Here's Why No One Cared When the Red Shirts Died on 'Star Trek'

Set clothing to angry and aggressive.

Hate to break it to you, Enterprise Crew Person #3, but no one shed any tears over your death. It’s not just that the Star Trek writers didn’t bother to give you a name, but your sartorial choices — that bright red shirt — made you come off as a bit of an asshole. Wearing the color red, according to new research from anthropologists at Durham University in the U.K., makes people seem angry and aggressive as well as expendable.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters, scientists documented what happened when they had 100 volunteers (split 50-50 men and women) rate images of people wearing different t-shirts. Compared against a Kirkian yellow or Spockian blue, red shirts elicited higher anger, aggression, and, if the reviewers were male, dominance scores.

Rob Barton, an evolutionary anthropologist and lead scientist on the study, said in a press release that this finding could have a basis in the natural world. Bright red coloration — sported by poison dart frogs, coral snakes, and other dangerous critters — can be a caution sign to other animals to bugger off. And because human faces have a tendency to flush red when upset, some psychologists believe this warning association crosses cultural lines.

Barton also mentioned that wearing red may not be the best idea in certain social situations like job interviews or friendly dinner parties. And it’s definitely not the right choice when facing giant walking lizards on unknown planets; not if you want people to feel bad when you’re crushed under a Styrofoam rock.

Related Tags