The History of Pamplona's Red and White Uniform

The History of Pamplona's Red and White Uniform

From noon on July 6th until midnight on July 14th, everyone in Pamplona dresses in all white clothes with a red scarf, called a pañuelo, and a red sash, called a faja

There are many theories as to where the tradition of wearing white clothes originated. One popular theory is that the white outfits pay tribute to the first bull runners in Pamplona: neighborhood butchers, dressed in their white uniforms, were the only people awake when the bulls were herded from the corrals to the bull ring for the afternoon bullfight. These butchers started running in front of the bulls on their way to work, giving birth to the world-famous tradition of bull-running in Spain.

Still, the tradition of wearing white at Los Sanfermines wasn't popularized until the 1940s. Following the military victory in the Spanish Civil War of the late-1930s, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco attempted to eliminate all communist, anti-Fascist and/or Basque-nationalist sentiment through brutal repression of Basque culture. In resistance, members of Pamplona's La Veleta Peña, who were primarily communist-leaning laborers, or obreros, normalized wearing all-white as a symbol of unity, anti-Fascism, and the power of the working-class. Whatever its origins, the tradition of wearing white during San Fermín continues to unite the city and symbolize that the fiesta is for everyone.

The tradition of the red scarf and red sash stem from the martyrdom of San Fermín himself. As the legend goes, when a French priest came to Christianize the people of Pamplona, the local Roman General proclaimed that he would behead the first person to be baptized in the city. To the city’s surprise, the Roman General’s son, Fermín, volunteered to be baptized. As promised, the Roman General cut his son along the waist and beheaded him. The red that we wear around our waists and necks each July symbolize the blood of San Fermín.

To prepare for your trip to Pamplona, don't forget to pack a few sets of white clothes that you wouldn't mind getting stained with sangria. When you get into the city, pick up your pañuelo and faja from any one of the dozens of shops and vendors selling the San Fermín attire across the old city, or order it right here at bullbalcony.com.

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