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"Fetch me old red doublet
—The Ballad of Old Redcoat, The Pyrates Royale
Characters who have a tendency to receive horrible injuries also tend to wear red. Perhaps this is some bizarre permutation of the Red Shirt effect, warped slightly by Contractual Immortality. Perhaps some otherworldly fashion deity has declared that anyone likely to be spattered with blood must wear complementing shades of scarlet. Or perhaps it is the censors wanting to keep the carnage from standing out more. Whatever the reason, it sometimes seems as though all a guy has to do to get his arm hacked off is stand near some red drapes. And woe be to one of those guys if he ever comes near a bullfighting stadium...
The trope name comes from an old joke: the captain of a ship always asks for his red jacket before a battle, so his crew won't see him bleed and therefore lose morale. The punchline supplies the name for Bring My Brown Pants.
Red is also a dangerous color for young girls to wear — older girls, however, are more likely dangerous themselves. Compare Red Shirt. Compare and contrast White Shirt of Death.
Anime & Manga
- Played with in Cheeky Angel, where the school bad boy wears a black shirt, against code, because he gets in a ton of fights and blood won't show on black.
- In Japan, red is the traditional color of the hero. Many of these heroes fit the red formula in the Red Oni, Blue Oni duo, as well as highlighting their usual fiery spirit.
- Alucard of Hellsing and Vash of Trigun both practically personify the trope; although in the case of Trigun, Wolfwood doesn't fare much better in his black suit and white shirt. Hell, Alucard has the primary battle tactic of letting his opponent tear him to shreds.
- Inuyasha - in his completely red outfit, Inuyasha is not particularly lucky, and despite (because of?) his demonic resilience, Kagome practically has to duct tape him back together after many battles, including once having a punch go through his abdomen and out the other side. His brother, Sesshomaru, provoked the mutilation gods merely by having a few red stripes on his clothing, and subsequently lost an arm. The censor potential is especially notable here, as blood seems darker on dark-suited folks.
- Ranma ½ - the same goes for the titular character in Takahashi's previous work in a red shirt, Ranma Saotome, but in a more comedic manner.
- In the climax of the Kurosawa-based Samurai 7, Kyuzo's violent, extremely ironic death was probably the result of his signature crimson Badass Longcoat.
- Gareki from Karneval wears one of these, underneath which is a pretty slutty shirt. A worse offender than the usual is seen on the cover here, but no one (except the readers) has bothered to point it out yet.
- The school uniform in Kanon is red. Mai, the Emotionless Girl that swordfights with demons, sustains life-threatening injuries in her uniform, with accompanying red stains. However, in the ball scene, where nobody is wearing red, people are fiercely attacked and, in some cases, badly hurt, but nobody bleeds. In the SUV scene, the victim isn't even shown, and replaced in the remake with the red stain of a strawberry dropped on the ground.
- Vita of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has red hair, a red hat, and a very red dress. Guess who spent most of the third season's last mission bleeding all over the place and had a tendency to get wounded even before that?
- Van from Vision of Escaflowne fits this trope to a T. Look no further than episode 14 as an example.
- Chrono from Chrono Crusade wears a red coat and red shorts, and true to the trope, he's constantly getting injured, particularly in the manga. In the manga, he loses one of his arms at least three times. (Of course, as a demon, he has the power to heal his wounds...which is part of the reason why he feels like he can put himself in so much danger.)
- Kusanagi Mamoru from Blue Seed. His trademark outfit is a red coat, and boy does he tend to get injured and even (apparently) die on occasion—though it's usually not a big deal. One little problem with the red coat is that it only makes his injuries more visible, because his blood is green...
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni - Battler Ushiromiya manages to suffer from a double dose of this trope - red shirt, white jacket. He's also the only one who never simply dies, oh no, he dies and then is resurrected to be killed over and over again.
- Asuka in Neon Genesis Evangelion wears a red plugsuit and has red hair. She is the one that gets the most severe injuries out of all of the pilots. Asuka gets to feel the pain of being impaled through the eye, eaten alive, arm cut in half, and finally impaled through her arm, head (again), and torso with 9 spears, all at 300% strength (her sync rate of 300 made her feel everything three times stronger than reality.)
