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"I'm not wearing one of those damnfool spandex body-condom things. I haven't got the bust for it."
Jenny Sparks, The Authority

Superheroes who couple a typical Cape's outfit with mundane clothes such as jeans and sneakers. This may also be an attempt to keep a classic design but update (or obscure) an otherwise flashy outfit.

The most prominent example is jackets, and most of the characters who wore them were originally the younger set created in the early 90s. Marvel Universe characters are especially notable for this, although the first popular character to do so may have been Animal Man.

This page may also contain examples of characters who identify as superheroes, but do not wear a typical costume of any kind, as Not Wearing Tights is a different trope entirely. (This type, such as the quoted Jenny Sparks, tend to have an set civilian outfit that does the same job.) See Coat, Hat, Mask for the minimum amount of spandex needed for this trope to apply. Also, Spandex, Latex, or Leather for other issues involving costuming.

Examples of Civvie Spandex include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Gantz, 8th grader Joichiro Nishi wears pants and a hooded sweatshirt over his black combat jumpsuit.
  • In Tentai Senshi Sunred, the titular hero, having largely given up the hero business, now wears only casual clothes and his helmet in most cases (though he does keep his full battle suit around in case of a potential serious battle). The other former members of the Weather Three are similar but go about it differently- Blue has reduced his helmet to a simple face mask, while Yellow just wears a jacket over his full suit.

