Louisiana State University hasn’t always been the LSU we know it as today. When classes first began in 1860 at Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy under superintendent William Tecumseh Sherman (yes, that William Tecumseh Sherman), the school didn’t have any tradition or color. Literally.
One hundred and sixty years later, LSU is a float-on-wheels bursting with vivaciousness, spirit and a rich history in the SEC. Every diehard LSU Tigers fan has sung neck at a home LSU football game. They’ve visited live mascot Mike the Tiger at his exhibit outside Death Valley. They know Ed Orgeron’s homecoming story.
But what even the oldest Baton Rouge residents might not know is the story behind the purple and gold or that blue and white were actually LSU’s first colors. LSU is famous across the NCAA for the pair of colors, but how did the school originally settle on them?
Wouldn’t you know Mardi Gras has something to do with it…
LSU Tigers Colors
Right, we know the LSU colors are purple and gold. Here are the official hex color codes and pantones.
That vibrant LSU purple can only really be pulled off by the Tigers. There are plenty of other colleges and universities that have tried (Clemson, Washington, Kansas State, Northwestern, TCU and ECU) and even the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings have given it a shot, but purple should stay in the state that hosts the world’s biggest party every year.
As if purple wasn’t a jarring enough color, the gold LSU dons on its t-shirts and jerseys is spectacular. Notre Dame is the other notable school to feature gold and became known for their all-gold helmets in college football.
Why Are LSU’s Colors Purple and Gold?
More than 100 years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Charles Coates arrived at LSU in 1893. The John Hopkins University graduate wondered why no sports existed at the school and became the first coach of LSU’s football team.
He set out to play Tulane, a team consisting of ex-college men from New Orleans and members of the Southern Athletic Club. LSU lost that bout on November 25, 1893, but what transpired in the days before the game led to the creation of the school’s colors.
“I knew we had to have some colors so Ruff Pleasant, who was later governor of Louisiana, a couple of other men and I went to Reymond’s store, at that time at the corner of Third and Main streets,” Dr. Coates wrote in the LSU Alumni News in 1937. “We told them we wanted quite a lot of ribbon for colors, but no one knew what our colors were. It happened that the store was stocking ribbon for the coming Carnival season and had a large supply of purple and gold. The green had not yet come in. So we adopted the purple and old gold, bought out the stock, and made it into rosettes and badges. Purple and old gold made a good combination and we have stuck to it ever since.”Advertisement
Interestingly, blue and white had already been selected by the school’s former president. Coates said when former university president Col. David F. Boyd returned after serving in the 1880s, he was surprised to see purple and gold flaunted everywhere.
“He told me they were not the colors, that white and blue had been chosen by him many years ago. But purple and gold had by that time established itself and nothing was ever done about it,” Coates wrote.
LSU’s official colors were nearly blue and white, but let’s thank Coates for the purple and gold we see all over Baton Rouge and Louisiana today.
SEC Team Colors
Alabama Crimson Tide: Crimson and White
Auburn Tigers: Burnt Orange and Navy Blue
LSU Tigers: Purple and Gold
Texas A&M Aggies: Maroon and White
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Maroon and White
Ole Miss Rebels: Red and Navy Blue
Arkansas Razorbacks: Cardinal Red and White
Florida Gators: Orange and Blue
Georgia Bulldogs: Red and Black
Tennessee Volunteers: Orange and White
South Carolina Gamecocks: Garnet and Black
Kentucky Wildcats: Blue and White
Vanderbilt Commodores: Black and Gold
Missouri Tigers: Black and Gold
This post was originally published on April 1, 2020.