The Tour de France 2019 is about to start, and every rider stepping in to their cleats in Brussels on 6 July will be hoping that they will get to pull on, if only for a day, the historic Maillot Jaune or Yellow Jersey. With a range of yellow jerseys on SBProsport, you can do so too – and even keep it, without having to stay ahead of the chasing pack for more than 3000 miles.
While this is the 106 tour, it was not until 2019 that the yellow jersey became the official way of identifying the race leader.
In fact in that first tour, in 1903 there wasn’t much need for an identifying jersey, with only fifteen riders entering. Once a leader was recognised though they the wore a green armband (which we don’t sell on SBProsport!).
Now the official history of the tour states that the Yellow Jersey was introduced in 1919, and coloured yellow after the sponsor L’Auto, which was printed on yellow paper.
There are however a couple of fun alternative reasons, and even possibly different dates.
Philippe Thys, winner of the tour in 1913, 1914 and 1920, told that Henri Desgrange, the then race director told him to wear a bright colour so people could recognise him. He resisted for some time but eventually gave in and bought he first brightly coloured jersey he could find, a yellow one.
There is only Thys that is known to have stated this history though, and with disruption through the First World War, the official first usage in 1919, makes 2019 the centenary year for the Maillot Jaune.
As mentioned, the official story is that the colour was chosen to match the paper that L’Auto was printed on, but we quite like the story that goes the race director bought what was then the least popular colour of jersey as it was the only one that had 15 in stock, one for each stage of the race in 2019. How things have changed, with more yellow jerseys being sold than any other colour.
The first rider to wear the jersey during the 1919 tour was Eugène Christophe, but he was from happy about complaining that spectators called him a canary, and he ultimately finished eighth. Christophe is worth a whole post on his own at some point, having been one of the leading cyclists before and after the war, where he served in a cycling battalion, and had a number of controversial incidents in his career, but never winning the tour.
Until 1947 the jersey was made of wool, but that year a new sponsor Sofil, a synthetic materials company introduced a new hybrid jersey incorporating some of its man made material. Given the current range of man made fabrics it seems incredible, but stage victor Louis Bobet’s refused to wear the new jersey, insisting pure wool was the best material for cyclists. The company had to produce a new, wool jersey overnight.
Nowadays you can own your own Maillot Jaune, with one of the exclusive range for this years historic 100th year, available from SBProsport.