A Guide to Awareness Ribbon Colors and Their Meanings

A Guide to Awareness Ribbon Colors and Their Meanings

When you’re driving on the road or passing someone on the street, have you ever noticed a decal on their car or a ribbon on their shirt? Did you notice the color or pattern they’re wearing? This person was most likely showing silent support to a significant cause that affected their life.

But what are these awareness ribbons, and what do their different colors mean? In this guide, we go over the history of these ribbons and what each pattern or color can represent. If you have someone in your life or you yourself are battling a condition or going through a situation, consider wearing the appropriate color to show your support.

What Are Awareness Ribbons?

These ribbons are used as symbols in various settings that support and raise awareness toward specific causes. Each color or pattern an individual adorns means something different depending on the cause they support. Most of the time, these colors symbolize awareness for diseases, illnesses, conditions, and other situations like domestic abuse and sex trafficking. You can find these worn as badges, pins, or sometimes decals for the back of your car.

Below we go over the history of these ribbons and what each common color and pattern represents.

The History of Awareness Ribbons

There is a lot of speculation over how these awareness ribbons came about. Some believe they were given to jousting knights in the medieval ages for support, while others believe it originated during the Civil War era when soldiers began coming home from the war.

We do know that the first ribbon publicly used in the United States was in the 1970s by a woman named Penelope Laingen. This woman tied a yellow ribbon to an oak tree in her neighborhood to show support for her husband, who was held hostage during a war in Iran. This launched a powerful trend of various individuals using different colors to represent their specific causes.

Another excellent example of the power of these awareness ribbons is when people in attendance at the Tony Awards in 1991 wore red ribbons to show silent support over the then-taboo subject of HIV/AIDS. At the time, it was not popular to talk about or show support for the illness because of the context surrounding it. These individuals at the award ceremony didn’t need to say a single thing about the cause they were supporting—their message to America was loud and clear.

As you can see, these symbols of hope send a powerful message to everyone surrounding you. Today, the many colors of awareness ribbons mean a plethora of different things. Any cause imaginable has a color or pattern. These ribbons are a way to show silent support and awareness without being overt about it.

Red Ribbons – HIV/AIDS

While the red ribbon primarily symbolizes HIV/AIDS, it also can have several other meanings. If you see someone with this ribbon anywhere, they could be supporting substance abuse, stroke, or heart disease.

Orange – Multiple Sclerosis

Orange ribbons worn by individuals typically represent the fight against multiple sclerosis or leukemia. Others may wear it for spinal or kidney cancers as well.

Yellow – Supporting Troops

As mentioned in the story above, yellow ribbons usually mean supporting our troops overseas or bringing attention to soldiers who are prisoners of war. Additionally, you can wear yellow for missing children, suicide prevention, and other cancers.

Green – Mental Health Awareness

The green ribbon often represents mental health awareness. It can, however, also symbolize cerebral palsy, genocide, and global warming.

Blue – Child Abuse

Blue is often a symbol for child abuse awareness. It can also represent sex trafficking or bullying. Many different colors of blue also fall under this umbrella. For example, light blue means prostate cancer, turquoise means support for addiction recovery, and teal means ovarian cancer or rape.

Purple – Pancreatic Cancer

If you see someone with a purple ribbon, it typically means they know someone, or they themselves have pancreatic cancer. Purple can also symbolize cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, or eating disorders.

Pink – Breast Cancer

A pink ribbon is generally the most well-known awareness ribbon, which brings consciousness to the fight against breast cancer. Typically, this is a lighter pink ribbon. Not many other conditions or diseases use pink as their ribbon color because breast cancer is a prevalent cause.

Neutral Colors

Neutral colors include black, brown, gray, and white. Black symbolizes mourning, brown can represent colon cancer or anti-tobacco, gray means allergies or brain cancer, and white can represent adoption or blindness. However, several other conditions can also fall under these neutral colors.

Color Combinations

A solid color is not the only design that can show support for a cause; many combinations of numerous colors also represent various conditions. Blue, pink, and teal support thyroid cancer; blue and red support congenital heart defects and disease; and red and yellow can symbolize hepatitis C.

Pattern Combinations

Aside from colors, various patterns can have different meanings as well. The best example is a puzzle piece pattern representing a loved one with autism. The color grey with red hearts can support juvenile diabetes, and a beige giraffe print can mean tethered spinal cord syndrome.

As you can see, just about any combination of colors and patterns can symbolize and represent countless conditions and causes.

How You Can Show Your Awareness

Generally, if you see someone with a ribbon in any of these colors, someone close to them is fighting that condition or disease. You could choose to wear an actual ribbon on your shirt, or for many others, simply wearing the color during an event to support the cause is enough to bring attention and awareness. Due to the many different colors, you may need to explain to others what your specific ribbon symbolizes.

Most of these ribbons symbolize hope for individuals going through particular situations. Wearing these colors is a subtle way to show everyone around you the cause you support. Most recently, people have been wearing blue-and-yellow Ukraine flag ribbons.

If a cause is important to you, consider shopping our ribbon selection at Ribbon by Design to find the perfect color or pattern. Contact us for custom ribbons or if you need more information. What color will you wear?

A Guide to Awareness Ribbon Colors and Their Meanings

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