Over the past decade or so the rules around dress code has changed dramatically. This change goes hand-in-hand with some of the other changes in the sport to make it more accessible.
Bowls has pushed hard to appeal to a younger audience, this can be seeing the move to colourful bowls, and a relaxation of dress code.
I see this change week-in, week-out when I play club bowls, and it is especially noticeable when I see bowlers out practising.
So what is the latest guidelines for lawn bowls apparel? Lets take a look.
At a glance
Modern law bowls dress code is very simple:
- Trousers, shorts and skirts of any length are allowed
- Depending on the competition you are playing they should either be grey or white
- You should wear either a club top, or a white t-shirt or polo shirt
- Jumpers, jackets and hoodies are all allowed, so long as they are white
- Hats and caps of any style are allowed
- The only strict rule: shoes must have flat soles
What should you wear to play bowls
When choosing what to wear to play bowls comfort and ease of movement should be your top priorities.
So long as your choices meet the general guidance above you can’t go too far wrong.
Of course, if you are ever in doubt don’t hesitate to ask your club captain or coach and they will be glad to help.
In this section I’ll run through your options when it’s time to play.
When you are playing for your club - either in a local club game, or in a national competition - you should wear your “club top”.
When you join a local club they should provide you with a club top. This is usually a white polo top with the club’s colours and emblem on.
If you haven’t been given one yet, or if your club doesn’t have a specific club top, then a white s-shirt or polo top will be fine.
Baselayers can be worn underneath your top, which is a great option if you are playing on a particularly chilly evening!
Trousers, shorts and skirts
Gone are the days when women had their skirts measured to make sure they are long enough, and men having to wear formal trousers in heatwaves.
There are a few choices out there nowadays, and you can choose to wear what you like depending on personal preference and the weather.
As a general rule, the only thing you shouldn’t wear are jeans. Other than that you can wear either a skirt, shorts, or trousers.
Some competitions require you to wear either grey or white, so it’s worth checking ahead of time. In my local area its grey for competitions and whites for friendlies - but this may be different in your region.
The only strict rules left in bowls is to do with footwear - but this is with good reason.
When playing bowls you MUST wear a pair of shoes with flat soles. This is to protect the surface of the rink. Shoes with grip on them can damage the grass, especially when its soft or wet.
The shoes can be any style you like, and any colour you want. Most of the major manufacturers offer bowls shoes with colour options for those who like a splash of colour, and there are still plenty of options for those traditionalists who like the white formal shoe.
Hats, jumpers and jackets are all fine on the bowls green. So long as they are white when possible, you will be fine.
I often wear a jumper, especially in the early and late parts of the season, as here in the UK the evenings get chilly. And I know many bowlers couldn’t get by without their white rain coats when the worst of the British summer hits.
What to wear when practising
When practising you can dress as you like, so long as you have the correct footwear you will be fine.
I would still advise you don’t wear jeans, not least because they can be restrictive and can be hard to bowl in.
The dress code for lawn bowls has changed dramatically over the last 10-15 years. The old ways have moved on, and bowls clubs are a far more welcoming and accessible place to be.
Here are answers to common questions about lawn bowls dress codes.
Do you have to wear white for bowls?
Whilst there is a dress code for club games, you no longer have to wear all white when playing bowls recreationally. If you are playing a game amongst friends you can wear whatever feels comfortable.
What shoes to wear when playing bowls?
Any shoe can be worn, so long as it has a flat sole. Flat soled shoes protect the surface of the rink, as they don’t dig into the surface like a pair of gripped shoes will.