blues, Oxford and Cambridge

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Sportsmen or -women who have represented one of the ancient English universities in an annual fixture between the two institutions. A ‘blue’ (Cambridge is known as the ‘light blues’, Oxford as the ‘dark blues’) is a badge of status with continuing impact in post-university social and professional networks. Blues were also seen, in the age of the amateur domination of English sport, as people of particularly strong character and quality, traits more important to the needs of colonialism than academic or intellectual qualities. In 1829, at the first Oxford–Cambridge boat race, also the first sporting competition between the two universities, the rowers of Oxford from Christ Church wore dark blue, their college colours, though the Cambridge crew was in pink or scarlet; the following year the Cambridge boat was adorned with a light blue ribbon (possibly a colour adopted from the public school Eton). These shades of blue became the official colours of the crews, and the language and recognition were adopted in other sports, and the tradition and convention of the ‘blues’ established.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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