On Maize, And Also On Blue A Little Comment Count

Brian March 8th, 2012 at 12:51 PM

A while back I posted on an athletic department initiative to reclaim maize from the vast sea of generic (and increasingly bright) yellow that has slowly enveloped everything from t-shirts to the uniforms themselves.

This is the part where very serious people leap in to note the effects of lighting, your monitor, your mood, and your brain on your perception of color. When I asked for an official RGB conversion of the pantone colors the University recognizes as official to deploy here, helpful users came up with a hilariously diverse gamut of possibilities.


In response to this I threw up my hands and didn't change anything, because it's not like there's a right answer. The one useful thing we can draw from this is that all of these shades are darker than than the current deployments in basketball and football:

UM_MSU_Gordon-thumb-300x451-91668[1]013011_SPT_UM vs IOWA_MRM

Gordon chosen for maximum soul-offensiveness; I was at that game and that seems like an accurate reproduction. Hardaway uniform an approximate median from the first couple pages of Google Image Search.

Insert usual disclaimers about pictures—the famous Desmond Howard picture I brought out for the original post is almost orange because of things not related to the actual uniform color—but I've been there in person, I've scanned the student section and had the lack of pop from an actually-maize shirt pop out at me: this is correct insofar as these things can be correct.


We're never going to get anywhere doing this. I'd like to put aside the hard science of color and play a little feelingsball, if we can. Here's an email I received a couple weeks back after a guy tweeted at me about the differences between the Crisler floor (a darker shade I associate more strongly with maize) and the team's uniforms (YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW):


I saw your RT of some guy's tweet referencing the "maize" on the Crisler Center's floor and the "highlighter yellow" of the bball uniforms.  I fall more on the highlighter side of the argument, as I remember as a kid watching teams in the late 70's and early 80's crushing opponents with maize pants that were far closer to the highlighter than the Crisler M border that reminds me of the maize used by t-shirt street vendors.
Bored, I dug around and found this article from 1996. Interesting read, but it seems that the author concludes that the maize we see in the uniform is closer to the 1912 approved colors than the border around the M.  The last two pics are interesting in that the one on the right:

photo of athletic colors

looks more like the bball floor than the approved:

photo of 1912 colors that U-M now recognizes as official

Love the blog.


And now the background color of block quotes is really bothering me. We must forge on.

Here is the feelingsball: that strip on the bottom is wrong. It's Second-Great-Awakening-preacher wraoooong, at least as far as athletic teams are concerned. In other contexts I'm sure it's fine. If a Michigan team came out in a blue that light, though, there would be a riot. It would be a genteel Earl Grey kind of riot in which people hop on the internet to demand the email address of Dave Brandon, but it would be a riot nonetheless. I question the validity of applying the yellow from the official colors when the blue is clearly not right.

I bring it up because I've gotten a moderate amount of pushback on the idea that Michigan's current yellow is bad and ahistoric and should be hit with a shovel and buried in an Iowa cornfield. Like the guy above there's a group of Michigan fans out there that sees the lighter shade as the right one. I think they're in the minority, but they exist.

I'm with the darker shades mostly because I find them more aesthetically appealing. They're also more distinct and remind me less of the Seattle Sounders's increasingly neon kits.

Even if you're on the other side of the divide, we can all agree that this


…is not good. Those are the actual helmet decals Michigan used this year compared to an actual Michigan helmet. MVictors acquired them from Helmet Hut, the manufacturer Michigan uses, and reports that Helmet Hut does have colors that match the helmet but Michigan wanted the darker shade.

Dave Brandon's all about uniformity of branding. This aggression will not stand, and on the thing Michigan could change immediately they went with a darker, maiz-ier color. That's the direction we're headed. When Michigan isn't wearing their commemorative flamenco-inspired jerseys against Notre Dame or their special Save the Marsupials outfits for the Big Ten opener, Michigan will take the field against a MAC team looking more like Rick Leach is piloting things. In this, we can take comfort.

SEE ALSO: Maize 'n' Blue Nation.



March 8th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^


You may use the standard mark colors of PMS 294 and PMS 7406, or you may follow the color specifications of your college or unit. If there are none, you can also select your own blue and yellow (or gold) shades. Color pairs should be from the same color palette, with similar brightness and saturation, to achieve best results. 

Some colleges and units have their own specific colors.

Intercollegiate Athletics uses:

U-M Athletic Blue
PMS 282
U-M Athletic Yellow
PMS 116 (coated)
PMS 109 (uncoated)





March 8th, 2012 at 1:46 PM ^


Because the yellow on the uniforms certainly looks more like a "citron yellow" than the 109 they claim they're using.....and a "Microsoft yellow" is probably more traditionally "maize"..(as opposed to the dark yellow that some think is too orangy).  A happy medium for those who love the true maize vs. those who like the highlighter might be the 109...the color they're actually supposed to be using.

