What to Wear

Kenzi Juszkiewicz models checkerboard overalls in preparation for game-day. 

It’s easy to say “Go Big Orange” and wear whichever shade of orange you may please to represent the Vols. But, when it comes down to it, Tennessee Orange is a very specific shade, and it must be uniform for all things UT-related from jerseys to signage to mugs.

Tennessee Orange, or Pantone 151 C, is the primary color for the university, but white, and later, Smokey — a shade of gray named after our beloved mascot — were added as the two other primary colors to help underscore the boldness of Tennessee Orange. If you’ll notice, no UT communications ever use the color black. Everything from fonts to normal accents that would be black are changed to Smokey instead — even online, text on UT websites is not black but rather Smokey X, a darkened version of the original color.

There are also accent colors in addition to the three primary hues, and they are all named after campus-related people, place and ideologies. From Torch red to Summit blue to Leconte — like the mountain here in East Tennessee — maroon, UT’s accent colors both complement Tennessee Orange and also offer consistency to UT’s look.

The colors that originally represented Rocky Top — orange and white — were chosen by UT Athletic Association President Charles Moore for the first UT field day on April 12, 1889.

Moore’s reasoning for choosing UT’s beloved orange and white highlights the foundation the university was built on — agriculture. The American daisy sports the same two colors and could be found all over The Hill overlooking Neyland Stadium.

Then, in 1891, Charles Moore became a right guard on the inaugural football team. He opted to wear orange and white in the game against Sewanee.

However, in 1894, there was a call to drop the colors, and the student body voted in favor of the decision. Luckily for current Volunteers, though, no one could decide on a more satisfactory color, and the orange and white stuck.

Interestingly enough, orange jerseys were not worn by Tennessee football players until the 1922 season, but they were christened by coach M. B. Banks on Sept. 23, 1922, following a 50-0 victory over Emory & Henry, the same year Tennessee joined the Southern Conference.

In 1921, Ayres Hall had just been completed and the top of the clock tower was visible from the field in Neyland Stadium. It featured a checkerboard pattern still visible today. The University of Tennessee football then took the pattern a step further in 1964 and combined it with UT’s orange and white. The new orange and white checkerboard was used to decorate the end zone on the field.

While checkerboard end zones were not unique to Tennessee, the change to orange was. The tradition was interrupted between 1968 and 1989 because of technological issues with the turf, but the treasured orange and white checkerboard returned.

This year’s Homecoming theme is even Charge the Checkerboard.

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