We’ve all been there – you’re stood on the banks of the Isis cheering on your friends as they inevitably get bumped into oblivion by a boat that’s going as fast as a crocodile on crack cocaine. Then you realise that you have no idea which team just overtook your college’s boat because you haven’t devoted hours of your life to remembering the colours of each team, let alone the rules of whatever’s going on, for the simple reason that you want to do well in your course.
After many hours consulting charts, websites and real, live rowers, I’ve compiled a guide that will help you identify each college. It also lets me give my unwanted opinion on each college’s colour scheme. It’s a win-win situation!
Navy and red. The blades are navy blue with a red triangle in the corner.
Yeah Balliol! Red and Blue is one of those classic combinations, so this works well, but it does come across as quite dark against the water and the hull of the boat. Some of the Balliol M1 designs have a rampant lion on them, so maybe the design could be made more striking by putting a white rampant lion in the middle of the blade. 7/10.
Black with some yellow details. The blades are completely black.
Although the glamour of the little black dress is undeniable, this doesn’t translate well to rowing blades or all-in-ones. The ‘Childe of Hale’ colours of red, purple and gold that are usually used for the M1 and W1 boats could really improve the blades, but the college’s overcomplicated coat of arms doesn’t really lend itself to a specific design to be put on the blade. Maybe just adding some stripes would fix it? 5/10.
Blue and White. The blades are just blue.
It’s stuffy, boring and lazy. Perfect for Christchurch students! With all of the history at Christchurch, they really couldn’t think of some fancy emblem to put on the blades? I’m sure there’s something to be said about the impracticability of blue blades on the water too. 3/10
Blue and Red. The blades are blue with two vertical red stripes.
Again, red and blue is a classic colour combination (Think Tommy Hilfiger, or countless other brands) and the stripes are nicer than Balliol’s triangle in my opinion. Unfortunately, stripes and the colour blue are two of the most common features of Oxford rowing club blades, so although stylish, Corpus’ blades aren’t particularly unique or memorable. 8/10
Red. The blades are completely red.
Red has been and always will be a classic staple colour, and unlike Christ Church’s all-blue approach, it’s very visually dominant on the water. It is a bit boring, so maybe the interlocked key emblem from the Exeter coat of arms would spice things up, but other than that, it’s a solid colour scheme. 7/10
The blades are green and navy blue, separated by a diagonal yellow stripe.
I could find so little information about this boat club online that I’m unwilling to give my opinion because all of the pictures on their website are in black and white. If you or someone you know has rowed for Green Templeton College, get them to contact me and I’ll update this accordingly.
Burgundy and black. The blades are burgundy with two vertical white stripes.
The burgundy colour of Hertford’s rowing club is one of the more unique colours to be featured, making it much more memorable that the hordes of blue and white monstrosities that parade down the Isis. It is a shame that the iconic deer head emblem is reserved for the M1 and W1 boats only though. 9/10
Green with red details. The blades are completely green.
Surprisingly, green is a very under-represented colour in Oxford college rowing teams, so Jesus is one of the more easily recognisable teams. In 2021, Dior presented a variety of green outfits for its Spring/Summer collections, one of which was worn by Anya Taylor Joy, so Jesus College’s Boat Club is more or less bang on trend! I do wish there was more reference to the stag motif on the Jesus college crest though. If your college has a fun animal mascot, make the most of it! 9/10
Blue, white and red. The blades are white with the iconic red Keble chevron.
No surprises here, the ubiquitous Keble chevron is on both the blades and the all-in-ones of the Keble boat club. It’s always nice when a brand (or a boat club) has a consistent motif (think the Louis Vuitton monogram or the interlocking Cs of the Chanel logo), and the Keble chevron is no exception. It is a slight let down that the stars on the Keble crest aren’t featured on the all-in-ones though, maybe they could be put on the sides, or on the front as a faux belt? 8/10
Lady Margaret Hall
Blue and yellow. The blades are blue with a yellow triangle where the handle joins the blade.
The colour combination here is interesting. Part of me likes it, but it also vaguely reminds me of the colour scheme of Ikea. Maybe by adding more yellow, or white or a fun motif the designs could be more interesting and less reminiscent of a cheap furniture retailer. 4/10
Black, grey, and yellow. The blades are yellow with a black saltire.
