What are the official colors of Michigan State University? Green and white, right? Well, sort of.
White, yes, but which green? Is it a dark forest green, a bright wintergreen or something closer to emerald, grass or turf? Anyone who has ever browsed the Student Book Store can tell you that merchandise is rarely, if ever, the same shade of green. Come to that, the football team's helmets and home jerseys are often different colors.
Turns out, MSU's official shade of green is Pantone Matching System 341, which is printed at left. Again, sort of. See, colors look different from monitor to monitor, so you may not be seeing what I'm seeing as I form this post. The official color, according to the folks at University Relations, is therefore only expressable in print - though President Lou Anna Simon does get as close as she can on her official website. Thus, anyone who tried to answer this age-old question through Wikipedia gets a close, but not quite correct answer.
It's no wonder fans are confused on this point. Take, for example, the following picture at of Idong Ibok kissing the floor of the Breslin Center.
Ibok is sporting no fewer than four shades of green on one MSU uniform. His shoulders are slightly darker than his pants. His pants are close, but not quite the same shade as his name. And it's all a good deal darker than the comparatively light double-zero on his back.
Heather Swain, assistant vice president of University Relations explains:
"When it comes to apparel and much other merchandise... the MSU mark is allowed on items that come in a variety of colors to allow for fashion and to ensure broad appeal (profits support a scholarship fund). In addition, not all athletics uniforms are the same green, in large part because the fabric used by various suppliers varies a bit in color."
On Ibok's Nike uniform, the shirt is a slightly different material than the pants, ditto for the name and number. That's why one sees four shades of green. Swain's explanation also explains the bizarre phenomenon of MSU's football jerseys and helmets never matching.
The other intriguing thing to me is that the university sanctions not just the unintentional variances, but the intentional ones as well. Exhibit A1 on this being University Relations' own website, part of which is backed by something resembling spearmint.
As it turns out, MSU doesn't much care what one does in terms of color (that's why you see those stupid light blue and white MSU shirts) with one exception. According to the University's Merchandising Color Graphic Standard (yes, there is such a thing), "concepts whose color executions are confusingly similar to the color palates of competing Big Ten Conference institutions will likely be denied."
And that's why, while MSU departments may use all shades of green under the rainbow, they'll never mock up a university website in maize and blue.