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Indiana Daily Student

Making the cream and crimson

We will fight for the cream and crimson

For the glory of old IU

Russell P. Harker’s tribute to IU, “Indiana, Our Indiana,” was first performed at a basketball game in November 1912. Since then, students have been rah-rahing with our school fight song, chanting our official colors with pride. Director of University Archives and Records Management Dina Kellams saidshe feels an immense sense of connection when she sees our colors outside of Bloomington.

“When I’m out elsewhere and I see our stripes or cream and crimson, it does kind of give me warm fuzzies, that IU is everywhere,” Kellams said. “Whenever I see it, it makes me feel a little bit closer to home.

Our beloved cream and crimson have become an advertisement for the University, and in many ways, unifies every student and alumni as one. Cream and crimson makes Bloomington home.

So how did the famous colors come to be?

The concept of school spirit in correlation with color has been of high priority to IU since the mid 1880s.

The colors of the University before the establishment of our current colors were crimson and black, while individual class ranks had their own colors, according to an article published in The Indiana Student, an old monthly magazine. The senior class was cream and gold, while the junior class was orange and white. The original fraternities also had their own colors.

IU’s legendary cream and crimson began after debating what colors to put on a Commencement number of The Student in 1888. In Nov. 13, 1903, an unnamed IU alumna recounted her interpretation of the establishment of the cream and crimson to the Indiana Daily Student.

“The next question that confronted us was the colors to be used in decorating the binding of the volume,” the alumna said. “Before that time there had been no official University colors, so the class of [18]88, 39 in number, met to decide what Indiana’s future colors should be.”

According to this article, the class chose cream and crimson “without a dissenting vote.” IU’s famous colors made their debut with the production of the Commencement issue of The Student.

“Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer” explained that at the time the class of 1888 was trying to decide the official colors, The Student said the colors of the university were crimson and black.

Cream and crimson were chosen by the class of 1888 to confront the problem of multiple colors. Crimson and black were the school colors, and the senior class’ colors were cream and gold. In order to eliminate confusion, they combined the two color groupings for the binding and introduced the cream and crimson.

An article posted in the IDS on March 5, 1898 advised all IU students to wear their cream and crimson at a debate between IU and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

IU’s colors were recorded in the College Sports Map and copyrighted in 1949 as being cream and crimson. Our nickname was officially the Fighting Hoosiers.

Although cream and crimson were always our official colors, the athletic department oversaw several color changes to the uniforms through the years.


1940s Dark crimson uniforms & black uniforms with black helmets. Crimson helmets were used on the ends for the quarterback to locate them easier.

1950s Lighter crimson uniforms (except some blue jerseys in late 1950s)

1960s “True crimson” uniforms under Coach John Pont

1973-1982 Lighter scarlet uniforms with black outlines around the numbers and on the sleeves during Coach Lee Corso era.

1983 (Coach Sam Wyche)- cream and scarlet

1984-1996 Darker crimson again-uniforms were “stock cardinal” under Coach Mallory.

1997-2001 (Cam Cameron era) Red jerseys with black helmets and the oval IU logo.

The block “I” on the side of the helmet used for throwback games or as an alternate helmet now, was on the side from 1967-1982 and 1984-1996.


1940s and 1950s Lighter red

Late 1960s Dark crimson, almost burgundy

1971-2000 (Bobby Knight era) Scarlet red

All Sports:

2002-2003 Consolidated logo and color with Nike’s Cardinal color

2004 Adidas & Victory Red

The switch to black football helmets in 1997 generated a lot of response, according to Assistant Athletic Director for Team Purchasing & Licensing Marty Clark. He said black was a very prominent color in sports at the time and was showing up somewhere in many team jerseys.

“We were all over the board,” Clark said of the 1990s. “There wasn’t a whole lot of consistency. Basketball was wearing red. Wrestling team was wearing a burgundy darker color. We were having different logos within the department.”

In 2002, the new athletic director, Michael McNeely, made the decision to revert back to the original cream and crimson colors, along with a new logo and mascot, for all athletic uniforms, according to an IDS article printed Jan. 15, 2002. The purpose was for full brand identification to unify all athletic teams.

“We incorporated one logo for the whole department and one color,” Clark said. “Their contract at that time was with Nike, and Nike’s version of crimson was a little bit darker, more of a burgundy color and the actual color was called cardinal. That contract lasted for two years and then it was the switch to Adidas, and Adidas’ color was a little bit lighter, but it’s still crimson. It’s called victory red.”

Dina Kellams was an undergraduate student when the uniforms changed to red and black. She recalled student atmosphere during this time as disagreeable and unpleased. Students like Kellams’ roommate weren’t happy because these colors were not IU. Black wasn’t tradition, according to Kellams.

“The cream and crimson is tradition,” Kellams said. “Once they were adopted, the students and alums just really latched on to them and I think they’re really important to convey the message of Hoosierdom.”

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