Football season is officially here. Each weekend, our favorite teams hit the field to light up our Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. With that, iconic fall images of tailgating, big-screen TVs, cool weather, fan paraphernalia and favorite players come to mind. But let’s not forget those that help make game days happen: the referees. Their iconic black and white striped shirts are hard to miss … and that’s exactly the point.
Why do referees wear black and white stripes? We answer this question with help from The New York Times.
Before 1920, referees wore white dress shirts and bow-tie.
“The notion was that a formally dressed gentleman has an air of authority, and that’s what you want in an official,” Paul Lukas, editor of the Uni Watch blog, told The New York Times.
While the notion may have stayed the same, the white attire changed when referee Lloyd Olds was passed a ball during play. Bothered by what happened, Olds asked a friend that owned a sporting goods store to make him a shirt that would more clearly separate him from the players.
A year later, in 1921, Olds debuted his black and white stripes much to the dismay of the fans. But like it or not, the shirt did its job – it distinguished Olds from the players on the field.
“It’s an effective design,” said Lukas regarding the classic zebra stripe to The New York Times. “It functions just the way Lloyd Olds wanted it to.” Besides, now it’s tradition. “At this point, we have almost a century’s worth of strong visual associations with officials in black stripes, and it’s hard to see that changing.”
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