A sexy tanned man with abs lying on a bed of maroon sheets elegantly.
Photo: Serge Krouglikoff via Getty Images

Men: Why Do You Only Have Maroon or Navy Bed Sheets?

We found out if it's really a sign of being a dirt-encrusted mummy’s boy.

You’ve probably seen the joke about boy’s beds by now. No, not the one about blokes with no bed frame, or one pillow, or the one about men living like McNulty in The Wire. It’s the one that ends with the punchline: They all have navy bed sheets. According to the good people of TikTok, this is a red flag – a sign of laziness, grossness, or general fuckboy tendencies. But surely anyone with fleeting knowledge of the male species knows this is both unfair and not factual. Because men don’t always have navy bed sheets. Sometimes they have maroon ones.


Where navy sheets give off a whiff of man-child – a “mum still does my washing, I’ll never text you back” aura – maroon sheets have more of an “I watch Andrew Tate videos” energy. (He actually has maroon sheets, as shown in VICE’s Tate documentary where he also dressed his entourage cohesively in it at one point.) Maroon is supposedly warm and luxurious to navy’s cool and calming. Actually, maroon screams “'welcome to the love shack”, while navy believes wholeheartedly that the “Cool Girl” exists.

Let’s be honest here, though – there’s not actually much difference between these shades. They are the Acceptable Man Colours. One is “grown-up blue” and one is “grown-up red”. 

Fellas, what is it about these two shades that have you in such a chokehold? Do their darker tones allow you to hold off washing them for an extra couple of weeks? Are they the black socks of bed linen – endlessly forgiving when it comes to accumulated dirt? Or are they just the colours your mum picked out when you went off to uni? These questions desperately need answers, so I did something a little indecent. I asked a load of dudes what they were working with in the bedroom department.


As I expected, some of the blame for this gendered bed linen situation goes to The Mums. “My boyfriend has navy sheets,” Rachel, 28, tells me, with the eagerness of a woman able to finally get something off her chest. “I’ve never completely expressed my feelings about them, but I only put them on the bed when the nice ones are not available.” Rachel – who has asked to use a fake name for privacy reasons, like others in this piece – is keen to point out that her boyfriend didn’t choose the sheets himself, though. “His mum bought them for him when he went to uni,” adds Rachel. “She even bought replacement ones in the same design for his bed at home.”

Going straight to the source, 28-year-old boyfriend Tom confirms this. “I can imagine Rachel kind of hates them, but that had never occurred to me until now,” he says. “So it’s a mum thing? I guess maybe that’s its own red flag…”

“The maroon duvet cover was from my mum when I went to uni,” says Dan, 31, backing up my suspicions that doting mums are to blame for this debacle – by picking out “grown-up” colours for sons who may not be laundry-trained. Then Dan throws me a curve ball. “The navy bed sheet was my own conscious decision. It was when I got my first double bed at home, so I was 22 I think.” His reasoning was simple. “White is just a bit boring,” he says, “I wanted to mix it up.” Unfortunately, this desire for difference led him to choose the most standard option of all, like a landlord who thinks magnolia wall paint is thrilling and distinctive.


I’m not entirely buying Dan’s explanation, but then he gets honest. “I have eczema, and I used to wake up with blood on my sheets sometimes,” he says. “This is grim, but it shows less on coloured ones – not that many women were sharing my bed at the time.” As a woman who regularly wakes up with blood on my sheets thanks to the wonders of my uterine lining, I certainly have sympathy with this line of reasoning. Dan’s not done, though. “I think young men can't get patterns,” he muses. “Like, me and my partner have bees on our bed at the moment. I couldn't have that aged 20. What sort of vibe would that give off?”

The A to Z of Fuckboys

This seems to reveal the contradiction at the heart of masculine colour theory, as I like to call it. It seems a lot of guys are caught in a bind – wanting to “mix it up” from boring white, but not wanting anything so “out there” it could draw the wrong kind of attention. “With clothes, too, I think most men are just happy to hide in the background with how they dress,” Dan continues. And then there’s the cost question. “When you have to buy your own bed sheets there's no way you're going to John Lewis to buy something nice,” Dan says. “You're going to Big Asda to get something for £8, so what else are you going to choose?”

