Something often brought up when people discuss the image and appeal of snooker, especially when trying to figure out how to grow the sport, is it’s traditionally formal dresscode. Ever since the era of Joe Davis and Walter Lindrum the default dress code has been smart trousers, dress shoes, long-sleeved shirt, waistcoat and tie or bowtie. There have been small variations over the years, mostly over the last 15 years, but in general this is the accepted norm. Even the Danish ranking events carry close to this dress code, so it is not restricted to the top level.
Snooker is a very traditional sport, which is part of the reason it has struggled to grow and modernise in the past, and why even under Barry Hearn’s no-nonsense get-on-with-it management style there is a lot to make up for. Up-and.coming talents, even in the traditional snooker hotbed that is the UK, have not been as plentiful as they once were. The world around the sport has changed a great deal, with especially the way we communicate and consume media making huge leaps forward. Children are at the forefront of this, growing up with new ways to communicate, plus the fact that globalisation has led to a further blending of cultures. This also means people’s dress sense has changed slowly but surely, and the age of every gentleman outside being dressed in ‘proper atire’ has passed.
So I ask the question: does snooker’s traditional dress code do it a disservice? On one side, there is the argument that youths these days, used to bright and colourful outfits and shoes, as seen in other popular sports such as football, tennis and basketball, will not be attracted to a sport requiring you to dress like your grandfather. It should be noted though that snooker has other requirements than these sports. You’re not exactly running back and forth on a pitch, even though snooker is a more physical sport than critics make it out to be.
It is nice though to play snooker in a short-sleeved shirt. Indeed this was tried in the Premier League several times, and also some of the PTC’s were played in short-sleeved poloshirts, which I thought looked very nice indeed, and also reflected the status of the PTC tournaments as opposed to their big ranking event brothers. Nowadays, the only difference really is the absence of a waistcoat in the PTC’s, as well as all players being dressed in the exact same colour (BORING!). I’d say it’s good to have more variation, and to have the status of the event somewhat reflected in the dresscode. PTC’s in short-sleeved shirts are fine. They won’t suddenly make thousands take the game up, but it could still help modernise snooker’s in some ways dusty image.
Then there is the issue of bowties. Personally, I detest bowties and ties because they are such a horrible thing to wear. They make me feel like I’m permanently choking, and I’ve learned I’m not the only one who feels that way. Indeed Stephen Maguire has played without one for most, if not all of his career, having had a doctor’s note stating he gets an allergic reaction due to the friction of the thing. Some modernisations have been made, with Judd Trump introducing a new form of bowtie, something I think looks like something mourners at a funeral might wear, but at least he’s doing something different. Also, is the bowtie really necessary? Yes, it’s traditional, but I would argue that a shirt and waistcoat these days is more than fancy enough. I would say that it’s enough to require it in the World Championship,and leave it out for the others.
In conclusion, I think variation is good, and should be encouraged. The current dress code is fairly strict and there is very little variation. I think being a bit more loose with colours, as well as getting rid of the bowties entirely would do the sport a service. Standards need to be upheld, and the World Championship definitely shouldn’t be touched, but what is wrong with playing the PTC’s in short-sleeved shirts, and playing other major events in tailored shirts? I’d say very little. I used to play competition in Holland in a bright pink shirt, the colour chosen for our club, and I thought it looked great. Nothing wrong with a bit of brightness!
Written for Snooker Magasinet