Why Do Cricketers Wear Whites (History & Interesting Facts)

Have you ever wondered why the cricketers wear white clothes during test cricket matches? We see them putting on colorful jerseys in one-day international and Twenty20 cricket all the time. Then why white in test cricket?

There are four reasons why cricketers wear a white jersey in test cricket matches: 

  1. Whites are more suitable for heat. 
  2. Spotting the red ball becomes easier. 
  3. The cricket whites represent the legacy. 
  4. White material was readily available when cricket started. 

But, there is a lot more to it. From the whites to the colors, cricket jerseys have traveled a long way. However, amidst the colors in the limited over matches, the significance and the class of the “cricket whites” have remained the same. In this article, we will discuss a few reasons and some interesting facts behind this mystery of Cricket whites. 

Why Do Cricket Players Wear Whites In The Test Matches?

White color has been a part of cricket since the 1800s. In the mid-1980s, colored jerseys were introduced to cricket gear. Later, they became the official attire for ODIs and Twenty20 cricket. 

The customary cricket whites that we are acquainted with were regarded as “The Flannels”. We commonly call them Jerseys now.

So, what are Flannels in Cricket? Flannels is a term given to cricket clothing. Flannels are a little loose and provide best comfort to the cricketers. The trousers are highly elastic and durable. The t-shirts and jumpers can be short-sleeved or full-sleeved. Short-sleeves are preferred by bowlers and long-sleeves by wicket keepers to avoid abrasion

The flannels were initially white or cream-colored. Soon, these cream/white colored flannels were made all white. There have been different opinions of experts as to why the decision might have been made. Here are some prudent reasons, I think, which make the most sense: –  

Whites are More Suitable for Heat

This is more of a scientific and a health reason. 

A test match can get pretty exhausting – not only for the players but also for the peripheral businesses. They examine the patience, consistency, and skills of cricketers, for five long days. Playing continuously for five days takes a toll – physically as well as psychologically. But what does that have to do with jersey colors? The connection is simple. They wear white jerseys to keep the heat at bay!

Cricket to us was more than play, It was a worship in the summer sun.

 – Edmund Blunden

Cricket began as a summer sport. A test match requires a player to stay on the field for over 8 hours a day for 5 days. Scientifically, white clothing provides better protection from environmental heat as it reflects more light as compared to other colors. It feels comfortable to wear white when you have to run continuously, in open ground, under the sun. 

White color reduces – 

  • The amount of heat that the body absorbs 
  • The stress levels in the players
  • The rate of dehydration in the players 
  • The chances of players getting a sunstroke

This also answers the question – “Why whites only in Tests and not ODIs or Twenty20?” Because, playing 50 overs, under the sun, is very much doable than playing 90 hours per day for 5 days. However, the reasoning doesn’t end here. 

Spotting the Red Ball becomes Easier

This is more of a logical reason for using whites in Test Matches. 

We have always seen players use a Red Ball in Test cricket. Thus, the red ball is easier to spot when all the players are dressed in white. 

Test matches have always traditionally used a red ball. Recently, the pink ball has become quite popular in test cricket. It is logical to have white attire to make the ball visible on the field. 

For other cricketing formats, a white ball is used, which makes it easier to spot the ball among the colored jerseys.

The Cricket Whites Represent the Legacy

This one is more of a traditional reason for wearing cricket whites. 

Cricket is about a lot more than playing by the rules. It’s a gentleman’s game. Don’t you ever forget that.

– Ken Doyle

Yes. Cricket is a gentleman’s game. Cricket was usually played by the Elite group of British people during the 18th century. Test matches were considered the highest and the purest standard of cricket gaming.

The white color has long since established itself as a color of royalty and purity. White attire has somewhat its roots from the phrase ‘Knight in white shining armor’, giving it a sense of chivalry and elegance. The color was also said to symbolize the equality amongst the players. 

So, the two notions constituted the white uniform in unison. And, since then, white clothing has given the title of tradition in cricket.