Linacre is the only club to have a blade with a saltire on it, so points for originality there. Unfortunately, the almost completely black all-in-ones are very similar to those of Brasenose’s boat club. The obvious solution here is to reference the design on the blades by having a big yellow saltire on the font of the all-in-ones, a bit like how Keble has its red chevron front and centre on every rower. 6/10
Dark blue with lighter blue details. The blades are dark blue with a light blue edge, and a light blue triangle where the handle joins the blade.
Wearing different shades of the same colour (or ‘tonal dressing’) was actually quite popular in autumn/winter collections in the late 2010s, so Lincoln college’s boat club isn’t too badly out of style, although the predominantly dark blue designs makes it hard to differentiate Lincoln from a lot of the other colleges. An easy way of fixing this would be to play into the use of different tones of blue a bit more and add a panel of lighter blue to the top half of the all-in-ones. 7/10
Black with white details. The blades are black with a white lily.
Florals? For rowing? Groundbreaking. The design on the blades is nice, but what on earth is going on with the all-in-ones!? The all black front and backs are fine, if a bit boring, but who approved the strange black-and-white striped side panels? Unfortunately, they come across as slightly clownish. Of course, all rowers are clowns, they just don’t know it. 4/10
Red and yellow. The blades are red with a yellow cross.
Is it just me, or do the Mansfield rowers look like extras from Baywatch? No doubt the inner workings of their boat club is just as messy and dramatic as the TV show. 5/10
Maroon and white. The blades are white with a purple cross.
Apparently it’s not just fun that goes to die at Merton; fashion does too. I have so many questions for whoever designed this: Why the horrific maroon colour? Why is the cross on the blades purple? Shouldn’t it match the all-in-ones? This is why every sports team needs a creative director. 2/10
Purple and yellow. The blades are purple with two vertical yellow stripes.
Now this is probably the most unorthodox colour combination out of any college and, surprisingly, it works! I’m not going to bore you with the usual shtick about complementary colours, but that definitely applies here. In fact, Vivienne Westwood released a line of clothes in purple and yellow tartan in 2021, so if nothing else, New College is definitely one of the more stylish teams on the Isis. 10/10
White and navy blue. The blades are navy blue with two vertical white stripes.
There’s something eerily clinical about the predominantly white all-in-ones of Oriel. In fact, there’s something eerie about Oriel in general. Maybe it’s that statue of Cecil Rhodes. 2/10
Black, red and white. The blades are white with a scarlet Rod of Asclepius motif.
This isn’t even a college, but I’m including it for the sake of completeness. The black and red colour combo is surprisingly edgy for a group of medical students in a boat. Actually, I’m surprised that their kit isn’t neon green with embroidered words that read “Look at me, I’m a medical student AND a rower!” I wonder which one they bring up first in conversations… 4/10
Pink. The blades are white with a pink edge.
I have nothing against the colour pink, but any other shade would look nicer than the sickly baby-pink that Pembroke uses. In fact, with all the drama of the rowing world, the pink begins to feel like a reference to Mean Girls. I wonder how many of their rowers have posted a quirky selfie of themselves in their kit with the caption “On Wednesdays we wear pink”? Far too many for my liking. 6/10
Blue and white. The blades are blue with a horizontal white stripe.
Horizontal stripes are surprisingly absent from the blades and all-in-ones of Oxford’s boat club, so this is something I think should be featured more on the Queen’s boat club’s all-in-ones. Or maybe adding some red into the design to reference the birds on the Queen’s crest would be an interesting tie-in. Overall, it’s not terrible, I just wish there was more originality rather than just being another white and blue colour scheme. 5/10
Red and white. The blades are red with a large white cross.
I don’t hate this one – I like how the colour red stands out against the water, but the all-in-ones are very similar to Exeter’s. The obvious fix here is to have the white cross design put on the front of the all-in-ones, but I also wish there was more reference to the fish that’s on the Regent’s Park crest, maybe as a motif in the middle of the blades? 7/10
Red and black. The blades are red with two vertical black stripes.
Black and red is starting to feel a bit overdone at this point. Similar to Osler House, the colour combination is inappropriately edgy (When have you ever met a Somerville student that’s cool, quirky or alternative? Exactly.) Maybe red with vertical black stripes to match the blades would be more fitting, or maybe the stars or crosses from the Somerville crest could be put onto the front of the all-in-ones? 4/10
Navy blue, white and red. The blades are red with a grey edge.