Comic Books

  • Perhaps the first such character was actually The Spirit, who in most of his 60+ year run has worn a fairly ordinary business suit, trenchcoat and fedora, with only a Domino Mask and gloves to even hint that he is in costume. Of course, he's not strictly a Superhero, being more of a two-fisted pulp detective; creator Will Eisner only added the mask as a token submission to his publisher's belief that a comic book hero is always a costumed hero. See also Coat, Hat, Mask.
    • Similar attire was adopted by Mr. A and The Question in the late 1960s (both characters were created by the legendary Steve Ditko, and bear a few more similarities to each other besides their mode of dress), and later still by Rorschach of Watchmen, a Captain Ersatz of The Question.
      • Well, according to Alan Moore he's equal parts The Question AND Mr. A. Basically he's Ditko incarnate.
    • The Green Hornet and Kato, in the 1960s TV series, were also dressed in normal clothes and a mask; in Kato's case, it was a chauffeur's uniform.
    • The Green Hornet debuted on radio 17 days prior to the debut of the Phantom and long before Action Comics#1. The public thinks of him as a criminal for profit/racketeer, not a hero.
    • In the '40s, the original Sandman's (no relation) original costume was a suit, Long Coat, fedora and gloves -- with a gas mask.
    • The Crimson Avenger and Wing, who were closely modelled on the Hornet and Kato, started out with the trenchcoat-and-fedora look, but quickly gained costumes to distinguish themselves, with a Chest Insignia resembling a sunburst. When the modern Crimson Avenger was introduced, she claimed the insignia was a stylised bullethole, and wore Civvie Spandex comprising leather pants, a Badass Longcoat and a T-shirt with a real, blood-spattered bullethole.
    • Of course, the ur-instance of this trope would be The Shadow, even older than The Spirit, who dresses in a black and red suit, cape and fedora with the only unusual garment being a silk mask over his lower face.
    • The Shadow debuted in the pulps and on radio, not comic books or comic strips.
  • The Avengers had Wonder Man, who wore a red safari jacket over a black tee shirt and jeans through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, when he's a member of the Mighty Avengers he wears the red safari jacket, but in his own mini series that largely takes place in his own house he walks around in his spandex uniform.
    • Remember that Wonder Man is/was a being of almost pure ionic energy, so the fact that he has a body to wear spandex on is quite remarkable.
    • There was a point in the early 90s Dork Age of the Avengers where every member wore a leather jacket. This includes the Black Knight. Yes, he wore a jacket over his armor. And you wonder why they did Onslaught...
    • Black Knight is now wearing a leather jacket again, in the pages of Captain Britain and MI-13, but over ordinary clothes. He still wears his helmet, though.
  • X-Men: Rachel Summers, the alternate-future daughter of Scott "Cyclops" Summers and Jean Grey, did her thing for a long time in a plain, unmarked Danskins leotard set (and she referred to it by that brand name). She only changed to a "real" costume when she formally took on the "Phoenix" sobriquet.
    • Gambit from X-Men wears a long coat over muscle-molded body armor.
    • Again from X-Men, Rogue wore a leather bomber jacket over her tights for a good portion of the 90s.
      • She also wore a trench coat similar to Gambit's over her uniform for a short period of time.
    • When Grant Morrison, who as mentioned below did a lot to popularize this trope, took over writing 'New X-Men', most of the team switched from skin-tight 'body armour' to leather jackets and trousers. Except Emma Frost, who after years actually wearing clothes in Generation X, switched to her most minimalist outfit yet.
    • Happened for a while in most X-Men comics after the first movie, which had them in leather, as an intentional movie tie-in. Marvel later made an edict changing them back to costumes, because costumes are much better for merchandising.
    • Storm's initial definitive shift from her gentle Team Mom/Nature Goddess persona during the '80s was punctuated with both an Important Haircut and abandonment of her outfit for a black leather tube-top/vest/tight pants/boots ensemble. Some readers took it as her coming out as well, especially after her "night out" with Yukio.
    • Jubilee's signature look is a bright yellow coat worn over her uniform.
  • Animal Man: When the obscure character was revived in 1988 in his own series, writer Grant Morrison changed his image by having him wear a denim jacket over his spandex costume. This not only have him a distinctive look, but it was also practical as it allowed him to have pockets.
    • The pockets being for mainly carrying around his keys and note from his wife.
    • It's generally accepted that Animal Man popularized the leather jacket motif for superheroes throughout the nineties (which is ironic because he'd never touch leather). It seemed like every superhero suddenly got the urge for a biker jacket after A-Man. If there is another reason for Black Knight sporting a jacket over his medieval armor, it is surely not a very good one.
      • Buddy Baker did temporarily switch to leather while hunting and culling those responsible for killing his wife and kids. Said wife and kids got better.
  • Jack Knight of Starman sported a bomber jacket ("it gets mighty cold up there") and a pair of goggles ("that staff gets really bright") over civilian clothes - this was in contrast with his father and brother, who as Starman wore the typical cape getup - complete with a green fin on the headpiece. This author wonders what fins have to do with stars...
  • While Animal Man popularised the trope, Black Canary was wearing a leather jacket in 1947.
    • More of a satin one, really. She's dressed like a cocktail waitress.
  • For a mercifully brief period in the '90s, Wonder Woman's uniform included a jacket and bicycle shorts. (Her usual outfit had been co-opted, along with her title, by another Amazon.)
  • The Post-Crisis Superboy in The DCU (Kon-El/Conner Kent) went through a number of uniform variants (mostly including leather jackets, like his original one, pictured above) before settling on a uniform (or lack thereof) that appeared to be a black t-shirt with a red Superman-style "S" Chest Insignia, blue jeans and work boots, which became his trademark since he first joined the Teen Titans.
    • In a deliberate homage to her fallen boyfriend, Wonder Girl's current costume is jeans and a red tank top with her logo on it.
      • Of course, most of her earlier outfits during the Young Justice era were not much different.
    • In the New 52 continuity, Superman himself started his superhero career in an outfit that's similar to Superboy's pre-reboot costume - jeans and a t-shirt with the typical Chest Insignia. Jarringly though, he still wears the cape with this outfit.
