It's a longstanding belief from drivers around Michigan that the block M that appears on all state highway shields must represent the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

While they're similar, no doubt, they are not the same and we can debunk the myth that all of Michigan's state highways pay homage to the Wolverines.

The subject has come up in road and highway enthusiast communities. Michigan (along with old-style North Carolina and Wyoming) all use state highway shields that appear to have a graphic that nods to one of the state's large universities.

A quick digression: each state has a unique design for its highway shields as opposed to national routes (US and Interstate highways) that have standardized shields across the nation.

Eric Meier Collection
Eric Meier Collection

So what does that mean for Michigan's Block M? Here's a comparison from Chris Bessert's outstanding and comprehensive site on Michigan highways as shared on the GibbleNation highway website, that shows the 'Highway M' versus the 'Wolverine M.'

m comparison via

The two M's don't perfectly align.

The M in the University of Michigan logo is wider, and the point of the M is much lower than that of the Michigan highway shield....Even with that, the idea is that the use of the M for Michigan highways came from the university's block 'M.' ...In the end, it is just coincidental. The M in the highway shield debuted just as the University's "Block M" began taking hold. However, it was nearly 30 years before the Block M was officially part of the university's logo - and the two shapes are just different enough not to conflict with any trademark issues.

So don't sweat it so badly, Michigan State fans. The 'M' roads you drive every day are not a loving tribute to your rival school

However if you are looking for road signs that do celebrate the state's two largest universities, look no further than the campus of Michigan State in East Lansing for green/white/Spartan logo signs and backroads in Washtenaw County for maize and blue street signs.

U of M and MSU road signs
Google Maps Street View

50 of Michigan's "Must-Drive" Roads

Gas up the car, grab those road munchies and a roadtrip partner that you can trust, and head out on some of Michigan's most unique roads and routes. Make sure you take lots of photos and video!

More From 99.1 WFMK