The Dress Debate

Inspired by a bit of chit chat at the last PTC event, today I reconsider the age old debate (it’s up there with shot clocks in terms of repeat value), of whether snooker should re-evaluate its traditional dress code of waistcoat and bow tie, or whether some things should be left untouched…

If you were to ask most ‘non-snooker’ people of the first thing to enter their mind when you say the words ‘snooker player’ to them, what do you think that the answer would be? Ok, apart from Big Break and John Virgo’s trick shots?

The chances are, it is probably the image of two smartly dressed players with white shirts, black waistcoats and bow ties, accompanied by an even more smartly dressed referee and their immaculate white gloves.

And with good reason. While many aspects of the game have changed since the days of Joe Davis and those of his era, one thing that has remained constant through to its 1980’s heyday and now, is its dress code.

Notwithstanding that fact however, there are those, both within and outside of the game, who would argue that as times and fashions have changed, it time for snooker to change with them. On the other side of the coin however, is the view that the stereotypical image of what a snooker player should look like, that I dare say we all have, is actually a positive image and one that is fundamentally important to what a snooker player is. Or that it just looks plain smart.

As hinted at the start of the post, the debate is far from a new one, indeed historically, whenever there has been a quiet spell which has prompted discussion as to how new life might be breathed into snooker, for some reason its dress code often seems to be one of the first things mentioned.

Remember the period around the end of the 1990’s when players were encouraged to wear different coloured shirts to the standard white, only for them all to turn up in black shirts? Or that best-forgotten time around a decade ago when bow ties were dropped and the players somehow managed to look neither smart, nor casual. See Mark Williams’ current Twitter profile picture to see what I mean.

As regular readers will know, I am something of a traditionalist when it comes to snooker and certainly as far as the major tournaments are concerned, feel that something would be lost if snooker were to turn its back on what is part of its identity.

The combination of waistcoats and bow ties is very much part and parcel of what makes a snooker player, in the eyes of the general public at least, if not the die hard fans. Anything less, at the Crucible especially, would not only feel out of place, but would to me at least, almost be symbolic as a desperate attempt to ‘dumb down’ and would surely be targeted as such by the media.

All that said, I do not necessarily share the same view when it comes to some of the smaller events on the calendar, for example the Gloucester-based PTC’s or even some of the main event qualifiers. Of course there are already events where the dress code is less restrictive, for example the Premier League where black shirts and trousers are the clothing of choice, or the Shoot Out, where polo shirts are preferred and these have not impacted adversely upon the sport in any way.

While t-shirts at the Crucible would be somewhat ridiculous, would the idea of shirts or even polo shirts at the qualifiers at the EIS be so much of a problem? Particularly at a venue such as that where few people are able to watch and the temperatures are often high, there is an argument to say that if there were to be a more relaxed policy adopted somewhere, these would be where they should start.

Of course, when all is said and done, within reason at least, it does not really matter what the dress code is, there are far more important issues to be tackled in taking snooker forward.

While some would like to think that stripping back the dress code would in itself draw in a new generation of younger fans, the reality is surely that it would do nothing of the sort. I do feel that the full attire does bring an added class to the sport and is important to its image and identity, particularly in the majors.

That said, as important as I believe snooker’s tradition to be, on a practical level, I would be open to change at some events, and feel that this could be achieved without being detrimental to the sport.

What do you think?


  • Claus

    At the qualifiers I suppose they could relax the rules a bit but a part of me really enjoys the consistency. Personally I would most likely feel very uncomfortable in a shirt and bowtie but it does bring something to the game. A t-shirt and kaki shorts would cheapen the game. Rational or not, clothes play a part.

  • wild

    personally i think it looks stupid having players turn up for a 10am session in dinner suites… in the 80s Morning and afternoon session consisted of a normal tie attire http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3463/3236965168_0e2cb0d02e.jpg

    i don’t see the problem in dressing differently for different events and gives tournaments some individuality but it would be stupid just to scrap the traditional “uniform”

  • Andre

    Yeah I agree with and Matt… Of course at the Majors and other established tournaments, I think the full attire with bowtie and everything is definately required… However, there could be more flexability in other tournaments and qualifiers too, and it also gives more individuality to them..

    That ideia that Wild refered used to be the rule in the 80s morning and afternoon sessions, though when the 90s began players didn’t wear it, apart from those more established and older players.. It could be a good ideia, but I don’t think it will become a reality

  • Paul mount

    Probably a good opportunity to let people know that the Kay Suzanne Memorial Cup (UKPTC4) will once again be a pink PTC. The Dress code will be pink shirts or polo shirts and dark trousers to once again help to increase awareness of breast cancer. Let’s get all the ladies in our life checking themselves regularly because early detection saves lives. The first day of UKPTC 4 is the tenth anniversary of the death from breast cancer of Kay, my sister.

  • Paul mount

    Forgot to say a big thank you to World Snooker and WPBSA for supporting the pink theme for PTC4

  • Mark

    One of the things in snooker that impressed me most (years ago before I started playing myself) was the absolute fairness and the gentleman’s game impression.
    Later I saw that fairness nearly always prevails even if there is an awful lot of money on the table.

    Just imagine a football star going to the referee and saying “I just stumbled over my own feet. Please revoke your penalty decision” (and the referee concurring).

    It is not always easy to instill these absolute fairness in the young teens when they start playing snooker but the professional role model helps a lot – just as the cheating role models hurt in football.

