The Oakland A’s may have popularized the color scheme of green and gold. But the origin of Oakland’s colors dates back before the A’s even arrived.
KALW listener Mark Pritchard asked about the city of Oakland’s signature colors, and I set out to find the answer.
As an Oakland native, when I think of the colors green and gold, I think of the Oakland A’s. And I’m not alone. Pritchard told me about the time he passed by an Oakland park and saw a green sign highlighted with gold lettering.
“Oh yeah, those are also the colors of the A’s. I wonder if green and gold are also a characteristic color of Oakland?” Pritchard remembers wondering. “A few weeks ago I just happened to look and notice that the flag of Oakland is also green and gold. So I thought ‘Oh it's definitely an Oakland thing.’”
Oakland’s color pattern was actually set in 1952, more than a decade before the A’s came here. That year, for Oakland’s Centennial, the city council had a contest to design its official flag.
Dorothy Lazard works at the Oakland history room in the main public library. She has a whole folder just for the Oakland flag. Flipping through pages, we found that the winner of the design contest turned out to be a guy from San Leandro, named George W. Laakso Jr.
“I think it’s really interesting that it was somebody from San Leandro who designed the flag as opposed to an Oaklander,” Lazard says.
Laakso’s design shows a green oak tree against a gold background, “What some kids have called the broccoli” Lazard says, “but it's supposed to be an oak tree”
Why green and gold?
Lazard has never found a quote from the designer explaining his color choices. I even checked with the historical room in the San Leandro public library, but, they don’t have any record either. Still, the color scheme does seem pretty self-explanatory.
“I’m gonna side with my coworker Ron,” Lazard says, “whose best guess was the golden hills and green for the green trees. You know, Oakland was heavily forested in its early days.”
And that makes sense. If you look between the stilted houses on Oakland’s hillsides, you can still see the familiar pattern of golden patches between green trees.