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What Color Was Santa Claus Suit Originally?

Updated October 15, 2021
What Color Was Santa Claus Suit Originally?

Arguments regarding Santa Claus’s original suit color seem to be never-ending.

Today, Christmas Spirit is typically portrayed in a red and white suit with a buckled belt, but it wasn’t always the case. Or was it?

A common theory is that Coca-Cola first created Santa’s red suit. However, that’s only partially true, as earlier depictions of the character inspired the suit color.

What can’t be argued is that Cola settled the modern representation of Santa Claus in American culture.

Talking of American perception of Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas’ robe was traditionally red. However, he’s only one of the existing Santa Claus origins.

The Christmas spirit was portrayed in blue, green, tan, and even white colors in other regions.

The perception of the Christmas spirit look was never consistent across cultures. For instance, Odin, during the Yule festival in Norse mythology and British Father Christmas, usually wore green.

On the other hand, Thomas Nast has given Santa a blue coat with stars. Apart from color, Santa’s clothes have constantly changed in length, silhouette, and other details.

The topic of Santa Claus’s original suit color is still widely debated.

But regardless of the historical evidence, friendly smiling Santa in a red suit seems to have taken over our idea of a perfect Christmas spirit.

Blue Santa’s Suit: Myth or Truth?

Historical evidence, in particular vintage postcards from the 1870s to the 1920s, indicate Santa’s suit was not always depicted red.

On these postcards, Santa is wearing a long blue robe. In 1863, a popular at that time artist Thomas Nast drew Santa in striped trousers and a blue coat with stars, giving out gifts to soldiers.

So, does this evidence mean that Santa’s suit was originally blue? Not really. Indeed, Santa Claus was depicted in a blue robe numerous times, but it isn’t the first nor the only version of his attire.

Furthermore, there seem to have been altercations regarding the real Santa’s suit color during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

While Santa Claus in a blue starred robe by Thomas Nast is a famous depiction, many artists of the same era portrayed Santa in different colors.

Santa was shown wearing green, brown, and the red we’re all used to. He was even depicted wearing white, though this doesn’t make much sense as his job is to drop down chimneys.

In Germany, Russia, and Poland, Santa was sometimes wearing traditional attires of these regions. It may have involved blue, but blue certainly can’t be called the original Santa suit’s color.

Green

Santa in a green suit appeared even more frequently than in blue, although this fact is lesser-known. Santa dressed in a green suit has a British origin and was called Father Christmas.

Strictly speaking, Father Christmas and Santa Claus aren’t the same people, although they may be perceived as such nowadays.

The truth is, Father Christmas existed even before the story of Saint Nicholas arrived in Britain with the Normans.

Father Christmas is a part of pagan culture and is often portrayed in green in historical evidence.

That’s no wonder, as evergreen plants such as holly and ivy were used for house decoration since Medieval times in Europe. In addition, they were believed to protect homes from evil spirits.

Norse legends narrate the Yule festival, which is believed to be the origin of modern Christmas in Scandinavia. During Yule, Norse gods were roaming the night skies, celebrating Odin’s Great Hunt.

Odin was known for giving gifts, and his sleigh was drawn by a horse named Sleipnir. Seems familiar, eh? Odin, at that time, was considered to be the Christmas spirit.

He was often depicted in a green or blue hooded robe, which was not as festive as the one Santa Claus wears in modern pictures. Instead, he may have represented the arrival of spring after cold and dark Scandinavian winter.

The only details that indicate the connection between Odin and Santa are the long white beard and gift in his hands. Saint Nicholas, the Santa we’re all used to, was sometimes portrayed in red and green attire, too.

Tan

Norse depictions of Odin during his Great Hunt were diverse. While most pictures that remained to our day show him in a green suit, on some, he’s dressed in tan.

Santa wearing a tan suit makes practical sense, too. In ancient times, colored clothes weren’t as common as today.

Only wealthy people could afford to wear colored attire, usually yellow, red, or green. Tan, in turn, is a natural color that was extremely common at that time.

