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Why is it called black and gold?

Why is it called black and gold?

Why is it called black and gold?

The colors black and gold are strongly associated with Pittsburgh and its sports teams, particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. But why were these specific colors chosen to represent the Steel City? There are a few key reasons behind the black and gold branding.

The origins of Pittsburgh’s city flag

In the early 20th century, Pittsburgh was looking to create an official city flag. A contest was held in 1925 asking residents to submit designs that represented Pittsburgh’s identity. The winning submission came from Charles W. Baker Jr., who was an architect in the city.

Baker’s design featured a black and gold triangle against a white background. The black stood for the coal and steel industries that were central to Pittsburgh’s economy. The gold represented the bounty that Pittsburgh provided in terms of opportunities and resources. The triangle shape was meant to signify Pittsburgh’s strategic location at the convergence of three rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers.

Adoption by the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team was the first professional sports team in the city to adopt black and gold as their official colors. They made the switch from blue and red in 1948, choosing the scheme that reflected Pittsburgh’s civic flag.

The colors and Pirate logo, featuring three rivers with a golden triangle, were an instant hit with fans. Not only did black and gold represent Pittsburgh’s identity, but they also gave the Pirates a tougher, more intimidating look than their previous blue and red.

Steelers follow suit

In 1962, the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team decided to go with black and gold as well. Their original colors had been blue and gold – the blue was a nod to the “blue collar” workers of Pittsburgh’s steel mills.

But the Steelers wanted to match the scheme adopted by Pittsburgh’s baseball team. They opted for black over blue since black was more deeply associated with steel. The change united Pittsburgh’s two major sports teams under one symbolic color scheme representing their shared home city.

A perfect match with the steel industry

Of course, the link between Pittsburgh’s industrial past and the colors black and gold cannot be overstated. As the center of America’s steel production for decades, the black coal and glowing hot gold steel was embedded in Pittsburgh’s identity.

Not only did the colors represent Pittsburgh’s landscape of billowing smokestacks, they also symbolized the toughness and determination of its workers and residents. The bold black and gold united the people of Pittsburgh as much as it did their sports teams.

How the colors unite Pittsburghers

To this day, Pittsburghers feel a collective sense of pride in their black and gold colors. The scheme appears everywhere in Pittsburgh – on the city’s official flag, on banners and signs, in locations like the Pittsburgh International Airport, and of course in Steelers and Pirates fan gear.

Businesses around the city commonly incorporate black and gold to show their civic pride. The colors connect all Pittsburghers as they go about their daily lives. Black and gold serve as a subtle reminder that they are part of one big Pittsburgh family.

A Unique Scheme in American Sports

While many American cities have official colors, Pittsburgh is unique in how ubiquitously black and gold are used in branding, on flags, in businesses, and as the dominant colors of its sports teams.

The pairing is distinctly Pittsburgh’s own. No other major city has managed to own a color scheme so completely or use it so widely as an informal symbol. Pittsburghers’ deep connection to black and gold solidifies it as part of the region’s cultural identity.

City Official colors
Pittsburgh Black and gold
Boston Blue and yellow
Chicago Red, white, and blue
New York City Blue, white, and orange

As the table shows, while other cities have official colors, none are as deeply ingrained into a city’s identity as black and gold in Pittsburgh. No sports team in Boston uses blue and yellow as their colors. The New York teams split their usage of blue and orange. Only Pittsburgh has reached this level of total color saturation.

How black and gold create a sense of community

Sports are integral to community identity. In Pittsburgh, the ubiquity of black and gold does several things to bring Pittsburghers together and create solidarity:

– Visually communicates Pittsburgh pride on a daily basis through logos, flags, signs

– Provides a feeling of intimidation due to black and gold’s tough, industrial look

– Allows Pittsburghers to display their civic loyalty through wearing team colors

– Unites the city in support of sports teams by giving all fans the same colors

– Represents Pittsburgh’s culture and history of steel production

– Serves as an informal symbol that connects Pittsburghers from all walks of life

This subconscious effect of black and gold on Pittsburgh’s community is likely more impactful than most residents realize. Yet the colors undeniably strengthen the city’s sense of self.

Pittsburgh black and gold in pop culture

Given how clearly black and gold communicates Pittsburgh pride, it makes sense that the colors are used frequently in cultural references to the city and its teams:

– Wiz Khalifa’s hit song “Black and Yellow” uses the colors to represent Pittsburgh and the Steelers

– Multiple Steelers Super Bowl championship films have used “Black and Yellow” as soundtrack songs

– Fans chant “Here we go Steelers, here we go” and wave Terrible Towels in black and gold

– Movie portrayals of Pittsburgh, like in The Dark Knight Rises, prominently use black and gold

– The Pittsburgh-set sitcom Perfect Strangers showed characters in Steelers black and gold gear

– Pittsburgh rappers like Mac Miller commonly wear black and gold clothing as a shout-out to their hometown

– The Pittsburgh-based TV show Queer as Folk showed a gay pride parade with marchers in Steelers colors

This pop culture recognition reinforces the colors as distinctly Pittsburgh’s own. It has elevated black and gold to the status of cultural touchstone representing the Steel City at large.


Pittsburgh’s strong civic identity has been reinforced through the broad adoption of black and gold as the city’s representative colors. What originated simply as a color scheme on the city flag crossed over to become the iconic brand of both the Pirates and Steelers.

The colors not only symbolize Pittsburgh’s history, but also unite its residents through a feeling of community pride and intimidation. Black and gold serve as an informal yet powerful cultural symbol and source of solidarity in Pittsburgh. The ubiquitous colors consistently evoke the industrial spirit, resilience, and family atmosphere that gives Pittsburgh its unique sense of place.