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A popular character is associated with just one outfit. Therefore the writers and/or executives choose to show the character in this outfit as much as possible, whether it be in the canonical works or merchandise.
It is important to note some things that don't fit this trope.
- Limited Wardrobe in itself doesn't count, although there can be some overlap.
- Nor does it count if the character is well known, and just happens to have a distinctive outfit.
- It also doesn't count if the outfit is just designed to stand out, like a Rummage Sale Reject.
- Doesn't count if it's expected of the profession, whether real (like doctors) or fictional (like wizards).
- This includes uniforms, unless it's customized in some obvious way.
The line can be hard to tell, but one good way to know it's this trope is with Long Runners that stick with the same basic outfit for a character. Even if there is a temporary change, they revert because it turns out the audience prefers that outfit.
Not to be confused with Clothes Make the Superman.
Anime & Manga
- Sailor Moon Exemplifed in the final season where we learn there are Sailor Senshi on other planets with radically different uniforms with the only connection being the collar from the Sailor Fuku and some form of head wear akin to a Tiara.
- At least once Dragon Ball got a "Z" in its name, Goku was almost never without his orange suit.
- Much longer than that—Goku has been wearing an orange Kame school gi since about episode 20 of the original series, when Master Roshi gave him his first one.
- This costume is so iconic that Ultimate Gohan asks Kibito to conjure him up an exact copy of said outfit before he goes to fight Majin Buu.
- Except his first one was more red than orange.
- Vegeta's Cell arc armor is pretty iconic as well despite him going through the most costume changes over the course of Z. If there's any promotional material including him, nine times out of ten he will be wearing that outfit.
- Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure: Jotaro Kujo's tattered cap and school uniform. After he loses his school jacket in the fight with ZZ, he has a tailor make an identical one.
- Ash's hat in Pokémon. Later they did change it, but he always has a hat, and is the only major character to do so.
- Okay, it would be easier to list iconic Super Heroes, and their villains, that don't fit this trope:
- The X-Men. They've have a huge variety of outfits over the years. Even Wolverine's yellow spandex doesn't identify him as well as just his hair and his claws.
- Magneto, on the other hand, does fit this. Even the movies did a variation of his outfit.
- Antman/Giantman/Yellowjacket/The Wasp/Hank Pym. He can't decide on a name, it's hardly surprising he can't pick a costume.
- And the original Wasp was, for many years, changing costumes almost as frequently. Originally this was said to be just because she was The Chick, and "women like lots of clothes." Later she was given a less offensively stereotypical Hand Wave as an offshoot of her fashion-designer background, and she has even designed costumes for other Avengers over the years.
- The X-Men. They've have a huge variety of outfits over the years. Even Wolverine's yellow spandex doesn't identify him as well as just his hair and his claws.
- The Phantom is not only iconic for his costume, but it also helps him maintain his "invincible, immortal hero" ruse; when the Phantom dies, his son takes over both title and costume, so the villains think it's the same man.
- This works so well that when one Phantom was incapacitated and his sister had to cover for him, people not informed thought it was still him. Despite the, er, fairly apparent differences in height and weight. Oh, and breasts.
- In a manner similar to above is Batman, whose black cloak and pointy-eared cowl have allowed a number of people to pass as the genuine article, including Dick Grayson (now a 'Batman legacy' character).
- Amusingly, in the No Man's Land storyline, Huntress masqueraded as the Batman in the same way as the Phantom's sister. A Lampshade was hung when a bystander comments on how he always thought that 'the Bat' was a guy, only to be fooled into thinking that Batman was ALWAYS Batwoman because "If you were a big tough guy who got beat by a girl, would you admit it? Or would you say it was a huge hulking giant with fangs and claws that took you down?"
- Also Lampshaded during the "Knightfall"/"Knightquest" arc when Bruce is replaced by Jean-Paul Valley, whose methods take a turn towards uncharacteristic brutality and Commissioner Gordon expresses suspicions that it may be a different "Batman"; the character he's discussing this with points out that it's a bit naive to assume there's only been one Batman up to that point.
- To follow up on Batman, his partner Robin has also taken to this ever since becoming a Legacy Character in his own right. Every Robin has worn some variation of Dick Grayson's original ensemble; the red chest piece (with 'R' insignia), yellow cape, occasionally some green thrown in (more evident in the earlier versions), and tied together with a classic domino mask.
- Wonder Woman started to wear pants and even armor instead/in addition to her tradition 'one piece bathing suit' look. The traditional, core Wonder Woman has stuck more to the classic outfit with only a few notable exceptions. She has always kept her iconic bracers, hairstyle, and tiara though, to tie them together.
- Aquaman has traditionally kept with his orange and green combo. For a while he went to an entirely diffrent outfit of white and sea colors in a chaotic pattern meant to invoke the sea. Sword of Atlantis Aquaman lost his shirt entirely, much to the delight of the fangirls.
