Over the last two decades, wearing awareness ribbons of various colours has grown into a gesture of solidarity with a wide range of causes. While you might be familiar with the red AIDS ribbon or the pink cancer ribbon, you have probably no idea what the lime green ribbon, or the puzzle-patterned one stands for.
To boost your knowledge of awareness ribbons to expert level, we’ve put together a neat infographic explaining the meaning of the most popular ribbons out there.
A Quick History of Ribbons With Purpose
Attributing meaning to ribbons goes a long way back. Over the centuries, however, the meaning of wearing a ribbon has shifted from recognizing valor on the battlefield to showing solidarity with charitable causes.
The use of ribbons as meaningful objects was first recorded in the Middle Ages. At tournaments, ladies would give ribbons to jousting knights as a “favour”.
“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon,” Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said, referring to his practice of decorating soldiers with coloured ribbons as a reward for bravery and achievements on the battlefield.
Inspired by the 70s hit “Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree”, Penney Laingen, wife of a soldier who’d been taken hostage in Iran, started tying yellow ribbons around trees as a tribute to missing soldiers during the US-Iranian hostage crisis. Soon after, yellow solidarity ribbons sprouted up across America.
Podcast 99% Invisible recently looked into the history of the red ribbon. Check out the episode.
The red AIDS ribbon was the first awareness ribbon to become famous after several celebrities attended the Tony Awards, red ribbons pinned to their suits and dresses.
After the success of the red AIDS ribbon, many charities, causes and campaigns created their own awareness ribbons. Nobody knows exactly how many there are as ribbons and cause-attribution is not regulated. Wikipedia features an ever-growing selection of over 60 different ribbons associated to a wide range of causes.
Ready to show some solidarity for a cause you care about? Chimp can help you with that.