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Battle of the Blues: How Carolina got its shade of blue

A UNC history lesson on the color blue. 'It's not Robbin-egg blue, baby blue, or light blue. It's Pantone 542c and it's Carolina blue.'

GREENSBORO, N.C. — “There are a lot of shades of blue. Your royal blue, your electric blue, but most notably, Carolina blue,” said Spencer Anderson.

You expect Spencer Anderson to say that he's a UNC alum and the manager of the UNC-Chapel Hill Visitor's Center. But he goes on to explain that North Carolina is the oldest public university in the nation and there wasn't a lot for students to do in that day, in the late 1700s.

The students created debate societies. Every Saturday night the Dialects and the Philanthropics debated. You knew what side you were on by where you came from.

“Students were automatically put into one of these two societies based on where they lived. If you lived east of Orange County you would be part of the Philanthropic society, if you were from west of Orange County you would be Dialectic society,” said Anderson.

Every time these two societies would debate against each other all members would show up wearing ribbons on their shirts. One group wore blue, the other white. In the 1800s athletics brought them together.

“They decided when we're out on the athletic fields, we are one university, not two societies. So, they took the white and the blue and made those the official colors of the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill,” said Anderson.

The official color has morphed over the years, but if you want to be true blue Carolina, it's Pantone color 542c.

And as for the “blue team down the road” from UNC…
“It's poetic, being so close to each other geographically, being so close on the color wheel, it adds another layer to a very storied rivalry,” said Anderson.

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