- The entire concept of the Legacy Character owes a lot to this trope. It's easy for any random guy off the street to claim he's Chuck Norris, but even if he is a total Badass, no one will be taking him seriously. Even if Chuck designated him as his official successor. Put him in Batman's suit and have him be the new Batman, and that's another story...
- The page image deserves some explanation, if only because it's such a quintessential example of this trope. Superman's traditional red, blue, and yellow costume remained basically unchanged for almost 60 years. Then in 1997, DC got it in its head that Supes needed to be "updated". They traded his traditional powers for some vaguely defined electromagnetism/energy being-type powers and his iconic suit for a cape-less blue and white ensemble. The change resulted in an Internet Backlash. While the powers and the costume were pretty cool in concept, their origin was far too mediocre to justify such a radical change to such a beloved and iconic character. The new costume and powers lasted all of 13 months before DC returned to the classic version.
- DC Comic's New 52 reboot became a war-zone on a lot of forums with this trope as the battlecry among 'conservative' readers who saw issues with changes to core elements of some costumes, arguing that they were iconic.
- Aquaman was shown for a time in armor with crustacean-like hard elements, though it was dropped in favor of the more classic look.
- A huge amount of discussion erupted over the idea of Wonder Woman wearing tight pants, though the idea had been done in the past (such as in the Odyssey storyline not too long before). As with Aquaman, a more classic costume was chosen.
- The new Flash drew some ire over his costume having hard elements (namely stream-lined armored pads) because many fans felt the full-body-latex-with-hood ensemble better conveyed the idea of his speed either by making him look sleek or making him look like a speed-skater.
- Arguably the biggest war of all was the so-called "War of the Briefs". The decision was finally made to remove Superman's iconic 'underwear on the outside' red briefs. The change went through, however, and mostly people don't seem to miss them.
- The Sentry's clothing is essentially a palette swap of Superman, and stays fairly constant. The same thing cannot be said for his origins or his sanity.
- Michael Myer's pale white mask and mechanics jump suit.
- A tuxedo is not a common outfit, but try having James Bond not wear one at least once in one of his movies.
- Jason's hockey mask was a horror icon since the third movie.
- Freddy's striped shirt and fedora is probably only slightly less of an icon.
- Although Darth Vader needs the suit to live, it probably fits this trope better than any outfit in the films series.
- Leia will either be presented in her white dress from the first film with the cinnamon buns hairstyle, or golden bikini. Often the iconic hair crosses over to the bikini, even though she never wore them together.
- The leather jacket and fedora Indiana Jones wears. Especially the Fedora. Take away the hat, and you've got Henry Jones Jr. Take away the jacket, whip and the gun but leave the hat... he's still Indiana Jones.
- The hat at least was specifically chosen to invoke this trope. When seen in silhouette, they wanted Indy to be distinguishable from all the other characters. This is one of the reasons the hat never comes off as well, no matter what happens.
- Marty McFly's red down vest (confused with a lifejacket in the first movie) and jeans.
- The Man With No Name's trademark poncho/sarape, light blue shirt, sheepskin vest, hat, and self-rolled cigarillo.
- In The Mask of Zorro, the original, now elderly and infirm, Zorro trains a successor to continue fighting the good fight. Wearing Zorro's trademark black hat, mask, rapier and whip, people think it's the same Zorro, come back to aid them once more, thus adding to his supernatural mystique. One elderly monk, who aided the original Zorro decades earlier, is astounded to meet the new one, commenting "Age certainly has been kinder to you than it has to me..."
- The entire idea behind the Dread Pirate Roberts; both the trope and the character(s)
- The movie adaptation of Les Misérables (theatre) takes the time to show Eponine putting on her page boy cap during "One Day More".
- Although a Beam Me Up, Scotty, Sherlock Holmes's hat and cape.
- Doc Savage's jodhpurs and torn white shirt. Eventually, every cover depicted him wearing them. Cover artist Boris Valejo even had to rip a new shirt once after the original shirt was lost, using old cover paintings for reference. Ironically he forgot that he was facing into the painting and the new shirt turned out to be a mirror image of the old one.
- Waldo wears blue jeans, a shirt with red-and-white horizontal stripes, and a red-and-white hat with a red bobble, the latter two intended to make him stand out in a crowd.
- Worked against Spider-Man villain the Rhino at one point. In the comic-based novel The Darkest Hours, by Jim Butcher, he admitted to Spider-Man (long story involving mutual enemies that like to drain the life force out of totemic-based individuals, like Spider-Man, Rhino, Black Cat...) while recovering from a battle at Spidey's apartment (a battle that left him blinded temporarily), that he hated the suit, especially the Rhino hat. After he had gotten suit off after a period of being trapped in it, he tried to change his image, wearing a suit and tie. But the first employer he tried to get refused to believe that he was the Rhino, associating him with the costume and the rhino hat. He's been using it ever since simply because the costume is the only way he is recognized enough to get work.
