Although Santa Claus suits are commonly red, trimmed with white fur and a black belt, early depictions of his outfit were tan or green. Santa Claus in red is attributed to Thomas Nast, who portrayed Santa this way for Harper's Weekly magazine in 1892.

Although many people believe the Coca-Cola Company invented our present-day image of Santa, it merely altered Nast's image a bit for an ad campaign that began in 1931. Santa Claus himself can be traced back to St. Nicholas, a bishop famed for his gifts to the needy. In European countries, he brings gifts to children on St. Nicholas' Day (December 6). In Europe, he is portrayed in clerical garb: a long robe and a mitre, or bishop's hat, both in red - the traditional vestment color for bishops.