Drop the Black Buff


Throughout 32 seasons of Survivor we've seen 106 distinct tribes each boasting a unique name, castaway assortment and buff. While tribe colours and combinations were initially diverse, we've reached a point where more often than not colours are predictable and schemes are frequently repeated. In today's feature article Ozlet Cable Brandon focuses on the overused black buff for the merged tribe and lists the pros and cons to axing the black buff for the time being. Read on to see why all the fuss about buffs!

Since Survivor hit our screens back in 2000, there have been several constants through 32 evolving Survivor seasons; Jeff Probst, Immunity Idols, Tribal Council, A Million Dollar Prize and Buffs!

DropYourBuffsKaoh Rong – Drop your buffs

The buff was designed to help the audience differentiate between the tribes but also doubled as a multipurpose garment for the players to wear as they pleased. Due to the success of the show the buff has grown into a marketable piece of merchandise with fans & collectors quickly snapping them up when they go on sale through CBS & Planetbuff.

So why am I talking about buffs?

As a passionate Survivor fan and Buff collector, I’ve always had a keen interest in the buff colours and designs used for each season. I like to see diversity in the colours used and I love seeing a colour pop up that hasn’t been used much. So I have to get something off my chest.

I’m sick to death of seeing the black merge buff!

Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t always feel this way. Leading into Survivor’s seventh season – Pearl Islands, many colours of the rainbow had already been represented on the tribal buff but a new one was about to be thrown into the mix.

PIBuffRare Pearl Island Merge Buff Misprint

With the pirate theme of the Pearl Islands it was only fitting that the merge buff would also be the first black buff. And it was totally awesome! I loved it, and it immediately became one of my favourite buffs and it still is to this day. At the time I thought it was a one off, (because of the theme of the season) but it would surprisingly come back another 11 times (10 as merge) right up to and including Survivor Kaoh Rong.

Now to put that into context, in 32 seasons of Survivor we have seen a black merge buff eleven times, a green buff six times and orange, red and blue have been a merge buff three times each. Consider the fact it didn’t make its appearance until the seventh season and that’s 12 appearances in 26 seasons.

It’s appeared so many times, that it has become the cliché to have a black merge buff. It feels like it’s just a lazy choice by production on many occasions when it’s used. The novelty of the black buff has totally disappeared because it’s simply overused. Only on three occasions I can justify it being used – Pearl Islands, China and HvV and if that was the case then I would love the black buff even more, because their infrequency would make them special.

AndreaGreenBuffAndrea Boehlke rocking the green merge buff

If you have read this far, you may be saying who cares? Yes, I understand many fans couldn’t give two hoots about buffs, let alone their colour schemes. So no hard feelings, I don’t expect you to keep reading. But as a buff fan and collector, (yes I have all the buffs) I’m financially invested in all released buffs, but I’m finding it hard to justify purchasing a black merge buff because they’ve become boring.  I hate looking at my collection and seeing so much black when there are so many other vibrant underused colours out there.

What I can’t understand is I feel there are more pros than cons to have a coloured merge buff instead of the black.

PROS – Reasons to Drop the Black Buff

  • The buff is primarily used to differentiate the tribes, and in the early days we saw a range of colours that could easily be seen on the show helping the audience know who is who no matter what clothing they were wearing.

SamburuRedSamburu stands out in red

  • Since Nicaragua, the original tribes have their tribe names emblazoned on the buff, while this is a nice touch, it means for the autograph buff collector, there is less room for a player to sign or write a message. When the merge buff is created it has no tribal name, hence more space to sign. But if it is black, it is not fan friendly to the collector.

KRBlackNot the best buff to get signed

  • For several seasons now, production colour coordinate the players clothing to help match the tribal buff colour. But why worry about colour combination if we are going to have a dull black buff at the merge?

JaclynMergeJaclyn Schultz’s buff looks amazing against the faded and dull clothing and drab scenery.

  • In the modern era of big screen televisions and High Definition, Survivor has never looked so good and nothing beats a vibrant buff colour that pops on the screen. Recent seasons of San Juan Del Sur & Cambodia succeeded in employing rarely used colours for their seasons, especially the magenta Bayon buff from Cambodia being a stand out, and not seen since Marquesas. Why is this colour so underused?

BayonBuffBayon Buff – Cambodia

  • As the game wears on, you’ll notice that some of the bright coloured clothing the player’s start with on day one begins to fade and get dirty. Get to the merge and around twenty days into the competition and the dull clothing worn around camp is boring. Add some life to the situation by introducing a bright red, pink, green or yellow merge buff, beats a boring black buff hands down.

So why are producers going for a black coloured buff nearly every second season?

CONS – Reasons to Retain the Black Buff

  • The only logical reasoning I can see is that the black buff is commercially the best selling buff in the marketplace. I have absolutely no facts, figures or statistics to support this, but I do know that the Hae Da Fung buff from China was a top seller, is now hard to find and when they do pop up on eBay, they command big dollars. Further to support this, in 2015 CBS chose to re release both the Balboa Pearl Islands & Heroes vs. Villains merge buffs through their online shop. I guess I don’t begrudge CBS/Survivor/Castaway/Buff giving themselves the best opportunity to make the best financial return, but surely the look of the show should be the first priority.
  • Finally, many of you will say that the merge buff colour is irrelevant, as its no longer needed to differentiate between tribes. And that is totally true; I don’t shy away from that argument.

BuffColoursLook at all the potential options

In finishing my rant, I want to say ‘Yes, I loved the Balboa buff ‘ and it made sense in China and Heroes vs Villains but just because something is good, doesn’t mean it has to be the ‘go to’ design every time.

It’s time to drop the black buff, give the other colours some time to shine, and maybe in Survivor Legends or the final season of Survivor let the black merge buff have one last hurrah.

Related Link: https://survivoroz.com/2013/06/05/survivor-oz-top-10top-10-buffs/

Do you think the black buff has been overused, particularly for the merge tribe? What buff colours would you like to see? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


About Survivor Oz (2110 Articles)
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9 Comments on Drop the Black Buff

  1. they should start mixing color up. like black and blue, yellow and black that kind of stuff. right?

  2. I 100% agree! Black has been done to death! They need to put black away for a long while and use more potential merge colors

  3. Tbh I don’t think buffs are needed at all. Unless your 2 tribes on one beach and are not split between gender or race then they have no use.

    How could you not tell who is on what tribe when they say the tribe name before switching to footage from that tribe. I have rarely even noticed the buffs or their colors.

    I think it would just make the most sense to just get rid of them all together. There is much more important things to worry about then finding a new color or look to a buff.

  4. Michael Moore // April 26, 2016 at 12:52 am // Reply

    they never had a white buff maybe they should do that

  5. I agree. Enough of the black buff. They should actually bring back the brown buff. Koror is the best tribe in Survivor history.

  6. I want to see a white buff. It’s the only color I can think of they haven’t done.

  7. amnotacrybaby // April 26, 2016 at 8:48 am // Reply

    I expect to see many more seasons of the series, particularly as Probst hasn’t seen anything else gain the tiniest toehold. And it’s not as though the loyal fans give a flying whatever, just so long as he shows up. Buff colors mean absolutely nothing to that lot.

  8. they do this in Hell’s Kitchen too: the chefs that make it to the end are given black jackets (which aren’t totally black, just the shoulders).

    I think maybe it has something to do with martial arts. The colour black represents the fact you have reached the highest level of learning. I dunno, its just a theory.

    I don’t know if they’ve done it this season but I’m glad they have done away with letting the players name the merge tribe. I used to roll my eyes whenever I hear some of the ridiculous names they would come up with.

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