There is hardly a Queen’s soul who cannot belt out the opening verse of the Oil Thigh and its boast that, “Queen’s College colours we are wearing once again, soiled as they are by the battle and the rain” There are even fewer who don’t know that Queen’s has three colours: blue, red and gold.
In the 1870s, Queen’s was growing. New buildings were rising up, the campus newspaper was born, but there was little branding for the fledgling college. Queen’s had its motto and its crest, but nothing strikingly visual to set it apart. Soccer and rugby players complained about the difficulties on the field when their nondescript uniforms mixed with their opponents. Some improvised colours for their uniforms and on campus, students took to identifying their faculty by tying blue, gold or red ribbons to their hats.
In 1884, the AMS took things into its own hands. After consulting with Queen’s soccer and rugby captains, it passed a motion that consecrated blue, gold and red as the university’s official colours, inspired by the colours on the college crest. The colours were quickly adopted on and off the playing field and soon made their way into school chants and songs. At first, the tricolour was arranged in parallel bars, leading a Pittsburgh newspaper in 1899 to mockingly describe Queen’s hockey players as “skating barber poles.”
Ironically, the tricolour used American spelling, “tricolor,” until the mid-1970s. In 1978, the Tricolor yearbook became the Tricolour, and a decade later, Principal Ronald Watts empowered an advisory committee to bring uniformity and proper heraldic form to all Queen’s visual symbols. In time, distinctive tricolour ties, scarves and flags followed.