is the the National Quarterly of the American Lawn Bowls Association.
On the green, Joe Siegman was a winner of the 1989 National Open Pairs,
Southwest rep in the 1994 U.S. Championships, and Manager of two USA
THE WHITES "TRADITION" IS A RECENT INVENTION, SAYS SOLOMON
...I rather think I was partly responsible for whites now being the norm, at
least for tournaments. (Incidentally, there is no rule. It is merely a
convention that most clubs like to see observed.)
I played in my first tournament in 1947. At that time whites were hardly
ever worn. We have to distinguish between ladies (as they were always
referred to in those days) and men. Ladies wore dresses, of any colour as I
recall, with one excpetion, namely Kay Longman who wore a gray flannel
divided skirt because she played centre style, and a very sensible gard it
was for those days, since ladies rarely wore trousers.
Men certainly wore a motley selection of clothing, the most common I sujppose
being gray flannels and a blazer (very few men played without a jacket of
In 1959 I was a member of the English team which visited New Zealand fort he
MacRobertson Trophy, and having spent three months there, Humphrey Hicks and
I went on to Austrlia for another two months giving demonstrations at many
clubs. When we returned home we jointly wrote the following letter which was
published in the May 1951 GAZETTE:
"Dear Sir: It is no exaggeration to say that what has struck us most in our
croquet tour of New Zealand and Australia was the excellent effect produced
by all players wearing white on the courts.
"The weather, as was proved at the New Zealand Championships, when it was
cold and often wet, makes but little diference on this score.
"We most strongly urge that English croqut players - one and all - shall
adopt a uniform of white."
The following month the Editor, H.F. Crowther Smith, wrote a lengthy article
saying that this letter had aroused considerable discord, mainly because we
had suggested that some sartorial uniform be adopted. This word appeared to
cause offence, although he conceded that there had been some improvement in
male attire - braces were no longer visible....
-- John Solomon in THE CROQUET GAZETTE
COLOR THE PUBLIC IMAGE "WHITE"
I write as someone who spends a lot of time washing the 'whites.'
In Tunbridge Wells, we have battled with the local council for many years to
convince them of the merits of croquet, and part of our strategy is to insist
that members wear predominantly white at all time to show that croqut is a
serious sport and not a halfhearted pastime. We now have a splendid
clubhouse and three lawns in a prestigious park in the middle of Tunbridge
Wells, courtesy of the council. As it is in full view of the public, it is
even more important to continue that image.
-- Audrey Howell in THE CROQUET GAZETTE
MORAL FIBRE IN ALL SHADES OF WHITE
Just look what happened in tennis, and the only reason they allowed change
was for MONEY. Shirt sponsors wanted distinctive shirts easily recognised on
TV with a change every year to make you buy more to keep in fashion.
Players who cannot bother to wear white just lack moral fibre, or are sheer
b***** idle. I guess it just reflects modern life - no personal pride - just
throw on any old thing and to hell with conforming - "I'm an individual!' -
You're a scruff! So you have to do a little more washing. Once you let
things slide a little, someone will always go beyond it, like wearing warm,
waterproof, flat soled ski boots! Let's keep it white - all white!
Modern materials give us an easier life, so my wife tells me.
-- Len Hawkins in THE CROQUET GAZETTE
THE PRO-CHOICE POSITION ON WHITES
If a club wants to have rules on clothing, great! If the USCA wants whites
for tournament play, so be it.
I think whites give croquet a pro look. (Golf pros can't wear shorts in
I have never met a person who thinks croquet is for billionaires.
(polo maybe). Most people remember the game as a kid.
-- Jeff Maxwell