So, one of the first documented personifications of the Christmas spirit was created by Richard Smart in the 15th century.

He portrayed the origin of modern Santa not in a red and white suit handing gifts to kids. Instead, his Christmas spirit is wearing a greenish-brown suit and brings news of Jesus’ birth.

Did Coca-Cola Invent the Red Santa Suit?

One of the most common theories about red Santa suit origins is that Coca-Cola invented it in the 1930s.

That’s partially true; the company had a significant impact on our perception of modern Santa. But instead of inventing the red suit, Coca-Cola helped to popularize it.

Swedish-American designer Haddon Sundblom created the famous Coca-Cola Christmas advertisement in 1931. However, this isn’t the first time Santa appeared to drink a fizzy black drink associated with the winter holidays.

The character was used in Cola’s advertisement since the 1920s and was first depicted similarly to Thomas Nast’s Santa.

A decade after Santa’s first appearance in Coca-Cola’s ad, the brand has decided to reimagine the Christmas spirit as a more wholesome, friendly character.

The artist drew inspiration from Clement Clark Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

The mission was accomplished, and Haddon Sundblom brought new, pleasantly plump, and more humane Santa Claus to life.

Coca-Cola’s 1931 Christmas advertisement had a colossal success. It was featured in Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, and The New Yorker, reaching millions of viewers.

Since then, the company has used the new Santa’s image in ads every year, regularly coming up with more and more creative ideas.

From 1931 to 1964, Santa’s appearance in Coca-Cola advertisements was constantly changing, but the color of his suit remained the same.

Haddon Sundblom was the very person who worked on these projects throughout the decades. He could be justifiably called the father of modern Santa attire, even if he didn’t invent it out of the blue.

The Real Red Santa Suit Origin

The truth is, even Clement Clark Moore wasn’t the first to describe Santa as a man wearing a red suit.

Pagan art showcased Odin, who is considered to be the origin of modern Scandinavian Santa, in robes of different colors, including red.

Thomas Nast’s Santa dressed in a blue suit covered in stars isn’t his only version of the character either. Nast used to draw Santa wearing tan, green, and red suits, too, but blue became the most popular one.

As you can see, artists at all times had difficulty coming to an agreement on Santa’s suit color. The correct answer depends majorly on the region and its culture, as different nations have varying origins of Santa.

The widely accepted version of Santa Claus in America is the story of Saint Nicholas. He was a bishop who lived in the fourth century in Myra, located on the place of modern Turkey.

Saint Nicholas was a wealthy and generous man. One night, he secretly dropped a sack of gold down the chimney of a poor man who couldn’t afford to marry his daughter.

He later repeated this with the man’s second daughter, and soon the word of his kindness spread around the world. That’s a simplified version of how Saint Nicholas became the inspiration for modern Santa Claus.

If we look at the depictions of Saint Nicholas, we’ll typically see him wearing a red robe. This was the traditional color of bishop robes.

The attire of Father Christmas, the British version of Santa Claus, also turned from green to red over time.

So, the contemporary image of Santa Claus wearing a red suit is a combination of his illustrations throughout the history of different cultures.

He appeared in red in pagan times and continued to wear it after the establishment of Christianity.

Later, Coca-Cola finalized Santa’s appearance in our minds, and today, most people can’t imagine Christmas spirit in a suit of a different color.

Not Only the Suit Color Has Changed

Santa’s clothes have undergone more changes than solely the color. For the most part, Santa appeared in a long robe or coat rather than a suit. Instead of a hat, he used to wear a shawl or hood.

His coat began to grow shorter and acquired buttons only in the early 20th century, following common fashion changes. Later on, Santa received a cord or a buckled belt on his waist.

The fur on Santa’s clothes was often portrayed as dark brown and not white as nowadays. That’s understandable, as, at that time, powerful washing agents weren’t widely available.

Jokes aside, Santa’s job involves dropping down chimneys, and no fur could remain white for long in such conditions.

Artists could never come to an agreement on the color of Santa’s boots, bag, and other attire details either.

Image credit: Unsplash

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