    Of course I cannot prove it in any way, but is it possible that gentleman’s attitude in fairness and dress code is somehow related?
    This gut feeling (and it is not more) is enough for me to argue for the dress code as it is.
    And the occasional pink PTC will continue to stand out.

  • Miko

    I just think we can’t lose the waistcoat and bow tie – it’s too valuable. It reminds players that they are entertainers, not ‘professional’ sportsmen. It also adds to that classy (but not over-the-top) atmosphere. Finally, women like a man in good attire (seriously, my missus says she enjoys watching snooker partially because the dress makes guys look good) and we definitely do not want to lose any women viewers out there.

    Basically, there are just too many positives to give away. And besides, when someone like Stepehen Maguire comes on with his open shirt (although this is legitimate – and unfortunate) it really just looks dreadful.

    Keep it SMART, stupid!

  • taz

    I think the current problem is that all players are wearing black shirts, black ties and waistcoats in an attempt to cover the fact that they are wearing these items. It doesn’t look smart or casual and makes all the players look the same.

    I think there should be more flexibility on non-ranking tournaments and also qualifiers such as a polo shirt and black trousers should be enough.

    I really hope that players are discouraged to wear black shirt and ties and instead are encouraged to wear different colours instead.

  • Paul Norris

    I think the days of penguin suits should be over. I appreciate the counter-argument but what other sportsman is forced to wear clothes that actually harm their chances of performing better? Athletes wear shorts and spikes, footballers studded boots, swimmers goggles and caps, and snooker players get long-sleeved shirts with cuffs that can contact balls, bow-ties that rub against their cues, and shoes that can slip on the floor surface. Plus it takes away any chance of supplementing their income with clothing manufacturers, and ditto for sponsorship of tournaments from these kind of big world-wide companies.

  • ANON

    The adage ‘do it properly or not at all’ comes to mind. Polo shirts might be fine for pool but they are too casual for professional snooker. I think the Premier League dress code is right for qualifiers and possibly PTCs, but for big tournaments I think the dress code should stay as it is but with 2 changes:

    – i) white shirts. Evening Dress means a white shirt – no exceptions. Tony Drago could carry off the black shirt when he was the only one doing it, but on most players it just looks scruffy. A special mention for that bit of cloth on elastic that Anthony Hamilton wears – it should be a bow tie (the ‘tuck-under style that Judd wears is fine) take some pride in what you do and how you dress!

    – ii) sponsor badges – the ‘BBC rule’ of only having two sponsors, one of which has to be the tournament sponsor, is ridiculous – and some tournament sponsors really take the proverbial (in particular the massive red rectangle that Betfred imposes on players at the worlds). Should be a maximum of 4 but World Snooker should have absolute discretion to stop players turning up with really bad sponsors (like when Fergal O’Brien wore an advert for his local Spar shop – it just makes the game look half-arsed when things like that are allowed on the biggest stage).

  • Trent Love

    I think common sense should prevail. Being an aussie and playing a final wearing long sleeve shirt and bow tie and waistcoat in 35degrees celcius suxs balls. Same in china etc. Has to be relaxed to suit. The climate. Why cant it follow the tennis route? England be traditional, asian be relaxed(no waistcoat or tie) .european fifferent colured shirts?? Sounds easy enough. Dont like tshirts idea. Imagine mjw unshaven in tracksuit and thongs or judd trump wearing his pants low american style showing his undies. Looks bad enough when there shirts come untucked.

  • http://gamerating.proboards.com/ aerion111

    ,,,If you want the sport to be classy, do it through the rules and context, not through clothes.
    You’re trying to make a bunch of glorified pool-hustlers seem like high-class gentlemen, and it’s just coming across as awkward to anyone not a great fan of snooker already.
    Just let people wear what they want – several will graduate towards things that make them look good to the audience, because no one wants their world-championship-winning moment to be ruined by being the guy in shorts and a Hawaiian t-shirt.
    At most, require ‘formal’ clothes, but leave it at that.

    • Ben Davies

      if the only reason to change the traditional waist coat and bow tie is to attract a younger audience forget it! do people really believe that somebody would be put off the game because of how they dress when playing at the top level? i think not. i have heard the odd player complain that the boe tie can get in the way whilst they are cueing. if this is true then maybe the bow tie issue needs looking at. as for making ” a bunch of glorified pool- hustlers seem like high class gentleman” what a load of rubbish! a comment from someone who clearly doesnt know their arse from their elbow!

      • http://gamerating.proboards.com/ aerion111

        It wouldn’t be to attract a younger audience, it would be to have more variety in clothing.
        Presumably the point of traditional clothing is for visual appeal of some sort; I’m saying I think it’d look better if you loosened the rules and let people take advantage of the latest innovations in clothes-science.

  • opencurtin

    I think that they should get some top suit designers in to design cool suits for them with unusual waist coats not just the same old black they seem to all wear now , you can do a lot with a waist coat design wise also colorful shirts , the possibilities are endless .

  • opencurtin

    I remeber Kirk Stevens in the 80s was a cool dresser and attracted a huge fan base not only the fact he was a great player but also a great dresser .

  • Jim Fox

    A compelling argument for change is for short- sleeve shirts, or quality T-shirts; many times players foul through their sleeves touching a ball; also their waistcoats. Clothing should not disadvantage any player. Bow ties? Maybe let them be coloured to lift the all-black gloom!