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?