Tennessee Orange, Pantone 151 C, PMS 151. No matter how you refer to it, fans love Big Orange. Seemingly everything can be found in orange, from what would be considered more calm T-shirts and hats up to orange checkered overalls. Even a rare orange lobster found in Gatlinburg was named “The Big Orange Lobster” in honor of the upcoming 2022-23 football season. So where did the orange even start?
The first usage of orange for UT goes all the way back to 1889 when UT Athletic Association President Charles Moore chose the colors orange and white for UT’s first field day on August 12, 1889, according to UT history. The colors were worn by students to the Sewanee football game in 1891, which featured Moore as a right guard.
Students endorsed the colors at a special meeting in 1892, only for them to vote to drop the colors two years later. A one-day debate ensued, but as no one was able to provide any other satisfactory colors, so orange and white prevailed.
A Vol myth suggests that the color was chosen by Moore and that he was colorblind and had been told that the center of a daisy was orange. There is no definite proof to support that Moore was colorblind. According to UT Sports, the bright orange was chosen by Moore in connection with the common American daisy that grew prominently on the Hill, overlooking Neyland Stadium. A Volopedia entry written by Betsey Creekmore shares that the debates in the elections to select the colors where students voted for the colors prominently featured the Daisy argument.
One account of the daisies is mentioned in a 1996 article by Ruth Lovell. Volopedia states that Lovell was working in the University Historian’s office during the period that she wrote the article.
“Some examples of UT history deal with traditions we celebrate even today. Our school’s colors were chosen in 1889 by a man who liked the ones growing on the hill. One student called Charles Moore “color-blind” after learning that the flowers that supposedly covered the hill in the late 1800’s were probably not orange. A UT instructor of ornamental horticulture and design landscape stated that they had never seen such a daisy, wild or hybrid. Think about that the next time you put on your UT best. The person who chose the colors may have been color-blind. I’m sure my best friend, who goes to Mississippi State, would love to hear that and would probably contend that knowing that explains why our colors are so obnoxious, as she calls them.” Lovell wrote.
Yes, the center of the beloved common daisies is arguably much more of a yellow than an orange color, but a better explanation for the color choice, aside from student choice, has not been well documented. Perhaps it is possible that the yellow daisy center appeared more orange in the later afternoon sunlight.
Still, UT Sports says the orange jerseys made their debut in the season opening game of 1922, where “Coach M.B. Banks’ Vols christened the orange jerseys on Sept. 23, 1922, with a 50-0 victory over Emory & Henry.”
Looking to paint something UT orange? The UT Brand Standard’s suggests Benjamin Moore: Orange Juice, Behr: Joyful Orange, PPG or Glidden: Jack O’ Lantern, Valspar: Fresh Persimmons, or Sherwin-Williams Carnival or Navel.