The same goes for her red mech, Unit 02, which, in one battle, had both arms and its head cut off, while, in The Movie, it was wrecked up in a manner so graphic it's only rivaled by the destruction of Unit 03, piloted by Toji.
- One Piece
- Shanks depending on who does the coloring, has either a red or black cape. Subverted as he threw it off to swim out to save Luffy, and then lost his arm.
- Luffy fits too, with his standard red shirt. And boy, does he get beat up.
- Ed from Fullmetal Alchemist has his standard red duster. On the evening before the final battle, he purchases a bunch of red fabric and replaces it because his old one got torn up after he went north. His reasons for wearing red is that red is a Badass color or he reckons it psyches his mind.
- It doesn't do much to hide wounds, though, seeing as almost every time he's in a major fight, at least part of his shirt comes off.
- Rurouni Kenshin - Kenshin wears a red kimono (and pretty much only that one kimono) throughout the series. However, he's portrayed as wearing blue in flashbacks when he was an assassin.
- Sanosuke wears an iconic red headband. Unsurprisingly, he gets a lot of head injuries whether by being punched in the head or head-butting someone else.
- In Black Butler, Madam Red not only wears a red cloak, but the colour red makes up her a major part of her backstory.
- So does Grell while in shinigami form and it is a major part of her character as well. After Madam Red's death, he even takes the cloak from her, saying "You're not fit to wear the color red."
- Deadpool - Deadpool has "always been partial to red and black" and his uniform is primarily red with black accents.
- In an interesting color inversion, Nausicaa (of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) goes into the last part of the movie wearing a red dress, which is then dyed blue from being soaked in blue Ohmu blood.
- Haldir in the movie version of The Two Towers wears red to the battle of Helm's Deep. This battle proves to be his last.
- The Spirit. "Somebody get me a tie — and it sure as hell better be red!"
- The distinctive red uniforms of the Star Trek the Original Series, cast worn throughout Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan to Star Trek VI the Undiscovered Country, technically making every character a Red Shirt.
- Rebel Without a Cause: Jim wears the iconic red jacket for most of the film, but lends it to Plato shortly before the latter is killed. When Jim's father arrives on the scene, he recognizes the jacket and thinks it's his son who's been shot.
- Ultraviolet: when the titular character receives a gash on her hand, her colour-changing clothes immediately change to red.
- In Hero, the most violent version of the story uses red as the main colour.
- In Schindler's List, a little girl in a red jacket is seen at the ghetto. Later in the movie, Schindler sees her corpse about to be burned.
- In the Silent Hill movie, Rose's outfit starts out in light spring colors, fading to duller and duller shades throughout the movie, then turning blood red for the climax.
- In Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, the Mord-Sith are female torturer/bodyguards who have color coded outfits. Usually, they wear plain brown leather. When they switch to a red outfit, that's when they mean business. They also have a white outfit, which symbolizes when a Mord-Sith has "trained" (read: tortured and broken) her pet so well that she doesn't need to coerce him into anything. This particular outfit shows up twice; once in the first book, where the main character is the pet, and once in the last book, when one of the Mord-Sith gets married. Either Goodkind was just going for a white outfit or he was trying to say something...
- In Hero by Perry Moore, Ruth is stabbed through the stomach - BY A TREE BRANCH - but it takes Thom and Scarlett a minute to figure out that she's dying, thanks to her red dress.
- A young Richard Bolitho (from the novels by Alexander Kent) wonders why his captain wears a red coat before a battle. Needless to say, he finds out.
- One of the children's spinoff books based on Cluedo had Miss Scarlet being identified for an accidental stabbing because she was the only one who had clothes she could use to wipe the blood off her knife.
- Occurs in Witch by Christopher Pike. Julia has a vision of Jim dying in a gas station, and his red jacket is very prominent in the vision.
- The Eastern Empire from the later Heralds of Valdemar books issues dull red uniforms to its army. The joke in that army is that the color was chosen to cut down on cleaning bills post-battle.
- Averted by the Bards of Valdemar, who also wear red uniforms. Thanks to their Bardic Immunity, it's against the law to harm them, and the relatively few major Bard characters tend to avoid suffering the same degree of trauma that other characters - including the white-clad Heralds - are prone to.
- In a subversion, Anita Blake prefers black clothes while working, because she finds that black hides the blood even better than red.
