The UNB colours

The origin of UNB’s official red and black colours is apparently lost in the mists of time. 

Red and black are prominent colours on the UNB flag.No amount of searching in the university archives has been able to uncover the moment at which they were introduced or formally adopted, yet they’ve been the institutional colours for at least a century. 

The matter stymied even the late Colin B. Mackay, who served as UNB’s president from 1953 to 1969.  Dr. Mackay was a great proponent of heritage and tradition, and encouraged the university to celebrate its roots, its founders and its history.  But he couldn’t explain the red and black.

It would seem that students, more particularly the athletic ones, were primarily responsible.

The first known reference is in the October 1891 edition of The University Monthly, precursor to the newspaper now known as The Brunswickan.  It was reported quite a few students had been seen on the campus fields wearing red and black football (rugby) jerseys. 

By 1905, The Monthly noted that a committee had been established to select one merchant in Fredericton who would be authorized to sell red and black sweaters to students.  “Some measures should be taken at once if we wish to appear in a distinctive uniform in our many athletic contests,” the article asserted.

Five years later The Monthly carried an item on the adoption of a new sweater: “The old band over the shoulder has been discarded, and a broad black band round the chest under the arms substituted.  The new pattern looks much better and meets with general approval…A big red monogram, forming the letters UNB, is…sewn in the centre of the black band.”

In 1914, The Monthly exhorted students to abandon individual class colours for sweaters, caps and socks, and adopt “our own red and black.”

UNB Saint John frosh wear red and black beanies as they line up in the cafeteria in September 1969.Since then, faculty, staff, students and alumni have wholeheartedly embraced the red and black.  In addition to sweaters, jackets, orientation week beanies and other attire, the colours are prominent on both campuses; have been incorporated into the UNB flag; are part of academic regalia, especially the president’s robes; and comprise the colour scheme for many publications, as well as the name of UNB Fredericton’s long-standing student variety show, the Red ‘n’ Black Revue.

Interestingly enough, UNB shares its 1785 founding date with the University of Georgia, which, lo and behold, adopted red and black as its official colours in 1891.  Coincidence…or something more?