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What is Eye Black and Why Do Football Players Wear It?

Eye Black

If you’ve ever watched a football game, you’ve probably noticed that many of the players have smudges of black grease under their eyes. This substance is called eye black, and it serves an important purpose. Here’s everything you need to know about eye black and why football players wear it.

What is Eye Black?

Eye black is a greasy substance that is applied to the skin under the eyes. It usually comes in the form of a small block or tub that can be carried around in a player’s uniform or equipment bag.

Eye black typically contains petroleum jelly or beeswax, which helps it to stay in place on the skin. Some brands also add other ingredients for additional benefits, such as vitamin E or aloe vera.

Why Do Football Players Wear Eye Black?

There are a few reasons why football players wear eye black. One reason is because it can help to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. When applied properly, eye black can block out some of the light that would otherwise enter the player’s eyes and cause distraction or discomfort.

In addition to reducing glare, eye black can also help to reduce reflections from the surface of glasses or contact lenses. This is especially helpful for quarterbacks and other players who need to be able to see clearly while wearing these types of vision devices.

Finally, some players believe that wearing eye black can intimidate opponents and make them appear more fierce on the field. Whether or not this is actually true is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that many football players feel like eye black gives them a psychological edge over their opponents.

The History of Eye Black in Football and Baseball

What is the history behind this strange tradition? Is there any evidence that it actually works? Let’s take a closer look at the history of eye black in football and baseball.

The Use of Eye Black in Baseball

The first recorded instance of a baseball player using eye black dates back to 1901, when New York Giants player George 306 Burns rubbed lampblack (a type of soot) beneath his eyes to reduce the glare of the sun. In 1907, another Giants player, Mike Donlin, began using charcoal to darken his eyes. It wasn’t long before other players caught on, and by the 1920s, the use of eye black was widespread in baseball.

There are a few theories as to why eye black became so popular in baseball. One is that it simply made it easier for players to see the ball when it was hit.

Another is that it helped players better deal with the sun’s glare. But the most likely explanation is that players believed (perhaps erroneously) that eye black helped reduce injuries. After all, if you couldn’t see the ball coming at you, how could you get hurt?

The Use of Eye Black in Football

The use of eye black in football can be traced back to 1934, when University of Maryland player Jack Thomas rubbed burnt cork beneath his eyes before a game against Navy.

The idea quickly caught on with other players, and by the 1940s, practically every football player was using some form of eye black. Like baseball players, football players also believed that eye black helped reduce injuries by making it more difficult for opponents to see their eyes.

Interestingly enough, there is some scientific evidence to support this belief. A study published in 2008 found that football players who wore eye black had a 32% reduction in concussions compared to those who didn’t use any sort of eye protection.

However, it’s worth noting that this study was sponsored by a company that manufactures eye black products, so it’s possible that the results are biased.


Whether you’re a diehard football fan or just a casual observer, chances are you’ve noticed the smudges of black grease under many players’ eyes. This substance is called eye black, and it serves several important purposes.

Now that you know all about eye black and why football players wear it, you’ll be able to appreciate this small but essential part of the game even more!