For more thoughts on why, I turn to New York real estate agent and influencer Eric Goldie, who described navy sheets as “the biggest red flag in the world” in a TikTok that has been liked over 40,000 times. 


“I think navy sheets are so popular because we’ve been taught since the day we were born that blue is for men,” Goldie tells me. “Blue, or navy in this case, is a colour that’s familiar to guys when it comes to picking out a sweater, or even a suit. So when they’re shopping for sheets, I assume they see navy as a comforting, familiar colour.”

He’s still not sympathetic to the navy bed sheet blokes out there, though, with his TikTok video asserting that navy allows them to get away with not washing them as frequently, as it hides stains easier. “You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge a guy by the colour of his sheets,” he says. “The most frequent comment I get on my TikTok video is that stains actually show up easier on navy sheets. And sure, the specific stains they are referring to may show up more prominently on navy sheets, but every other stain like sweat, makeup, general oils from your body, are masked in your navy sheets.” Basically, it all comes down to boys not minding their cum stains haunting their sheets forever, as long as sweat and crumbs are well concealed?

Look, I’m not usually one to mount a grand defence of men, but is there a chance we’re being overly harsh? Only having one pillow isn’t great from a romantic standpoint, and let's not even get started on guys with no headboard, but are dark coloured sheets really a sign that a guy is a dirt-encrusted mummy’s boy? What about all the girls out there with dark coloured bedding?  Girls hate laundry too! Aren’t we all just trying to avoid having to change our bedding every time we spill a bit of coffee or eat curry in bed?


“I have navy bed sheets and I hate this narrative,” says 31-year-old Imogen, heatedly. “They’re fine!” 

“We have navy sheets because we have a navy feature wall and I think it looks cute,” says Chloe, 30. Her husband Nathan agrees that Chloe’s more responsible for the dark walls and dark bed sets than he is. “I'm the one who likes colours,” he says. Chloe picked the colour scheme because she thinks navy makes the bedroom feel cosy. She also “can't be arsed with doing a whites wash just for sheets” – a point on which I wholeheartedly concur.

One big question remains, though. If navy and maroon are naff now, what kind of sheets should men be choosing? Are maroon and navy really that bad, when the other dude options out there are usually grey, football-themed, or Aztec print – AKA really boring, socially mortifying, or totally nuts?

“My ex boyfriend had those London Underground sheets,” Roisin, 32, confesses, “which I would argue is worse than either maroon or navy.” The title of worst set encountered in my deeply unscientific survey goes to 31-year-old Jerry, though, who admits to having had “fake black satin from Primark” when he left home – a set that was apparently dubbed “The Vegas”. Surely we should be more worried about satin guys than navy guys?

If you want to “mix it up” but not look like you’re about to lose all your money at blackjack, luxury bedding designer Lucy Ackroyd suggests stripes or muted colour palettes, like “soft greys and earthy tones”. 

I’m sure she’s right. I’m sure this is a sensible, grown-up choice for adult men who don’t want to look like their mum still does their shopping. But I can’t help thinking of an ex who had light brown bedding, which looked less “earthy” and more “dirty”, like a tea stain. 

I also can’t help thinking that fellas should be able to do as they please in the comfort of their own beds – decking their mattresses with maroon, navy, or Arsenal bed sets as they see fit, without the fear of judgement. Because, ultimately, maybe it’s a fear of being mocked or chastised that causes guys to feel self-conscious about colour in the first place. And wouldn’t it be more fun if more guys branched out and experimented with brighter shades, rather than sticking to a strict, neutral palette of sand, oatmeal and gunmetal grey? But then again, what do I know? My boyfriend didn’t even have a bed frame until we moved in together.