Wearing red increases the chance of victory in sports, several studies say. Across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning.
A clue for the origin of this phenomenon is perhaps found in the animal kingdom; red colouration is often associated with male dominance. For instance, zebra finches fitted with red leg bands tend to become dominant, while those given blue bands are more submissive. There might be a similar effect in humans. And if so, it could be apparent in sporting contests.
Results of the 2004 Summer Olympics found that contestants in tae kwan do, boxing and wrestling were issued red or blue protective gear at random. Next, evidence of a beneficial effect emerged, with combatants wearing red winning 6 out of 10 bouts in especially close matches.
It was also found that in the Euro 2004 international football tournament, the five teams that wore predominantly red shirts did better. In fact, those who wear red tops, jackets or clothing score 10 per cent more in any competition than if they were in another colour. In national competitions the same results can be found: the winningest football teams in England, Germany, and The Netherlands all have predominately red shirts.
It is likely that the same is true for a high-level sporting competition near you.
Of course, these results do not mean that a bad team can reverse its fortunes by wearing red, The results apply only to closely matched high-level competitors; they may remain open to some criticism, but are interesting nonetheless.