There’s a lot of time to kill at snooker tournaments and much of it is spent with people coming up with ideas to fix things that probably aren’t broken to start with.
If you spend long enough at a venue someone will eventually ask you for your view on the dress code, and more particularly whether you think it should change.
Are the traditional waistcoats and bow-ties smart and presentable or stuffy and old fashioned? Should the appearances of the players be brought more into line with modern times?
The dread phrase in any such debate is that snooker “should appeal more to the young” – a catch-all idea which assumes everyone under the age of 25 thinks the same way.
In fact, young kids in junior events invariably like to put on a waistcoat because it makes them feel like one of their heroes. Also, what exactly is wrong with older spectators? If they have passion for the sport and money to spend then it probably isn’t a great idea to alienate them.
However, image is important. It attracts – or repels – sponsors and broadcasters, which between them fund the professional circuit.
What we’ve seen of late are different looks for different events. In the PTCs, polo shirts are worn to present a more laidback image. In the Champion of Champions tournament and again for afternoons at the Masters, players wore ties rather than bow-ties. In the current Championship League, players wear plain shirts and smart trousers.
Some players will always look good whatever they wear, just as some will look like they’ve got dressed in the dark. This is true of people generally. I’m just not sure the dress code will affect snooker’s fortunes one way or the other: if the waistcoats are either kept or binned.
The whole argument really boils down to this: would Ronnie O’Sullivan’s incredible performance against Ricky Walden at the Masters have been any more special if he’d been wearing a polo shirt? And the answer, of course, is no. When snooker is of high quality, you don’t notice the attire.
So the only real reason to change the dress code is if World Snooker were approached by a clothing firm. Then it would make sense for commercial rather than cosmetic reasons.
Otherwise, the traditional wear may as well remain. It provides continuity and is well down the list of things snooker needs to worry about.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.