From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:
The College Color, brown, the obvious choice as it would appear today, was not adopted until after 1866, when the Brown Paper reported on the question of choosing a college color, “the general opinion seems to be that brown should be adopted ... Nothing could be more appropriate for Brown-bred boys ... It is the very mark of hardihood, of pluck, of soberness – if you will – but of victory.” The color brown, of course, has dominated the athletic uniforms for years, and indeed might be considered more “sober” than the first known uniform of a Brown team, that of the crew in 1859, which was described as “gray check pants; salmon silk shirts; blue skull caps.” There is no record that the Corporation endorsed the students’ choice of brown. In 1925 the University submitted a swatch of brown material to the Textile Color Card Association of the United States, Inc. to ascertain its exact shade (which proved to be Tobacco), and at that time the University colors were recorded by the Association, apparently mistakenly, as brown and white. In 1947 the brightening up of the football uniforms by the addition of gold brought forth letters of both approval and disapproval to the Alumni Monthly. In December 1952, after the subject of the drabness of the Brown academic hoods, black lined with brown, came to attention, President Wriston appointed Vice-President Bruce Bigelow a “Committee of one to pick official colors for Brown University and to put it over.” A year later a University Color Study Committee was appointed. On the recommendation of this committee, on April 9, 1954, the Advisory and Executive Committee of the Corporation voted, “That the University adopt as the standard colors for the lining of all its academic hoods, seal brown with a single chevron of cardinal red similar to the red in the cross of the University coat-of arms.” Although the vote appears to relate only to the colors of the hoods, in communicating this vote to the Textile Color Card Association, Bigelow wrote, “it is likely that these colors will be considered the ‘official colors’ of the University.” In 1967, the colors, official or not, were noted for the first time in the football media guide as “seal brown and cardinal.” They are now recorded in the athletic guides as “seal brown, cardinal red, and white.”
NOTE: The University’s graphic designers specify cardinal red as PMS 192 (Web hexadecimal: CC0000) and seal brown as PMS 469 (Web: 663300).
The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright ©1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.