How did ‘Cambridge Blue’ come about?

Intriguingly ‘Cambridge Blue’ is perceived as green rather than blue. In fact there are many interpretations  of the colour. The colour seems to have been a spur-of-the-moment choice just before the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1836:

Cambridge University Boat Club Rowing Blade

Image via Wikipedia

“The second, 1836, boat race is the event associated with the origin of the “blue” (mentioned also in Hawk 1). Just before the race, it is said that R.N. Phipps, of Eton and Christs, thinking that the Cambridge boat should have a “colour” at its bows, called at a haberdashers and asked for a piece of ribbon or silk. The colour of the ribbon was light blue, perhaps because it was Eton’s colour, or Gonville & Caius’ colour (there were three Caians in the boat) or simply because it was the colour of the nearest bit of ribbon to hand! For whatever reason, this choice of light blue, made in 1836, stuck; and became the official colour of the Cambridge University Boat Club.” Source: Christopher Thorne (1996)

In the History of 1st Trinity Boatclub, a book written in 1908, an alternative name is credited with the colour:

English: “The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race: ...

Image via Wikipedia

“In this race Cambridge chose light blue as their colour. It is said that when the crew were on the point of pushing off it was remarked that they had no colours, whereupon E. Stanley, Jesus, who was rowing 3 and had been captain of the boats at Eton, proposed that they should take light blue. Subsequently it has been generally adopted as the University colour in Inter-University matches.”Source: W. W. Rouse Ball (1908)

Obviously, some disagreement in the detail, but agreement that it was Eton College’s blue.

What is ‘Cambridge Blue’?

Today, in practice, there are two shades in common use:

  • Pale blue, such as used on Cambridge University publications. In 1997 Cambridge University standardised the colour. Light is Pantone 284, dark Pantone 286. More details are available on the official Cambridge University website.

Cambridge Blue (Official)

  • A greener pale blue, used for the scarf and blazer of sporting Blues. This colour is the one normally associated with the phrase ‘Cambridge Blue’. We believe that this colour is Pantone 337.
 Cambridge Blue - Pantone 337

Can you print or embroider in ‘Cambridge Blue’?

Yes. We can print any Pantone colour. With embroidery we can match a Pantone colour to the nearest thread colour. There are 1000s of different thread colours so a match is pretty accurate.

Can you supply clothing in ‘Cambridge Blue’?

Sometimes. The problem is that we are often limited by the colours provided by clothing manufacturers. Often they only produce garments in a limited range of colours because it is unprofitable for them to produce colours that are not popular. Hence clothing is often only available in colours such as black, white, navy, forest green, red and burgundy. Thankfully things are changing. Continental Clothing produce garments in more girl friendly shades such as baby pink and baby blue while Gildan have a large range of available colours.

There are two other ways to get around the problem of the lack of availability of Cambridge Blue garments:

  1. Order a garment in black or light blue and customise it with text or logos in the ‘Cambridge Blue’ colour.
  2. We can manufacturer a specially dyed garment which would be the right colour. However, there is often a minimum quantity for custom manufacturing depending on the type of garment. Furthermore this option is more expensive and garments have a lead time of 4-5 weeks rather than 10-15 days.

*What is this Pantone colour you are talking about?

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is an international colour system that is used throughout printing, publishing and packaging industries to provide an accurate method for the selection, reproduction and matching of colour. It is the most widely used system of its kind and creates a standardisation of colour to which very close matches can be made when printing.