Wearing Red Not Always So Hot

Wearing red may convey anger, aggression in men

If you're a man, you might want to be careful about when you wear that red shirt.

In a new study, both women and men rated pictures of men wearing red shirts, describing the men as angry and aggressive, while only men also described them as dominant.

"The implications of our research are that people may wish to think carefully about wearing red in social situations and perhaps important meetings, such as job interviews. Being perceived as aggressive or dominant may be an advantage in some circumstances but a disadvantage in others, for example where teamwork or trustworthiness is important,” said study author Diana Wiedemann, a student researcher at Durham University in the UK, in a press release.

During this study, researchers interviewed 50 men and 50 women on their opinions about men wearing a variety of T-shirts. The subjects were asked to rate the pictures for dominance and aggression on a scale of 1 to 7. They were then asked about how the men in the pictures felt emotionally. Most who were wearing red were described as angry.

"Taken together, our findings suggest a clear association between the color red and perceptions of anger, possibly related to the role of facial reddening as a natural sign of anger,” said lead author Dr. Rob Barton, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Durham, in a press release.

Male animals sometimes display the color red when competing for the attention of females. A man's red face can also be an indication of anger, and that could have influenced the results.

"We know that the colour red has an effect on the human brain," Wiedemann said. "This is embedded in our culture, for example the idea of wearing a red tie — known as a 'power tie' — for business, or issuing a red alert."

This might be why these researchers said they are speaking to sports leagues to address a possible unfair advantage for teams using red on their uniforms.

This study was published May 13 in the journal Biology Letters.

The study authors declared no funding sources or conflicts of interest.