- In The Wise Man's Fear, Adem mercenaries prefer to wear bright red. Kvothe guesses this is so their enemies will not see them bleed. In contrast, Shehyn, an Adem master, wears white, because she does not bleed in battle, and if she ever did, seeing her bleed would be her enemy's rightful reward.
- In Cerberon, Aladavan is wearing a red jacket when he's nearly disemboweled by a skraad. He comments on this fact and is amazed that his white trousers didn't get bloody.
- Mal Reynolds of Firefly wears mostly earth tones, including brown and red. These clothes are frequently ripped and torn, mostly by bullets and knives. Occasionally, this color scheme is the direct cause of some of Mal's injuries—like when he wears it into an Alliance-friendly bar on Unification Day and picks a fight.
- Mal wearing red is played with in the side comic book story Serenity: Those Left Behind. In the comic, River comments that she hates the color red on Mal, which is an ironic throwback to the episode "Ariel" in which she cuts Jayne with a butcher knife and then comments that he looks better in red.
- River's comment is very likely intended to suggest that Mal does this trope on purpose for the reason given in the page quote. River may or may not like Jayne, but definitely didn't like the Blue Sun shirt he was wearing, and slashing him was the best way she came up with to get him and the shirt to go away.
- In Star Trek the Original Series, Red Shirts are famous for guaranteed deaths. (Scotty and Uhura excepted.) Scotty was killed by the probe NOMAD in "The Changeling". He got better.
- In Star Trek the Next Generation, the Starfleet uniform colors are inverted; Red Shirts are now command and main characters while the security and engineering staff wear gold. They don't often die, but they do get tortured, maimed, shocked, or have the shit kicked out of them.
- The miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America puts long-suffering AIDS patient Prior in a red robe when he goes to Heaven, with a stylistic nod to Schindler's List thrown in by having the red robe the only thing in color through that part of the sequence.
- In Heroes, Claire Bennett's season one cheerleading uniform was mostly red, for good reason.
- The Spanish Civil War song "Tengo la camisa roja" ("I have my shirt in red"), in which a soldier tells others that he's covered in the blood of his deceased partner.
- Fate/stay night - Rin Tohsaka wears red in all of her outfits ('cept her sleepclothes), but it's pretty much a subversion, because the one time you see her seriously wounded, her blood isn't just on her, it's everywhere.
- Dante of the Devil May Cry series wears a Badass Longcoat of an almost garishly blood-crimson color. He does have a tendency to suffer atrocious levels of injury—often with his own weaponry—but it almost never slows him down for long. Part of this is due to Cutscene Power to the Max, wherein Dante is a practically unkillable warrior, and the other part is due to his demonic heritage.
- Auron in Final Fantasy X seems like an exception, in that his blood-red longcoat doesn't accompany any particular hardship in the quest. But then, he's already dead to begin with.
- Ditto for Vincent Valentine in Dirge of Cerberus - when he sustains a major wound, it closes up right away.
- Lemon, the "Red Baron" from Shining Force 2, wears a deep red suit of armor. It is rumored that the red color comes from the blood of all the enemies he has slain. When he is turned into a vampire, he attempts to kill himself in several ways (because Who Wants to Live Forever?).
- In Tales of Symphonia, the party goes to the king of Tethe'alla to discuss the present situation. After making their case, they are sent to the "Crimson Room", where they keep visitors they're not sure what to do with. The implication is that should they decide to kill said guests, the all-red decor in the room will hide the bloodstains better.
- In Shadow Hearts: From the New World, Killer, who sports red pants and hair, seems to sustain near-fatal injuries on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, he actually does die after the boss fight in which he transforms into an all-red dragon.
- Ragna, the protagonist of Blaz Blue, wears a red coat and also has horrible defense. In addition, several of the Multiple Endings end with him dying or worse.
- Final Fantasy's Red Mages, of course. Though they usually are less of Squishy Wizards than Black or White ones due to being able to equip better gear.
- Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero's all-red Zero has a (somewhat fan exaggerated) reputation for getting heavily injured and even killed.
- Which extends to his playstyle as well, being a Glass Cannon who gets up to his enemies and slashes them.
