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The Wimbledon Championships, staged annually at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), is a British sporting event of great social significance. Its popularity stretches beyond the high standards of tennis on display to what it seems to represent culturally for many people. Wimbledon’s public image has been carefully constructed over the years, with consideration given to how the players look, behave, and play; the appearance of the courts and AELTC grounds; the refreshments; its corporate partners; and its relationship to television and media generally. This study suggests that many of these aspects, including Wimbledon’s fashions and the all-whites clothing rule, the grass courts, the strawberries and cream and Pimm’s, the royal box, “Henman Hill,“ and the eulogizing of Fred Perry, conform to Eric Hobsbawm’s concept of “invented traditions.” Through analysis of Wimbledon’s subtle branding and constructed public image, as gleaned from testimonies from AELTC executive-committee members and high-profile Wimbledon officials, this article discusses how these invented traditions serve various functions for the AELTC, namely, to establish social cohesion among an “imagined community” of Wimbledon fans, to legitimize Wimbledon’s high status globally, and to inculcate beliefs, value systems, and behavioral conventions in tandem with Wimbledon’s nostalgia for its amateur “golden age.”
The author is with the Dept. of Sport Science, Douglas College, New Westminster, BC, Canada.