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The Power Of The Red Shirt

September 12, 2014


Red shirt.

What does it signify?

Make no mistake, more than any other piece of clothing a red shirt is symbolic, both good and bad. First let’s talk about the negative stereotypes. In the original Star Trek series, (referered to as TOS), each department had it’s own color of uniform. Command was gold. Captain Kirk wore gold. Science officers like Mr Spock and Doctor McCoy wore blue. And engineering, headed by Mr Scott, wore red. But, in addition to engineering, red was also worn by security. And it was the unfortunate security officers who turned “red shirt” into a synonym for someone who will soon die.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 79 episodes of TOS 58 people died. Of that number 43 of them were wearing a red shirt. Most of the red shirts died without saying a word. Howard Tayler, of Schlock Mercenary fame created a character named Der Trihs.

(Photo Credit: Tayler Corporation)

Der Trihs is redshirt spelled backwards.

Red shirts are also associated with positive images. The most famous one is this image.

(Photo credit:

Tiger Woods is no longer the best golfer in the world. But, there was a time where you could make the following bet and get even money: Tiger Woods or anyone else. He literally took on the world. And on Sunday, Tiger always wore a red shirt. And it was part of the intimidation factor. Tiger Woods single handedly turned red shirt into a cool image.

Of course, part of the problem is that the nerds who watch Star Trek TOS probably weren’t big golf fans.

During my job as a manager over the monthly maintenance tasks at a large non profit, I wore a red shirt, (the one you see at the start of this post.) I never mentioned to anyone that I was specifically wearing the red shirt. It just became one of the symbols of our maintenance. Not unlike Red Tie Thursdays.

Today is Friday. And I’m also wearing a red shirt. The company I currently work for has a suggestion. . .in fact, a really strong recommendation that we wear red on Fridays to show support for our military. Red shirts can represent both incompetence and brilliance; disaster or dominance.

Clothes are symbolic. They can be uniting. And they can be a reminder that there are those who put themselves in harms way so we don’t have to. Our office will be a sea of red today. It’s a very inexpensive way to unite our team and honor a higher cause.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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