      • The cape is possibly justified - it's the only part of his costume that's as Nigh Invulnerable as he is, and considering he takes on an entire military base to get it back, it's implied to have sentimental value as well.
  • Misfit, of the Birds of Prey, wears a cape, mask, and gloves, over a T-shirt, sneakers, and knee-length leggings. She also likes to shout 'Darrrrrk Vennngeannnce!!!' as she lands a foot upside some unsuspecting minion's head. The combined effect can be... disconcerting.
  • Jason Todd's original Red Hood getup consisted of combat boots, cargo pants, a bomber jacket and a motorcycle helmet.
  • In the short-lived Young All-Stars, team strongman Arn Munro wore white jeans and a tight black t-shirt. He did try out a costume in one storyline, but it was promptly destroyed and he decided to go back to civvies.
  • The second Mister Terrific started out wearing ordinary clothes, including a leather jacket with his predecessor's "Fair Play" logo on the back. He now sports a full costume, including a stylised jacket with "Fair Play" on the sleeves and "Terrific" on the back.
  • The Sleepwalker villains Lullaby and Bookworm were examples of villains who didn't wear costumes, doing their nefarious deeds in their regular street clothes.
  • When the Wonder Twins became Canon Immigrants to the DCU, they wore purple jeans and logo-bearing shirts resembling their Superfriends uniforms.
  • Shadowman from Valiant Comics started out wearing a spandex costume. About a year and a half after his debut, he switched to wearing leather pants, boots, leather jacket and a shirt with the logo he used for the spandex costume.
  • In the 90's a number of characters adopted the Leather Trenchcoat or Duster look. It was essentially the modern replacement for the cape.
  • Crimebuster, a Golden Age teen superhero, started out with wearing his school hockey uniform and a cape for a costume. Several years later, he traded it for a more mundane outfit, wearing jeans and practical shoes with his hockey jersey. At the very end of the feature's run, he switched to wearing various civilian outfits, but by that point (thanks to the Genre Shift), he was barely acting as a superhero anyway.
  • Spiderman related characters:
    • Subverted in Spider-Girl's Spider-Shoppe, where civilians can buy Spider-Girl costumes and clothes. Turns out it was founded by the heroine's mom to pay for her college education. May's seen sporting Avengers and Fantastic Five gear sometimes, as well.
    • Until he took over the Spider-Man title, Ben Reilly's costume was the standard spandex affair, all red, with a blue sleeveless hoodie with a spider on it. Though a lot of fans didn't realize it, the costume was actually supposed to look cheesy - the idea being that Ben didn't have time to make a real costume, but he ended up wearing it for so long that the justification stopped making sense.
    • Dr. Octopus' costume has traditionally consisted of a lab coat or sometimes just a plain suit. During the 70's and 80's, he wore green spandex, but otherwise, he stuck to civvies.
  • As quoted, Jenny Sparks (with one or two exceptions in her hundred years) has never worn a costume, favouring a completely white trousersuit and vest. (Jack Hawksmoor, her second-in-command, does the same with a black suit and white buttoned shirt.)
    • Jenny Quantum, successor to the above, also eschews spandex in favour of civilian clothing; however, her trademark combination of a yellow t-shirt and black leather jacket is a rather sweet callback to her parents' costumes.
  • The Flaming Carrot wears just a white button-up shirt and purple pants. Oh, and a 4-foot tall carrot mask (with a torch on the top). Also, a pair of flippers. The only function they serve is to keep things from being too easy for him.
  • In Johnny SaturnTriops, tired of being tressed as a foppy stage magician, turns to wearing average clothing and a trenchcoat.
  • None of the Runaways wear any particular costume. They attempt to use code-names in their first major story arc, but quickly abandon them (except for the Cute Bruiser who likes calling herself "Princess Powerful."
  • The Vigilante, Greg Saunders, wore a pair of jeans and normal clothes.
  • While he's usually portrayed with a full body suit, The Punisher is shown as just wearing a T-shirt with a skull on it in his more "serious" outings including most appearances in Punisher MAX.
  • The Savage Dragon wears normal clothes unless he's in his police uniform. He went through one arc wearing a patriotic spandex costume after joining the superhero team SOS. It was torn apart in that story, which was okay with the Dragon since he hated wearing spandex anyway.
  • The Hulk, in most incarnations, just wears a pair of pants. Some versions added a tank top or short sleeved shirt. As Joe Fixit, he wore suits. It was only during his time on the planet Skkar (and maybe during Pantheon era) that he wore any sort of costume: gladiator armor.
  • There was an obscure DC Comics Anti-Hero named Mad Dog (not to be confused with the equally obscure Marvel character of the same name) who wore hockey gear. Yes, hockey gear. There's a reason why the character is obscure.
    • You seem to refer to Wild Dog, who wore army pants, a football shirt, and a hockey mask. In Amazing Hereos#119, the writer crafted Wild Dog as a modern version of the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Zorro and the Lone Ranger. Max Allan Collins, creator of Wild Dog, lampshaded that Wild Dog did not wear spandex by having a young boy talking with some other youths and wondering why they thought that spandex and a cape made a sensible costume. Collins notes that "I don’t see how any intelligent writer can approach a story about people in long underwear and capes without either removing their brain or putting their tongue in their cheek to a degree……. [On [presumably] the Christopher Reeve Superman films] The Superman movies have all, as far as I’m concerned fallen to a degree into the Batman TV show approach-maybe not quite as broad…..And I think they did that because because there’s no other way you can play it. It just doesn’t work. I mean, look at that costume".
  • Most versions of Ghost Rider wore standard biker clothes. They gave him a costume back in the late 90's but... it didn't work out.
  • Hellboy usually doesn't wear much and has a Utility Belt but his main feature is a big, brown coat.
  • In The Crow, Eric wears normal clothes with facepaint. This tradition has been carried on to the comic sequels.
  • In the current run of X-Factor, Jamie Madrox wears a T-shirt with the circles-joined-by-lines logo of his old Multiple Man costume.
  • Doctor Mirage. The titular hero was zapped with magical energy while wearing his ski outfit. He had no choice but to 'wear' that for some time.
  • Madman sometimes wears a leather jacket over his costume. Additionally, his costume really is his civilian attire so in a way, he's always wearing civvie spandex.
  • Grifter from Wild CATS has the longcoat, cargo pants, combat boots version, combined with a Cool Mask.

