Why did Shaggy sometimes wear a red shirt in Scooby-Doo cartoons?
Zoinks! Like, was it laundry day, Scoobs?
We all made some questionable fashion decisions in the Eighties. Shoulder pads. Oversized suits. Neon everything. Pleated, acid-washed jeans. Unnecessary zippers. But, hey, that was the fashion of the day.
When it comes to animated characters, however, we expect consistency. There is no laundry day in cartoonland. Homer has always worn his white shirt. Fred Flintstone sports an orange pelt. Shaggy shuffles around in his green top. Or, wait… why is it red in the image up top?
Norville Rogers, better known as Shaggy, first appeared in red in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, which despite its unique title was simply the seventh (and final) iteration of Scooby-Doo Saturday morning cartoons that began with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! back in 1969. Premiering on ABC in 1985, opposite the Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling and It's Punky Brewster cartoons, 13 Ghosts took the series in some shocking new directions. For starters, Fred and Velma were nowhere to be seen. Scooby traveled with Scrappy, Shaggy and Daphne. Oh, and there was a new kid named Flim-Flam and an old warlock that looked just like Vincent Price because he was actually voiced by Vincent Price.
Not only were Daphne and Shaggy missing their Mystery Inc. friend, they had fresh new looks. Daphne rocked red bangs and a lavender jumpsuit with boots. (She looked more like Debbie from Speed Buggy, frankly.) Shaggy traded in his green V-neck and brown pants for a red tee and jeans. Shaggy would continue to wear this outfit in cartoon movies throughout the decade, made-for-TV affairs titled Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf, and Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School.
This change led to some wild fan theories. One hypothesis on the Fan Theories Wikia suggests a convoluted plot in which Red-Shirt Shaggy is stuck in an alternate time loop. Some dude on Reddit speculated that it was because of the price of green paint. On Star Trek, redshirts always die, so perhaps Red-Shirt Shaggy is a ghost himself? Was it Scrappy's fault?
While no official explanation has ever been issued by Hanna-Barbera, the true reason is likely far more mundane. The animation studio simply wanted to give the characters a new look for the 1980s. For Daphne, that meant something a Charlie's Angel might wear. For Shaggy, who was far from a fashion bug, that meant a basic color swap.
But we have another wild theory. Remember, the human characters in Scooby-Doo were based on the teenagers from the 1950s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Shaggy was modeled after Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik beautifully portrayed by Bob Denver. Denver, of course, would go on to become Gilligan.
And what did Gilligan wear? A red shirt with jeans. We like to think of Red-Shirt Shaggy as another homage to a TV icon.