What color is Hawkeye's bathrobe on M*A*S*H?

Wait… is it red or purple?

When you think of Hawkeye Pierce from the TV show M*A*S*H, you probably think of his fashion. That Hawaiian shirt he hoped would never go out of style. His bright red kimono with colorful embroidery. And, of course, his bathrobe, with MD, USA embossed on the pocket.

Hawkeye wears this bathrobe throughout the entire series. It's an item fans are very familiar with, and onscreen, its color appears to be some form of red. Maybe you think of it as maroon, or mahogany, or the color of cranberries or a bold wine. Either way, most people would agree — the robe looks rather red.

That’s why in the show’s 10th season, it was a little strange when the robe’s color was suddenly called into question during the episode "Where There's a Will, There's a War."

This episode finds Hawkeye writing his last will and testament while serving as a surgeon on the frontlines. From a quaking bunker, Hawkeye decides he wants to leave all of his worldly possessions to his father – except for a few choice items in camp that he wants to leave for his 4077th family, including his robe, which he decides to leave to Winchester.

As Hawkeye writes his will, Alda narrates what he's penning, explaining this decision to gift Winchester his bathrobe as thus:

Hawkeye wills his robe to Winchester.

"You’ve been the victim of a ceaseless stream of dumb jokes. Though we may have wounded your pride, you’ve never lost your dignity. I therefore bequeath to you the most dignified thing I own — my bathrobe. Purple is the color of royalty."

Here’s where M*A*S*H fans may have heard brakes screeching in their heads for a moment. Hawkeye's robe is purple? In this very same episode, Hawkeye appears in his robe during a delightfully silly flashback scene with Margaret (where he decides to leave her his Groucho glasses and nose), and the robe does seem in this scene to appear more like a violet red than a true red.

The robe in ''Where There's a Will, There's a War''

But if you look at how the robe's color appears in other episodes, it can sometimes look like a bright red. So what gives, why did the writers decide to go with purple in this poignant scene?

It seems that when you look at Hawkeye’s robe in person, it is undeniably purple, which you can kind of see a little more clearly in this photo posted by the National Museum of American History, which houses the robe now that Hawkeye’s done donning it. So likely when writers were referencing the robe for this scene, they described what they saw in person, and not how the robe typically appeared onscreen.

Through the rest of the episode, Hawkeye finishes his will, weaving through memories with Potter, Mulcahy, and Klinger, too, and saving the most emotional tribute for last.

The episode’s most heart-wrenching moment comes at the very end when Hawkeye returns to camp unscathed and decides he still wants to figure out how he should honor his friendship with B.J. The conclusion left not a dry eye in the house, making it easier to overlook the odd reference to Hawkeye's purple robe that upon rewatching many fans have counted as a minor error in M*A*S*H history.

What color do you see when you look at Hawkeye's robe: red or purple?

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19 Comments

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lmahabhashyam 2 months ago
In the ten years Hawkeye way an old boy child and had a sister who knitted a sweater with one long and one short sleeve, his parent’s were both alive and his dad was a widower not to mention comic books that weren’t around during the Korean War music and some of the movies, so there wasn’t any fact checking. That doesn’t change the fact that it was one of the best TV show’s ever made.
FinestKind 2 months ago
Ten seasons in and the writers did not realise the robe appears red on TV? ....that 98% of America, when polled, would say "its definitely red"!? This is a top 10 MASH writers flub.
Bryson FinestKind 14 days ago
PURPLE they didn’t have digitization then remember?
JosephPetro 2 months ago
I'm colorblind...so it doesn't matter to me.
idkwut2use 2 months ago
That’s absolutely burgundy, a deep red. Not even a purplish “wine” or maroon. And I’ve got perfect color vision according to a test in which I had to arrange a ton of very similar shades in spectral order. 😉
Utzaake 2 months ago
Was going to say crimson, but it doesn't look as red in (hazy) sunlight (see top left photo above). Hawkeye's robe is purple...tyrian purple.
Pacificsun 2 months ago
It's not an error. It has to do with what kind of a filter is being used in the filming, which can change the hue of anything.
WordsmithWorks 2 months ago
I think the color faded over time, kind of like BJ's long-sleeved shirt went from red to pink.
JaniceWilcoxson 2 months ago
I watch M*A*S*H on MEtv 6 days a week, the local news causes us to miss Star Trek on Saturday night, I wish we could see Star Trek.
Tommygunz JaniceWilcoxson 2 months ago
It’s the same for me, I get the local news and then a half hour of Batman. Just give me Star Trek for that hour or change the time so I can see it.
PortelaJ 2 months ago
Apologies for off topic. Just learned that Tom Lester “Eb” from Green Acres passed. He was so funny in his role and will surely be missed. Green acres is the place to be. RIP to Eb, a real farmer.
Shannon PortelaJ 2 months ago
It's a terrible thing.. It was tough even watching Green Acres last night after reading that. R.I.P. Tom Lester 🖤
TheDavBow3 2 months ago
I always thought his robe was a light burgundy/dark red. Don't see purple at all.
PortelaJ 2 months ago
It’s like the internet story a few years back....what color dress do you see? I enjoy this episode and would like to think it’s purple. Love the line “ Purple is the color of Royalty”. BTW Purple is my favorite color. Stay strong, stay safe.
TinaMarieHaddadRhodes 2 months ago
Well it looked red but I quess there are different shades of purple, just like there are different shades of red or blue etc....
sandman 2 months ago
PURPLE????? That article had me seeing red! You know where to send the hate mail!
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