Do Home Teams Wear White? Why?

Dear Sports Fan,

Speaking of my teams colors. can you explain the color choices and jersey choices that teams have.  I know there are home jerseys and away jerseys.  What are third jerseys?  What about when two teams play at home (Gians v. jets)?



Dear Pat,

This is something I’ve been wondering about for years! I swear that when I was a kid the home team used to wear white. Now they seem to wear their team color and the road team usually wears white. Arghh — it’s been driving me crazy! Thanks to your question, I did a little research and I think that I can explain it.

Here’s what I think happened. When I was a kid, the two primary sports in my life were soccer (which I played maniacally until my knees fell off) and hockey (which I started watching maniacally in 1993-94. In both of these cases, it was customary for the home team to wear white and the away team to wear a more colorful uniform. On my traveling team we wore white at home and when we drove to Manalapan or Hopewell we wore our sweet orange unis that looked like the Princeton University ones with a little pretentious crest. In the NHL it was the same way. My favorite team, the Penguins, wore their white and gold uniforms at home and their black and gold ones on the road whether I was watching them on my fuzzy little television or playing as them in the classic computer game NHL 93 on my fuzzy little computer screen. The other major sports in the U.S., Football, Basketball, and Baseball were present in my life, but off to the edge somewhere. I’m not sure I made note of their color systems. Since then, these sports (except for Baseball) have become a bigger part of my life while soccer has retreated into the distance (with my knees.) As this happened, the NHL decided to switch (in 2003) from Home = white to Home = color. Anyway, this is how it stands now:

  • Football — Home = Color
  • Hockey — Home = Color
  • Baseball — Home = White
  • Basketball — Home = White

It’s a little confusing, but there are arguments/explanations for both systems. For example — the road team wears darker colors because once upon a time they might not have had access to laundry between games and the darker colors hid the stains better. Or — home teams wear light jerseys because dark jerseys attract the sun which is a competitive disadvantage. Or — (and this is where your third jersey explanation comes in) the road teams wear white so that the home team can use its third jersey. A third jersey is usually another colored jersey that is either futuristic or a throw-back to a previous color scheme/design that a team will wear strategically to sell more merchandise to its fans. Some sports have requirements about when or how much teams can use this third jersey.

Back in my (old)hockey/soccer days I always thought the color scheme came down to a question of identification. Everyone knows who the home team is because it’s the home team! So it’s okay for them to wear white. The color of the road team helps the home fans to know who they are playing against. Later in my football/(new)hockey days I thought it was a subjugation thing — the home team gets to peacock around in its finest colored plumage while the road team is forced to look just like everyone else in white. When there are two “home teams” like in the case of Jets v. Giants or Lakers v. Clippers, the league will designate one of the teams as “home” and one as “away.” Jersey colors, season tickets, and other stuff follows from that.

What really bugs me is that home teams during the NHL playoffs will often do a “white-out” where all their fans get free white t-shirts. This is supposed to be intimidating? To a road team that’s wearing white? Arhg!!!

In case this hasn’t been enough dorky conversation about team colors, check out these guys at ColorWerx™ (formerly The Society for Sports Uniforms Research.™) Whoa!

Ezra Fischer

14 thoughts on “Do Home Teams Wear White? Why?”

  1. To be fair, the white-outs are a tradition started when the home team still wore the white jersey. They do feel a bit off now, but you can’t just go around changing tradition!

  2. For college sports:

    Football: Home is color, Road is white
    Hockey: Home is white, Road is color, Third jerseys are worn at home or in some cases neutral site games
    Basketball: Home is white, road is color, “important game” jerseys can be worn at home or on the road
    Baseball: Home is white/light color, Road is dark color/gray

  3. Home teams should wear team colored jerseys in EVERY sport. You are home, representing your team or school. Wear your colors.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more Eric. That’s exactly what I think, you are at home should be able to show your colors.

      1. But in basketball, the reason we wear our colors away is so that opposing fans know who we are. It is confusing, and can go either way, but you really should wear white at home.

  4. The home team should always have the choice of uniform colors in any sport. The visiting team should never be allowed to dictate what colors the home team can or cannot wear. The home team should always have the advantage of choosing. In football the home team can choose to wear white or colors. In the hot early fall games, the home team can choose to wear white which gives it an advantage, or some teams choose to wear white for all home games, esp. the Cowboys and the Dolphins.

  5. Pingback: URL
  6. My stance is color should be warn be the home teams, they are the home team its their choice. The only thing a see in favor of the away wearing colors is a statement of identity this is who we are, but you get color from the pants in football or in other details on the uniform. Home team should always have the choice.

  7. Home team should always wear white. I hate the NHL for changing it. Home team colors like Rangers or Bruins were great. They stood out. They had lots of color along with the white. Cannot understand the change. The black Boston Bruins or LA Kings look so much uglier than the home white!

  8. Home teams wear white. That’s how it was since 1967 (I think) when the NHL expanded. Before that all 6 teams in the NHL wore darks cause they had different colours. With the amount of teams in the NHL after the original 6 era the home teams should wear white. It just looks better. I was pissed when they changed it and it’s been over ten years since they did so, I still can’t get used to the home teams wearing dark. The home team should be white more so in hockey than any other sport simply because it has a classic look to it. The white towels and white outs were started by hockey playoff traditions. The NHL has lost its nostalgia from its golden era in the 80’s and 90’s. Playoff games at home in Vancouver will never look the same. White on white baby I remember the motto was white hot canucks! 3 out of the four major sports did it that way with football being the exception. Now things are all fucked up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *