Evolution of Eye Black
From The Babe to Ray Ray, Eye Black has a Long History in Sports
What started as a way to manage sun glare has turned into one of the coolest look in sports. You want your style to match your game, you wear isplack. You want to show your team pride, you wear colored isplack. The flexibility of isplack goes far beyond the stick it comes in. But where did this idea all start, the idea of putting a black substance under your eyes?
It all depends on whether we look at eye black as a sun glare reduction tool for sports or farther back as a form of war paint. Long before today’s modern uses of eye black, ancient cultures were painting themselves and each other for deep and passionate purposes. Evidence of face painting is among the oldest traditions we know of our ancestors. War face painting was an undeniable dedication to tribal affiliation, love of family, and team unity. War paint was an integral part of rituals, preparation for battle and celebration. We at isplack think that’s the true ancestral origins of eye black.
The colossal idea to see it as something that can be used to thwart sun glare in sports was started by the Colossus of Clout himself, Babe Ruth. The Babe is thought to be the first athlete to put a black grease substance under his eye to help block the glare of the sun. Then of course there’s the Washington Redskins fullback Andy Farkas who is credited as being the first football player to bring eye black to the gridiron. (Note: the grease that’s currently on the market bearing Andy’s surname is not the direction we think the technology should be going.) Here at isplack, we think both men were revolutionary, and this study backs up that they were actually on to something. Does eye black really work at reducing glare? The study by Dr. Brian M. DeBroff and Dr. Patricia J. Pahk at Yale University states that eye black in the form of a substance in fact does work to decrease glare from the sun.
When The Babe and Farkas wore eye black back in the day, they either applied some type of black grease to their face, or they burnt the ends of corks and applied the charred remains to their under eyes. Some athletes still use the old-school charred cork method, such as the recently retired All-Star outfielder Michael Cuddyer, however, that method was mostly put to sleep with the evolution of eye black sticks.
While eye black dates back to the 1930’s, the popularization of eye black began to take shape slowly in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Roger Staubach was pictured wearing eye black in the early 60’s, while baseball stars such as Nolan Ryan and Mike Schmidt wore eye black periodically in the 70’s.
In the 1980’s and early 90’s, as athletes began personalizing their on-field look, and teams began utilizing alternative methods to unite as one, a spike in athletes wearing eye black on the athletic field occurred. All-time greats such as Jerry Rice, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr. and many others wore eye black during this time. An even further revolution occurred when stars such as Ray Lewis began to wear their eye black in more of a war paint type look.
More recently, athletes have tried using stickers under their eyes as well. However, studies such as the Yale University report have revealed they do not work functionally as well as an eye black substance to reduce glare. Many athletes, such as Reggie Bush and Tim Tebow made this look popular several years ago. But young stars of today such as Bryce Harper and Russell Wilson continue to be creative with the eye black substance of their choice. We like to think they’ve figured out the imperfections of a stickered solution.
Thankfully, these days we have isplack, which allows athletes and fans to wear either black, or the color of their team, under their eyes. We have to assume from the Yale study that dark colors, closer to the traditional black, can and do help in much the same ways black does to reduce glare. We have athletes using our darker colors who back that claim. What about the lighter colors? Well we’d have to go back to the top of the article and revisit the traditional uses of war paint. isplack allows you to get your colors on like never before. And unlike many of the other brands of eye black, isplack is sweat proof, smear proof, easily washable and free from harmful chemicals. isplack is modern eye black for the modern athlete and the modern fan. Thanks to our warring ancestors, The Babe and Andy Farkas for paving the way for athletes and fans everywhere to unite in color!
Get Your Colors On!
Peter Zana, VP Sales