Skip to Content

What color did leprechauns wear before green?

Leprechauns are mythical creatures from Irish folklore that are often depicted as small men wearing tall green hats and green coats. They are known for their luck and ability to grant wishes, as well as their skill in hiding pots of gold. While the color green has become synonymous with leprechauns today, there is some debate over what color leprechauns originally wore before green became their signature color.

The Origins of Leprechauns

The earliest known origins of leprechauns date back to the 8th century in Ireland. The word “leprechaun” comes from the Irish word “leipreachán”, which is derived from “luchorpán” meaning “small body” or “pygmy”. In early Irish folk tales, leprechauns were often depicted as sly tricksters who used their magical powers to play pranks on humans. They were not always depicted as wearing green outfits in these earliest tales.

It wasn’t until later centuries that leprechauns became more closely linked to shoemaking and hiding pots of gold. This may be due to some legends that leprechauns were actually the fairytale embodiment of real medieval cobblers and tradesmen who traveled around Ireland peddling their wares and hiding their earnings from thieves.

When Did Leprechauns Become Associated with Green?

There are a few possible explanations for when and why leprechauns became associated with the color green:

  • Green symbolized Ireland – As Irish nationalism grew in the 19th and 20th centuries, the color green became one of the main symbols of Ireland due to the country’s green countryside. Leprechauns as iconic Irish figures naturally became associated with the national color.
  • Green represented the Irish Rebellion – During the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the rebels wore green uniforms. Some folklore suggests leprechauns may have been dressed in green to represent the rebels.
  • Green represented ecology and the environment – Ireland is known for its lush green landscapes. Dressing leprechauns in green helped associate them more closely with nature and the Irish environment.

However, most scholars agree that the color green became the definitive leprechaun color thanks to the popularity of the early 20th century musical and later Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. This 1959 film featured leprechauns dressed in green vests and jackets, cementing the image of leprechauns as green-clad figures in popular culture.

What Colors Did Leprechauns Wear Before Green?

So what colors did leprechauns wear before the 20th century association with green clothing? Examining early Irish folklore and literature provides some clues into the possible colors leprechauns wore before green:

  • Red – Some early Irish poems described leprechauns as wearing red jackets or capes. Red may have symbolized their mischievous and cunning powers.
  • Brown – As common tradespeople and cobblers, leprechauns may have worn simple brown smocks or cloth vests.
  • Blue – Blue dye was rare and expensive in early medieval Ireland. Wealthier leprechauns may have worn blue coats.
  • Yellow – To represent the gold and treasure they guarded, yellow hats or scarves may have symbolized leprechaun wealth.

There are also some reports of leprechauns wearing combinations of white, black, and orange or multi-colored patchwork vests and coats. Simple leather breeches or trousers likely completed the outfits of early leprechauns before green coats became popular.

Rare Depictions of Non-Green Leprechauns

While leprechauns today are instantly recognized by their green jackets and hats, there are a few rare artistic depictions of leprechauns in other colors that give hints to their pre-green wardrobes:

  • A rare 19th century engraving shows a leprechaun dressed in a red cape and brown tunic.
  • A illuminated manuscript from medieval Ireland shows a blue leprechaun hiding a treasure chest.
  • Some Irish storybooks in the early 1800s had hand-colored illustrations of leprechauns in yellow tops and red pants.
  • An old Dublin playbill advertised performances by a “Leprechaun in White” suggesting an all-white costume.

These rare non-green leprechaun sightings reinforce that leprechauns were not strictly defined by the color green in their early mythological origins. Green became universally associated with them primarily in the 20th century thanks to books, films, and commercialization of leprechaun images.

Leprechaun Costume Traditions for St. Patrick’s Day

Today dressing up as a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day or for Halloween typically involves an all-green outfit:

  • Green coat and vest
  • Green top hat or bowler hat
  • Green pants or breeches
  • Green or black buckle shoes
  • White knee socks
  • Gold or green buckles
  • Red or orange beard (if desired)

These modern leprechaun costumes clearly grew out of the early 20th century tradition of depicting leprechauns as green-clad figures. However, considering that green wasn’t always the definitive leprechaun color, some St. Patrick’s Day revelers choose to dress as non-traditional leprechauns in colors like red, blue, orange, or rainbow.


While pop culture has cemented the image of leprechauns as little green men, history shows they were depicted in a variety of colors before green became ubiquitous. Early Irish tales described leprechauns in reds, blues, browns, yellows, whites, blacks, and multi-colored outfits. Simple cobbler outfits and colors representing Ireland, like green and orange, likely influenced modern depictions. Though uncommon today, you may still spot a non-green leprechaun celebrating St. Patrick’s awash in rainbow colors – a nod to their diverse folkloric past.