But Blue shouldn't be ignored in this debate. Just to show you how things can differ U-M's 282 and this 282 look...different.  U-M's looks like U-M...not a Navy (as the other lists) which has a duller sheen, and is more Penn State (and ND even darker?).  What I love about our blue is it's more a midnight blue, with some shine and depth to it.  Pull out your box of 64 crayolas...you'll see what I mean.


March 8th, 2012 at 3:15 PM ^

The important thing to note is that is the PRINT style guide.... So, while the Athletic Dept. is using those Pantones for print materials, it obviously is not necessarily using them for uniform colors.

For what it's worth, there is also a web style guide: http://www.logos.umich.edu/web.html

That indicates the proper hex colors to use as Blue #3A5E8C and Yellow #F6D565. Interesting that nobody posted those colors...

The conversions for PMS 282 and PMS 116 are respectively #002654 and #FCD116 (the ones submitted by Seth).


March 8th, 2012 at 1:05 PM ^

I must be in the minority then, because I always liked the brighter yellow, than the orangy yellow.  If I had were to choose between the helmet yellows (numbers or wings) the wings would easily win. I think it looks better on the filed and in the stands.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^

Same. I like the lighter, brighter "maize" as well. I just think it looks more modern and looks way better on tv. Then again, I think the Sounders have the best uniforms in the MLS so I'm guessing my opinion is truly the minority.

Surveillance Doe

March 8th, 2012 at 1:12 PM ^

I'm with you 100%.  I don't like a mustard yellow.  I think Iowa's yellow looks cheap.  I think the contrast of the bright yellow of the wings on the helmet against the dark navy blue under a noon sun when the team comes out of the tunnel on fall Saturdays is the sexiest thing I get to see all week. 

I do think the numbers on the helmet should match the wings, and it is obviously intentional that they do not, which I don't understand at all.  But, if it were up to me, we'd go with the wings' color and not the numbers' color.

Blue In NC

March 8th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

I agree with you.  I would also note it's a different issue for football versus basketball and hockey.  To my knowledge, there were no maize jerseys/sweaters in basketball and hockey prior to the late 80s or early nineties - everything was blue or white.  Sure, there was some lettering and piping but only for accents.  With the Fab Five and the rise of the hockey team, yellow "sparkle" jerseys/sweaters arrived and they were much more the yellow highlighter look rather than the old maize of the football pants.  I would submit that moving to the old maize for basketball would look terrible.  Less so for hockey but still.  If you want to be uniform for all three sports (and others) I think you almost have to lean to the brighter shade.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

minority. Been following the team since I became aware of my surroundings in the 80's. Definitely like the brighter shade of "maize" when compared side by side.

I also hate Special K, rawk in the stadium, and the idea of advertising in the stadium. 


March 8th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

I don't post here often, but this is something I feel strongly about. The brighter version has always been something I thought was significantly better but didn't disrupt tradition. Just one man's opinion though. I live far away from Ann Arbor so never make it to games, so I like seeing those bright yellow pants on TV every Saturday.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

A main reason I like the brighter maize is that there is a general trend in recruiting towards flashier colors, uniforms, etc.  High school kids want to stand out and our "brighter" maize basketball uniforms do exactly that.  The old-school maize is not as exciting.

Six Zero

March 8th, 2012 at 2:23 PM ^

There's more to that comment there than you realize.  What adidas and Nike and all of the athletic suppliers are about is CONTRAST-- two colors that play against each other and create visual interest.  That jumps off the TV screen, pops in person, and all in all turns more heads.  By pushing the color value of the maize DOWN, they distance it further from the blue, which helps make the entire presentation sharper and crisper in comparison.

Nike, actually, is its own exception to the rule as well, as they've gotten so experimental with the Oregon circus that they've attempted to bring more subtle decisions into the mix.  Decisions that have less to do with TV presentation and are more avante garde, like silver NOBs and the crazy helmets, stuff like that.  These things might look amazing on a Mac HD display, but actually fabricated and draped over a football player is another thing entirely.

I'm not sanctioning or endorsing the bright yellow in any way-- but hopefully this helps elaborate on WHY adidas and others are doing this.  Personally, the gold-ish hue is much more Brady Hoke than the yellow... we know what the product is, so let's consolidate and streamline its presentation in every way.

Hardware Sushi

March 8th, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

Really interesting stuff about colors contrasting on TV. Thanks.

My question - does the rise of higher-definition and higher-contrast ratio TVs eliminate some of the need to 'distance' the maize from the blue so that a more yellow/orange maize will translate well onto television?


March 8th, 2012 at 6:18 PM ^

Agreed.  When an orangy yellow is matched with dark blue, it comes off as a dingy green tint from a distance.  The orangy yellow also makes the dark blue look black from a distance.  Both of these are true in person or on TV.

Our bright yellow plays very well with our dark blue.  It has a nice "pop" that contrasts well with the dark blue but does not overwhelm it. 