Fanfic

  • Cure Western from Pretty Cure Hollywood Stars is the first Cure, canon or fanfic, to wear a more normal-looking outfit as her battle attire. Pokémon fans will recognize the costume for both her Cure and Super Cure forms as being based largely on Misty's usual outfit from the first five seasons.

Film

  • The leather suits from the X-Men films. What did you expect, yellow spandex?
  • Batman Begins has Jonathan Crane in a rather professional suit, dapper with a stitchy burlap sack and faux-noose.
    • In The Dark Knight, the fake Batmen wore hockey pads to battle crime, although they did have capes and masks as well.
  • The costumes from the latest Fantastic Four film straddle the line, being body-hugging (place inevitable Jessica Alba reference here) but clearly not spandex.
    • Of course not, they're Unstable Molecules!
      • The actual costumes used for film are spandex though. The director even admits it.
      • The funny part is that before they get their powers they wear these same suits under their spacesuits and the jumpsuits worn on the space station. That's right folks, they're literally wearing long underwear.
  • Sky High's Will Stronghold wears red-white-and-blue civvies when in action.
    • Pretty much all of the kids in Sky High wear ordinary clothes, but have some sort of recurring color motif that suggests uniforms.
  • Ghost Rider's biker gear, although of course that's how the comic character dresses as well.
  • The titular character of Hancock wears in the second half of the movie a leather suit similar to the ones the film versions of the X-Men wore, though it had small yellow stripes and an eagle emblem on the back. Lampshaded in the post credit scene.
  • In Unbreakable, the main character's green rain poncho becomes his de facto superhero costume, as Mr. Glass's purple outfits become his villain's costume.
  • The first and second film version of The Punisher had Frank Castle wearing civvies the entire time (Dolph Lundgren version) or threw on a black skull t-shirt over standard police kevlar (Thomas Jane version). The third one gave him a more "superheroy" costume.
  • As mentioned above, Hellboy has a large coat and his movie counterpart covers up more than the comic version: boots, pants, and sometimes a black shirt.
  • Also mentioned above, The Crow films always have the protagonists essentially wear normal clothes with face paint.
  • The Mask is a slight variation. The film version creates normal clothes to wear, but they're usually clothes from The Forties or therebouts.


Literature

  • The titular Captain Underpants has his own version... going around wearing only mundane underwear (of which the title is rather Exactly What It Says on the Tin). The reason behind that by the characters who created him (it's a long story) is that many superheroes flying in spandex, and so, looks like they're flying around in their underwear. Captain Underpants, as you've been told, really is.
  • Zorro (the literary version and any versions in other media) wears standard clothes for the 1800's, aside from the mask.
    • One should note that Zorro, of course, predates the Phantom and Superman.