The St Anne’s blades are some of my least favourites. There’s no way the grey edge of the blade is going to be visible on the water, and why don’t the all-in-ones make any reference to the colour grey at all? I think I’d fix this by making the all-in-ones half grey and half red just to add more consistency to the designs. 4/10
Yellow, red and black. The blades are yellow and red, separated by a vertical black stripe.
The St Anthony’s all-in-ones have a very similar colour scheme to St Anne’s, but it’s executed much better. Each of the college’s three colours feature in equal proportions on the all-in-ones, and the triangular panels of colour make it much more interesting from a visual perspective. 8/10
St Benet’s Hall
Blue and white. The blades are white with a vertical blue stripe.
Everyone’s favourite disaster stricken PPH unfortunately falls into the blue and white trend that plagues many Oxford boat clubs. In comparison, the crest of St Benet’s is a crazy combination of primary colours, so why not lean into this by having more coloured panels on the all-in-ones? Alternatively, the navy and blue combo would be fine if there was more white to create a better contrast. 6/10
Black, burgundy, and light blue. The blades are light blue with a burgundy wheel motif.
Somehow, this colour combination works a lot better than it sounds on paper. The unique wheel motif on the blades is a fun tie-in to the college’s crest, and the colours are very distinguishable. 8/10
St Edmund’s Hall
Burgundy and yellow. The blades are yellow with a red cross motif.
I really like this combination. There’s something quite autumnal and regal about it, and the blade design doesn’t clash with the all-in-ones. 10/10
Blue and white. The blades are blue with a white triangle in the corner.
This is potentially the most disappointing blue and white monstrosity on the list. St Hilda’s has one of the most interesting crests of any college, with unicorns and coiled serpents, so why on earth wouldn’t you capitalise on this by adding a unicorn or snake motif to the blades and all-in-ones? So many missed opportunities! 2/10
Black and yellow. The blades are black, with a white triangle on the edge, within which is a yellow triangle.
Can anyone see the colours black and yellow together and not think of bees and wasps? This definitely isn’t the worst colour scheme, but I think it would be fun to change it to yellow and grey, like the Pantone colours of the year for 2021, and also to make this slightly less insect-like. 6/10
Navy blue and white. The blades are navy blue with a white shield motif.
There’s something ironic about the richest college in the university not having its own unique colour scheme. It’s not like they can’t afford it! I love the little shield motif, but an injection of the red and gold colours that can be found on the St John’s crest really wouldn’t go amiss. 4/10
Yellow and green. The blades are white with diagonal green and yellow stripes.
Now this is a fun and recognisable colour scheme! The use of analogous colours makes it a compelling and comfortable colour scheme that isn’t jarring because of high contrast between tones. I think the blades could do without the white sections personally, but they’re still a good complement to the all-in-ones. 9/10
Navy blue, white and yellow. The blades are navy blue with a vertical white stripe
My main issue with the Trinity blades is how similar they are to the Oriel blades. In fact, the only difference is one white stripe, but at least the all-in-ones are different enough to distinguish them from each other. Strangely, even though the trinity college crest is half blue and half yellow, the colour yellow barely features on any of the boat club’s kit. 4/10
Navy blue and yellow. The blades are navy blue with a yellow cross motif.
I love how the blade design references the cross on the Univ crest, but the lack of yellow on the on the all-in-ones is disappointing. Yellow and blue have long been a good combination (think Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ or that dress that Blair wore in season 5 of Gossip Girl) so if a bit more yellow was added, this would be a total win. 6/10
Black, light blue and white. The blades are light blue with a white cross motif.
I love how unique the Wadham blades are, but the all-in-ones are so boring in comparison. The obvious solution here is to make the all-in-ones light blue with the cross motif in the middle, or maybe to include some of the rose, shell or chevron designs that feature on the Wadham crest. 7/10
Navy blue, red and yellow. The blades are yellow with a single vertical red stripe.
The blades are nice, but I’m getting slight whiplash here from the contrast of the navy blue and the red and yellow on the all-in-ones. In fact, why are the all-in-ones predominantly navy blue when there’s no blue on the blades? The lack of consistency is slightly off-putting. 6/10
Black and pink. The men’s blades are black with a pink cross motif, the women’s blades are pink with a black cross motif.
I think this is what Pembroke was trying to do with the colour pink, but Worcester does it so much better. I like how the men’s and women’s blades are similar but not the same, and the infamous duck leggings are a fun addition too. 9/10