March 8th, 2012 at 8:38 PM ^

In my opinion the brighter shade is a thousand times better.  I own a ton of maize shirts and would not own any of them if it was the darker shade.  I see the darker shade as a very cheap, 80s looking color.  It is not appealing in any way.  I predict that IF the athletic departiment actually does start changing it, they will reverse direction quickly as they see product sales fall quickly in that color option.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

I like the deeper maize color vs. highlighter yellow.  Highlighter yellow may be "more modern", but hey, this is Michigan football fergodsakes.  It's all about tradition and what Yost/Crisler/Bo wanted and intended.  Anyone remember the year Indiana changed to a new interpretation of Crimson and Cream?  Awful.  Looked like their white road unis got washed with some yellow towels by accident.  Looked like they took a wee-wee bath.


March 8th, 2012 at 6:30 PM ^

Does anybody know when the change to the lighter yellow / maize first took place?

I first laid eyes on a Michigan uniform in 1982, and it looked pretty much like it does now.  I remember my reaction being "Wow, that yellow is really bright."

From video footage I've seen, the 1982 look that I first saw went back to at least 1977.  Footage of the 1974 season appears to show the darker yellow.  You can also see the darker yellow very clearly in the ubiquitous 1969 OSU game footage.  It appears that there was a shift sometime in the mid-1970's, although old video footages can be misleading when it comes to color.

Does anybody know for sure?



March 8th, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

is the only reason i am happy to have been about 90 rows from the field, in the upper deck of a trash tornado watching my favorite team get demolished. at least i could not tell they looked like that. also, thanks to msu's terrible micro-trons and my will to not look at the guy sitting in front of me tweeting's phone over his shoulder (it was brian).


March 8th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

Excellent post. I too am one for the darker colors and simply look back at a stack of t-shirts bought from Moe's during my days as an undergrad (late 90's) to confirm that our colors have creeped into highlighter territory over time.

My only issue the post, as someone of Spanish descent, is the crack at flamenco dancer's. Can't really find a fault with the logic but that doesn't mean I like it.

/get off my lawn.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

...that appears in uniforms, etc. to look exactly how I think Maize and Blue should look.

What is that exactly? Hell if I know.

I do know that maize should be warmer than what passes for maize today. Blue should be deep blue - almost Navy Blue. Both color choices reflect the character of Michigan better than the alternatives. Flashy? No. Unique? Yes. Traditional? Oh, yes. Staid? Somewhat. So what?

Seattle Maize

March 8th, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

I really hope that we can go back to the darker shade of maize. I also hope we can go back to Nike. I know people get upset about the pro combat but Adidas' products for us just look unprofessional and not aesthetically pleasing at all.


March 8th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

I like the darker shade of "maize" and I hate bumble bee stripes but what's really the most important to me is uniformity in the helmets.  I don't like numbers or helmet stickers.



March 8th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

Braylon tweets apology:


"I apologize if my tweet about Michigan, and my brother was received in any manner other than me inquiring about their involvement. Go Blue"

Musket Rebellion

March 8th, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^

How dare you compare anything that our glorious university would do to that wretched bunch of child-touchers known as the Seattle Sounders. RCTID.


-Timbers Army faithful


March 8th, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^

I like the highlighter yellow. Not only does it pop better on TV and contrast more with the blue in a good way, but it's also unique. The darker yellow looks just like everyone else's yellow/gold: Minne, Iowa, WVU, ASU, Cal, etc.

Look at our yellow bball unis next to Minne's - I suspect Brian would like us to go to Minnesota's shade, but honestly I like our current look much better. Maybe we could compromise and go to an early 2000s Nike era yellow?

Keep the really orangey maize in the 70s where it belongs, combined with pea soup green and brown on a hippie's plaid pants.


March 8th, 2012 at 2:15 PM ^

You're missing a key point: Michigan essentially owns most traditions it's associated with, even if our claim to them is not perfect (e.g. winged helmets).

Tradition is a key part of the brand, and what Michigan should represent. If we take yellow-looking yellow, we pretty much own yellow-looking yellow. Neon yellow doesn't work that way because they didn't have neon colors in the mythological long long ago when all colors and looks were officially settled (which varies based on when the nearest baby boomer got their first color TVs).

"It looks cool" is not a strong argument for something as visible as half the football team's uniforms. Yellow-colored yellow is a prime color. It will always be cool. Whichever shade of yellow is generally accepted as the most normal shade of it (currently: a slightly gold-ish version) is always going to be a touchstone. By claiming it and sitting on it, we not only look better, but we make Minnesota and anyone else who doesn't have an athletic department operating on a budget that looks like most schools' endowments look worse for "copying" us.

I mean perception, man. Michigan's brand is such that we're the big stack, so no reason to play like we need to change the game; let's sit on the one shade that's closest to what every other school wishes they could say they've had since 18-whatever, and keep the perception going that we have that color because we can 18-whatever better than anybody.