The symbolism in color is the core to adapting to this ideal of wearing a ribbon, looped and pinned above the heart as a way to show support for a particular cause. Beginning with the color yellow, which is seen in the 1800s painting, “When Did You Last See Your Father” by W.F. Yeames, the Puritan Army wears yellow sashes. Adding to this color symbolism, Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted, ” A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Was this the start of manipulating a color into an object of awareness? This timeline exposes that audiences believes it to be.
In addition to these earlier references, songs and movies have been produced about a female wearing a yellow ribbon as a symbol of support for a loved one at war. These songs and movies are seen by most to be the beginning cause for “support” through the symbolism of color and a piece of fabric.
To show support of the hostage crisis in Iran, Penelope Laingen, wife of a U.S. Soldier held captive, took the 1973’s song, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree” and literally tied a yellow ribbon around a tree in front of her house until her husband returned home. She then donated that exact ribbon to the Library of Congress in 1991.
Since then, there are claims to the rise of the Pink Ribbon; however, the Red Ribbon in support for AIDS awareness was first seen on the 45th Annual Tony Awards. The ribbon is no longer tied around a tree but looped and pinned above the heart of the host, Jeremy Irons. Was this the beginning of a new fashion trend?
In 1992, as dubbed by New York Times, “The Year Of The Ribbon,” awareness ribbons exploded into justifying certain colors to particular causes. Today, each color means something…means support for a cause. But who is profiting or benefiting from this fashion trend?