Anthony Bateman from University of Salford, Salford, UK, published a study in June 2005  called The Politics Of The Aesthetic: Cricket, Literature And Culture 1850 -1965. It has beautifully explained the stance of “Cricket Whites” during those days. I have cited one of their lines here that prove this fact – 

The white shirts and flannels so closely associated with the dominant cricket aesthetic, symbolizing the “lily-white” moral values of the game and those who played it, were in fact a classic invention of tradition that had emerged from the Victorian reinvention of the game…

White Material was Readily Available when Cricket Started

Cricket originated in the late 16th century in southeast England. It was only in the 18th century that cricket gained the title of the national sport of Britain. During those days, white was one of the most readily available materials. It was only a practical choice to have white included as the cricket attire.

The Journey From Cricket Whites To Colored Pajamas… 

The history of cricket whites is surprisingly interesting! In the 18th century, white evolved as a practical choice as it was easily available during the time. Before that, gentlemen would show up wearing their everyday clothes to a cricket field. 

Did You Know?
The first-ever formal attire for professional cricket was a white shirt with red polka dots! Thinking about it now almost seems funny. 

Cricket attire has always been something that gives a “gentlemanly sense”. Even after so long, white is still considered a gentleman’s color. Since cricket was a summer sport, white was perfect as it reflected the sunlight. 

The Telegraph alludes to the 1972 essay on the mores of cricket costumery, where Frederick Gale, 18th century English cricketer, makes this point clear. 

“White is the colour for the cricket field, so put on your white flannel suit. And you shall have a piece of dandyism if you wear a straw hat and you may wear a band ribbon, provided it is a good ribbon… And your straw hat must be good and shapely, and not fit your head like a beefsteak pudding.” 

– Frederick Gale

When did cricketers start wearing colors in ODI and Twenty20?

The glorious win of the Indian cricket team in 1983 will always be engraved in our minds. But have you ever wondered why the Indian team wore white jerseys in one-day cricket? 

It was because colored clothing became a part of a one-day international from the 1992 World Cup. But that was not the first time that the teams wore colored jerseys for an international match. 

Colored Jersey in ODI cricket
Colored Jersey worn by cricketers in ODI Matches

On November 28th, 1978, the first-ever day-night match took place between WSC Australia XI and WSC West Indies XI. And it was on this day that the players ditched their white jerseys for colored ones. 50,000 fans had rushed to the stadium to be a part of this historical day! 

Australia started following these changes in the 80s itself. In 1992, the world saw the first colorful World Cup in history. About a decade later, in December 2000, ODI cricket followed suit and made colored clothing compulsory. 

Interesting Facts about cricket uniforms

Those numbered jerseys have always been a fascination among avid fans. So, I tried to collect here some mind-blowing facts about cricket uniforms: – 

  1. Twenty20 cricket matches have never seen the white jerseys. Interestingly, the first international Twenty20 match was played between WOMEN’s teams of England and New Zealand on August 05, 2020! 
  2. The term “flannels” that we have been referring to, is also used in Baseball. 
  3. Did you know that NOT all cricketers use slim fit jerseys? There are usually two types of sizes – (1)  loose or regular fit (2) slim fit 
    • Indian cricketers almost never use the Slim fit sizes. This depends on the weather. Countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh prefer loose jerseys as the humidity causes sweating. 
  4. The numbers that we see printed on these jerseys – cricketers choose them for themselves! For example, Rahul Dravid used to wear the jersey with number 5 printed on it. But he changed it to 19 – his wife’s birth date, after he got married. He believes that she is very lucky for him.  
  5. Helmets are a part of the cricketer’s attire. But, did you know that some cricketers continued to use white helmets despite wearing colored jerseys! Interestingly, cricketers did not even use the helmets before the 1970s. Instead of helmets, they would use cushion/padded caps to protect themselves from injuries. 

Final Thoughts

We would always enjoy cricket no matter what the color of the jersey is. However, the excitement doubles up when we see the stadium separated into two colors. Regarding the cricket whites in test matches, fraternities reckon that the white color will continue for the decades to come. It is good, I feel. The test cricket has its own, very special, and dedicated fanbase. The white color will continue to hold it together. What do you think?  

Shrot Katewa

Shrot is an avid cricket fan! He has played and endorsed the sport ever since he was in School. In fact, he played as a professional cricketer represented his state team in National Indoor Cricket Championship held in Pune, India. Shrot loves the game, loves talking to other people who play the game and share his learnings with other interested individuals. He is the founder of CricketMastery.com. This website is a culmination of his desire to help others understand this wonderful Game of Cricket!

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