Live Action TV

  • Smallville has its nascent Justice League members dress in either casual clothes with Cool Shades and hoodies that make them look like the League of Unabombers, or color-coded sports gear, viz. Clark always did his thing in red-and-blue civvies, until season 9.
    • Although Black Canary look is pretty close to the comic version save shorter hair and facepaint shaped like a domino mask, although the fact that her costume consists of a rather stripperific outfit with fishnets is most likely the cause.
    • Green Arrow goes full-out in this mode in the Season 10 episode "Beacon." Wisely, because at that point both his civilian AND his superhero identity were among the most-wanted by the Vigilante Registration Act officers. He adopts a basic hoodie in order to fight crime (as well as just to set foot outdoors in general).
  • Huntress on Birds of Prey wore black leather and, oddly, no mask. Somehow she still had a secret identity.
  • As originally conceived, Heroes was going to use spandex costumes, but was shot down by Executive Meddling. So instead we got Claire's cheerleader outfit in season 1... to very few complaints.
  • For almost two decades, The Riddler wore green spandex covered with question marks, a purple belt, and a purple "burglar" mask. When Frank Gorshin portrayed him on the '60s Batman TV series, he switched between the traditional outfit and a classy Civvie Spandex ensemble: green suit, purple shirt, bowler hat, and a tie with a prominent question mark on it. Rumor has it that Gorshin disliked the spandex so much that he designed the new outfit himself. The Gorshin ensemble eventually became a Canon Immigrant, and these days, you rarely see Edward wearing spandex in the comics.
    • The Batman the Animated Series version of The Riddler wears this outfit exclusively. Unfortunately, The New Batman Adventures changed his costume back to spandex.
      • in The Batman, it goes even farther. He's still in spandex with the question-mark cane... But between his complexion and the fact that the long-and-lanky aspect of his hair is only beaten by the long-and-lanky aspect of his BODY, this troper was waiting for the credits to say "Special guest star, Marilyn Manson."
  • Kamen Rider Decade has an example brought about by Real Life Writes the Plot. During production of The Movie, the makers decided that they wanted to update the Riderman costume, especially since Gackt was signed on to play the character. However, the plans fell through, so during his cameo, Yuki simply appears in a leather jacket, T-shirt, and leather pants, before swapping back to the 35-year-old spandex suit (worn by a stuntman) for the final battle.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • In Everyday Heroes, the Mysterious Watchful Presence wears a long-sleeved shirt, slacks, and boots, in addition to his fedora, cape, gloves, and full-face mask (all in black). He seems to be combining elements from the Golden Age Spirit, Shadow, and Sandman mentioned above.
  • Last Res0rt's Jason Spades couples his flashy blue-and-gold uniform with a slightly less flashy bomber jacket. This is less for covering up as much as it is he really, really likes his jacket.
  • Big Red McLane wears a button down shirt, jeans and work boots while defeating space gods or going to a Magical Land.
  • Wright As Rayne sees Alex Rayne working as a professional vigilante in a large purple trenchcoat.
  • The Camelry in Camelorum Adventures seem to go to great lengths to find non-spandex costumes that are still campy somehow.
    • Lightning Hobo simply wears a blue shirt, black leather jacket, blue jeans, a blue hat, and a black eye patch.
    • Lemon Witch's initial mercenary outfit is white stockings, yellow boots, her yellow gloves, yellow eyeshadow with orange eyeliner, metallic gold highlight streaks dyeing her hair in parts, a pixie haircut, a yellow skirt, a white tank top, and a bright yellow jacket.
    • Other than the green tint to his skin when his powers are fully active, Ion Boy's only distinguishing feature apart from regular civilian appearance is his lime-green puffer vest.
    • Semaphore wears the closest thing to a spandex outfit, and yet her "body glove" is mostly a boring gray color. Her red gloves, navy blue boots, black visor, and ever-color-changing, luminescent Afro wig are what everyone notices about her.
    • Maddening Rod looks more like she's about to do a catwalk on a modeling stage in Paris than fight evil aliens.
    • Other than her distinctly purple shirt, absolutely nothing else about Janet's "Glob" outfit stands out from civilian attire.
    • Gummibabe's motorcycle helmet and black visor are the only things about her that stand out from looking like an ordinary civilian otherwise.
    • Laney the Laughable is...a literal clown, wearing a literal clown suit. That she can control elephants is the only thing truly unusual about her.
    • That is, when they are allowed as mercenaries to go out in their "uniforms" at all! Usually (during the 1st and 2nd seasons), the majority of them are still wearing prison jumpsuits. (Which is also why they get less public cooperation early-on.)

Web Original

  • Red Panda Adventures has the title character wearing this outfit.
  • Captain Hammer in Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog has a costume that consists only of boots, fatigues, gloves and a t-shirt with his symbol on it.
    • Although the gloves are rather superhero-like in design.
  • Cracklin' Rose in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe wears a costume made up of a black leotard, a red cowl, and a red leather motorcycle jacket (the kind Italian cycle racers wear, not the kind American street gang biker's wear).

Western Animation

  • Honorable mention goes to Launchpad McQuack of Darkwing Duck, who doesn't bother wearing a costume at all, whether fighting crime or at home. His own distinct pilot outfit makes up for it. Curiously, nobody ever connected Drake Mallard to Darkwing Duck through him, though granted, most of the cast aren't that bright.
    • FINALLY averted in the new comic series. Of course, it takes Negaduck LITERALLY seeing Launchpad doing Darkwing's laundry at a laundromat. And even after that, he admits to spending months casing the house to make sure... As well as admitting that he's annoyed he never thought of doing something like that intentionally before.
  • The animated version of Morph from X-Men sometimes wore a jacket over his spandex.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man's Doctor Octopus tops his four-armed robotic harness and jumpsuit with an ordinary trenchcoat.
    • That coat probably came from The Movie version of Doc Ock.
  • On Justice League Unlimited, Hawkgirl ditched the helmet and traded her earlier outfit for something you might go jogging in.
  • Kim Possible faced a costume crisis when Club Banana discontinued the cargo pants, and top, that she used as her "mission outfit."
  • In Doug, Quail Man's costume consisted of underwear outside of Doug's regular clothing, a cape, and a belt around the head.
  • The title character in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. He wears a superhero mask with a business suit that lets his wings through.
  • As in the comic book, Superboy in Young Justice is very adamant about this, perhaps as a way to differentiate himself from Superman (of whom he is a clone).
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