Why Do Lawn Bowlers Wear White? | A Clear Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 3 min.

Modern lawn bowlers have one sacred tenet: Never mess up the green. Thus, while dress codes in modern lawn bowls are now full of variety, one thing remains: shoes must be flat and smooth. Yet, despite loosening dress codes, some persist in wearing the old fashion all-white or at least outfits that would pass the Wimbledon test. In the name of grass stains, why white?

Lawn bowlers wear white, reflecting the sport’s privileged heritage, much like cricket, tennis, and croquet. It was played by people who had somebody else do their laundry. However, there is also a practical purpose, as all these sports require extended periods in the sun, and white is cooler.

There is growing debate over the wearing of all-white. TV broadcasters prefer some colour. Otherwise, with all players wearing white, it’s harder for viewers to see who belongs to which team. Some want it gone because of the laundry, while others cling to it in the name of bleach. Some believe white gives the game legitimacy, while others claim it’s terrible for recruiting.

Lawn Bowlers Wearing White: Privilege And Practicality

Lawn bowlers traditionally wear white uniforms, regardless of which team they play on. The tradition hinges both on privilege and practicality. However, in current times, we have modern fabrics and social points of view; thus, the debate over white has evolved.

Lawn Bowlers Wearing White Historically Displayed Privileged

Lawn bowls is traditionally a game played by the privileged, as was cricket, tennis, and croquet. All these sports traditionally wear white. Even the posher horse-riding disciplines, such as showjumping and dressage, have riders wearing white trousers, something you’d never see at a Western rodeo.

White is classy. It’s a gentlemen’s colour for summer picnics. It’s a lady’s shade that symbolises virginity and purity. Essentially, it’s a colour of cleanliness for people whose wealth doesn’t require them to get their hands dirty. Thus, the tradition behind lawn bowlers wearing white does have an unfortunate classist history.

Lawn Bowlers Wearing White Was Historically Practical

Despite lawn bowlers’ white uniforms containing an air of undeniable snobbery, there were also practical reasons for wearing the colour. The first is laundry.

Colourful clothing was reserved for outerwear that was rarely washed. This is because keeping colours “bright” was nearly impossible using traditional laundry methods. Washing a load of laundry could take days, while the fabric was subjected to harsh ingredients such as lye.

Thus, things that needed to be washed frequently were limited to a few colours, such as white and brown. Brown was a colour favoured by those who made a living through their labour, which obviously would not do for the elite ranks. So white was the default choice.

White also had the advantage of keeping players cool as they stood under the sun for long hours. Wicking fabrics had yet to be invented. Wool performs better than cotton, but its moisture-cooling technique differs from technological materials. Wool absorbs moisture away from the skin; modern fabrics wick it.

Lastly, white made it easier to make teams. Sure, everyone had their club, but people moved, visited friends, and sometimes to make a game, a club had to donate players to the other side. But nobody had to stress about finding a spare uniform because everybody wore white.

Modern Debate On Lawn Bowlers Wearing

These days lawn bowlers wearing white is debated, and not every club does it. For starters, with modern fabrics and laundry regimes, many colours can be worn in the heat and go through the wash just fine. However, those still favouring polyester knits still like white trousers, as it makes it easy to bleach out grass stains.

The other issue is over what white represents. For some, white is adored because it is traditional and gives the game an air of dignity. But others feel the white dates the game, making it feel “old.” This creates recruitment problems, as people are reluctant to join in on a game associated with having one foot in the grave. Thus, colours add a touch of youthfulness and vitality.


Lawn bowlers are no longer limited to wearing white. Clubs are loosening their uniform requirements, well, aside from the rules on the shoes. However, some clubs cling to white, as they love the tradition.

Others loath it, saying it’s causing problems in attracting new players to the game.

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The Jack High Bowls Drill Pack is available now for instant download.

Perfect for beginners and improving players looking to be more consistent and win more games!