While the wearer of the Maillot Jaune has every reason to be happy, psychologists tell us that the color yellow itself represents happiness, optimism, warmth, enlightenment and creativity. In addition to being the most luminous color in the spectrum, it’s also the color most often associated with religious (and cycling) deity.
Color therapists are very high on the power of yellow. It aids in decision making, helps people focus, and is the best color for creating enthusiasm for life. Yellow is used in color therapy to bring energy and encourage action. In the case of this week’s time trial, the yellow jersey certainly energized Julian Alaphilippe in his unexpected, smashing victory.
Most historians attribute the introduction of the yellow jersey into the Tour in 1919, making this year the 100th anniversary of the maillot jaune. As Michael Waters of the Smithsonian paints this colorful picture:
In 1919, the Tour de France returned following a four-year hiatus because of World War I. Two-thirds of the way through the race, the director of the Tour de France—Henri Desgrange—decided he needed a clearer identifier of the leader. He came up with the idea that whoever had the fastest overall time at a given stage of the race would don a yellow jersey—yellow in honor of the sports newspaper that sponsored the race, L’Auto-Vélo, which was printed on yellow paper.
As the story goes, around 2 a.m. on July 18, 1919, Desgrange gave the current leader, Eugène Christophe, the first incarnation of the jersey to take with him. But unlike its modern counterparts, this yellow jersey was made of wool, and Christophe complained that the yellow looked silly—according to historian Paul F. State, he insisted he resembled a canary.
If you are in the mood for a longer read, “The Yellow Jersey” fills out the history of the icon with the colorful stories of the riders who have worn it. It’s full of interviews of Tour leaders and winners, including the oldest living Yellow Jersey wearer, Antonin Rolland, 94. Author Peter Cossins, also explores the interesting psychology of wearing the Maillot Jaune – often an elevating motivator, sometimes a curse in disguise.
Give yourself some wings, brighten your outlook, get those creative juices flowing and celebrate the 100th anniversary with us this season in your own shade of optimism…