- Late in the fourth act of Homestuck, an alternate future version of resident Badass Dave Strider is found dead in a red tuxedo. Earlier on, in the Midnight Crew Intermission, this is inverted: the antagonists, a pool-themed Gang of Hats called The Felt, are dressed in entriely in green and have green skin. The blood is quite vividly noticeable.
- Aquaman in the Justice League cartoon. He and his baby were tied to a Death Trap. He managed to return back to his castle with the baby, but the baby wasn't wrapped in red cloth anymore. Cue the reveal of the wrapping around his handless arm.
- The titular character in Captain Scarlet.
- Zapp Brannigan of Futurama considers red velour the best choice of military uniform. (But, for some reason, also no pants.)
- Supposedly, soldiers dressed in red tended to have higher morale and inspire greater fear in their enemies.
- The Romans, being one of the first to practice this for their military dress, did so because their soldiers would be less likely to see their own blood upon injury and thus become demoralized.
- Even before the Romans, the Spartan army dressed in crimson, supposedly because crimson garments were seen as bearing "the least resemblance to women's clothing."
- The Romans, being one of the first to practice this for their military dress, did so because their soldiers would be less likely to see their own blood upon injury and thus become demoralized.
- The Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of St. John. Their field uniform was (and still is) a red surcoat with a large white Maltese cross. The red surcoat may be worn only at the combat zone; elsewhere, a black surcoat with white Maltese cross is to be worn.
- The British army from the 17th to 19th century were famously known as "redcoats" due to their uniform. The common belief was that this was to hide blood stains. Other theories for why the colour was used are:
- The bright colours were simply to enable a soldier to distinguish friend and foe easily in the heat of battle. (Which has both benefits and drawbacks.)
- The use of red for the majority of infantry dates back to England's New Model Army in 1645, though some units used it beforehand. Some sources have it that Cromwell wanted blue, but red was cheaper and/or the only colour available in the quantities needed. Interestingly, because of this use of cheap natural dyes, the average soldier's field uniform would rapidly fade to a muddy maroon shade rather than the 'factory fresh' red inevitably seen in fiction.
- The colloquialism "redcoat" only dates back to the 19th century; they were called "the King's men" by the American rebels.
- Napoleon wore a red shirt in battle, supposedly to never let the enemy see him bleed.
- According to that other wiki, Confederate general A. P. Hill had a red "battle shirt". He was never seriously injured so long as he wore the red plaid shirt, making it a subversion of Bring My Red Jacket and Red Shirt, as well as being a combination of Contractual Immortality and The Lady's Favour, since it was given to him by his wife, who said "As long as you wear this, you'll come home to me.". He died the only time he didn't wear it into battle, at Petersburg.
- Giuseppe Garibaldi, an important player in the unification of Italy in the 19th century, led redshirts (not that kind) to battle. Some legends say he was inspired by butchers using the blood-hiding aspect, but The Other Wiki notes this is unlikely.
- Similarly, the gun decks of men of war in the Age of Sail were customarily painted red to lessen the shock of seeing the copious amounts of blood that covered them in battle.
- It was also cheap.
- One general of the Takeda Cavalry of the Sengoku era was known for his men's red armour. In case you didn't know, the Takeda cavalry was known throughout Japan during that era as being the finest.
- In sports, red shirts are a popular choice. In football/soccer, at least two teams are nicknamed "Red Devils" (Manchester United and Belgium); England has it as secondary uniform, and since their only FIFA World Cup was won with a red kit, it's used for special occasions; and in a not-very-successful attempt, Germany used red for 4 years as a secondary kit in an attempt to intimidate (it has since been changed to black).
** Conversely, in college American football, to be a 'redshirt' means to be put on the practice squad for a year. The reason for this is to get better while retaining a year of eligibility of play.
- Redcaps were named for their red caps. The red came from the blood of people they killed, which they did often, since the red would eventually fade.
- On a US Aircraft Carrier, flight deck crew wear different colors to denote their jobs. Those wearing red shirts handle ordinance.
- At least one Japanese commander in World War II was on record for wearing a red shirt specifically to hide any wounds he might sustain on the field, lest his men become demoralized by the sight of their commander bleeding to death.
- In revolutionary France, it was recommended that a guillotine be painted red, so as to make the sight of a person being beheaded slightly less gruesome.
- Who really stands out since the rest of the movie is in black and white (except the beginning, and the ending).