Wear RED for the Win!
Competitors who wear red more likely to win in combat sports

May 21, 2005


Does the color of a uniform affect the outcome of a game? According to researchers in the Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group at the University of Durham (Durham, England), fighters who wear RED are more likely to win their matches.

Drs. Russell Hill and Robert Barton examined the records of bouts for boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling that took place during the Athens 2004 Olympics. During these matches, athletes are randomly assigned to wear either red or blue outfits or body protectors. The researchers assumed that if the color worn by the fighter had no effect on the outcome of the match, then the number of winners wearing blue and red should be the same.

Let the Games Begin

In all four sports, athletes who wore red were more likely to win their matches than athletes who wore blue. Because fighters differed in their skills and strength, the researchers divided the bouts into different groups based on the relative abilities of the fighters. A fight with two evenly matched competitors was considered to be a "symmetric" match; a fight when a strong competitor was matched against a weak competitor was considered to be an "asymmetric" match.

Wearing red was an advantage in symmetrical matches only! In other words, the color worn by a fighter had an effect only when both fighters were of similar abilities. In these symmetrical matches, fighters who wore red won more than 60% of the time. Color had no effect when one fighter was more skilled than the other.

Why Red?

The color red is used by many non-human animals including monkeys, fish and birds to signal information to other members of their group. Red may also influence human mood and emotions, including aggressive behavior. Drs. Hill and Barton suspect these influences may affect the outcome of the combat sports. They even present some new data suggesting that wearing red had a winning influence in the outcome of soccer games played in the Euro 2004 soccer tournament.

Does the color of uniforms influence the results of other sports? Further research needs to be done, but do you remember who won baseball's World Series last year? The winner was the Boston RED Sox!


  1. Hill, R.A. and Barton, R.A., Red enhances human performance in contests, Nature, 435:293, 2005.

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