Referee Shirts

Posted by John Erbert on

During almost any sporting event the overall outcome of the game has more to do with just the team players on the field. The enforcement of the game rules helps maintain equal ground for every single player on the field. A referee, judge, umpire, linesmen, timekeeper, and official are terms used in various sports for these individuals. They are there to maintain order during the game, enforcing the rules set, in a supervising role and carry the final authority on rulings and decisions made over the course of game play. These officials can have a big impact on the overall outcome of the game.

In the beginning, each team used to nominate a captain who would consult with the opposing team caption to solve disputes during the game. This removed them from game play, so eventually teams started to bring a neutral party to make these rulings on the field, thus the position of the referee was developed. Most officiating crews now consists of 2 or more referees or umpires, so they are able to consult with each other and come to a unified decision over a dispute.

Once this crew had been coined and identified they had to become more distinguish on the field from other players, so a uniform was implemented. In football the officiating crew used to wear a white button down shirt, a black bow tie and a beret style hat. The color white signified purity and innocence which promoted the unbiased attitude an official must carry. This formal attire usually brought on a sense of respect and authority for the individual.

The trouble they encountered with this is that other competing football team also wore white and the referees blended in with other players on the field. In 1920 during a college football game a quarterback accidently passed the ball to an official, Mr. Lloyd Olds, mistaking him for a team member. Mr. Olds was so disturbed by this that he asked a friend who operated a sporting goods store, George Moe, to come up with a more defined uniform for officials.

Mr. Olds wore the zebra like, stripped shirt and was met with boos from fans who did not take a liking to his attire at a basketball game in 1921.  Lloyd payed no attention to these rants because with the shirt he was definitely more noticeable and became a distinguished official. The design caught on and is now considered a tradition and seen as the typical shirt worn by officials on the playing field.

Referee shirts boast black vertical stripes that vary in width from pencil thin to broad stripes on a white shirt. Referee shirts vary based on each individual sport, but the common formula to each of these uniform or referee shirts is the black stripping. In soccer officials usually wear a gold shirt with black pin stripping and a solid black collar, while wrestling officials wear a grey V-neck t-shirts with black stripes.

The traditional referee shirt will always consist of the iconic zebra like stripes, but the shirt can be made with several different textiles, including cotton, as well as different overall styles. A cotton t-shirt with stripes is a choice for some, while others may choose a polyester blend shirt with a zipper down the chest, either way this shirt sets them apart from other players, coaches and spectators. This bold choice in uniform helps maintain a sense of respect for officials and presents and professional tone for all involved in the sporting event.


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