- Boss Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard always wore that all-white suit.
- Daisy Duke, of course, and the Shorts of Puberty Inducement. They were even named after her.
- Ultraman might count, depending on if that is a suit he is wearing or just how that form looks.
- On Doctor Who, each incarnation of the Doctor generally spent most of their screen time in one distinct outfit, sometimes (in the John Nathan-Turner era) static, sometimes variations on a theme, the most iconic being:
- The Fourth Doctor's long, multicoloured scarf and floppy hat.
- The Fifth Doctor's cricket jumper and beige jacket, complete with a stick of celery pinned to it.
- The Sixth Doctor's patchwork multicolour coat complete with multicoloured umbrella.
- The Seventh Doctor's question-mark themed attire.
- The Tenth Doctor's blue pinstripe suit and brown overcoat.
- The Eleventh Doctor's penchant for tweed jackets, complete with matching braces and bow tie, usually in red but occasionally in blue. (especially the bow tie).
- Torchwood Captain Jack's army great-coat, originally scene in his first Doctor Who appearance and then in all Torchwood episodes, excluding a flashback to Victorian times. It then re-appears in Miracle Day in a flashback that takes place prior to WWII in real time, indicating that he couldn't wait for the 40's to get into that badass piece of outerware.
- Richard Sharpe's Green Rifleman's jacket fits this trope because it's used specifically to distinguish his character from the regular "redcoat" officers.
- Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time & Big Easy, on Seasons 15 & 18 of The Amazing Race, at least acted as if this applied to them, as their entire race wardrobe consisted entirely of Globetrotter gear.
- From their live shows in The Eighties, Freddie Mercury's white slacks and yellow jacket.
- Michael Jackson's one white glove.
- KISS' kabuki-style makeup and comic-book inspired costumes. They vary from era to era but they always include similar motifs based on the KISS characters.
- The Demon (Gene Simmons): Usually has spikes and lightning.
- The Starchild (Paul Stanley): Usually has stars and a way to showcase the torso.
- The Catman (Originally Peter Criss): Usually has some kind of paw prints or animal stripes incorporated in the design somewhere.
- Space Ace (Originally Ace Frehley): Usually has a representation of the night sky (or star charts) and usually the shoulders and boots are in Ace's trademark shining silver.
- Slipknot's monstrous masks and Jumpsuits.
Mythology and Legend
- Heracles from Greek Mythology is most often depicted wearing lion skin.
- Said skin came from the Nemean Lion, whose hide was so tough that no weapon could pierce it. Heracles strangled it to death and skinned the beast with its own claws.
- Hulk Hogan is famous for his red and yellow spandex, including the yellow muscle shirt he tears away before every match.
- Except during the N Wo era, which went with a new nickname, "Hollywood".
- Steve Austin runs around in his little black vest, and his little black trunks, and his little black boots, and kicks the crap out of people.
- The Rock had his "$500 shirts" and the sunglasses to match.
- Mick Foley has become identified, seemingly irrevocably, with flannel vests and sweatpants.
- Ric Flair just isn't Ric Flair without a gaudy, sequined robe. He kept wearing his long after ring robes had gone out of fashion in wrestling.
- Rob Van Dam has his airbrushed singlets.
- Bret Hart, and through him, nearly everyone associated with the Hart family save the British Bulldog wore pink and black wrestling tights, usually a singlet, and often paired this with a leather jacket. His brother Owen went so far as to copy Bret's pink mirrored shades for a time as well.
- Jesse "the Body" Ventura and his feather boa.
- The Undertaker's black duster, cowboy hat and gloves. At least when he's really The Undertaker and not Bikertaker.
- Although the colors have changed, Mario and Luigi still have their cap and overalls, although the colors weren't really finalized until Super Mario World (when the color palette was large enough to properly show it).
- Link's green cap and tunic. A particularly notable example as Link is a Legacy Character, and many games provide new reasons for the new guy to wear the iconic wardrobe.
- In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Link was raised among the Kokiri, where all the boys wore green caps and tunics. As the origin story of the Big Bad, and for a long time the earliest confirmed game chronologically, many later games can have their use of the outfit ultimately traced back to here.
- By The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, the legend of the Ocarina Link has spread, and it's now traditional for boys to wear green on a certain birthday as a sign of coming-of-age. It just so happens that on this Link's birthday, his sister was kidnapped. He continues to wear his green gear into The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass.
- The Legend of Zelda the Minish Cap has no explanation for the tunic, but Link meets a talking green cap who serves as the game's Exposition Fairy. At the end of the game, as the restored-to-true-form Picori wizard departs, he leaves Link a replacement cap similar to the ones worn by other Links.
- In The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, the clothes seem to have become somehow intrinsically linked to the bearer of the Triforce of Courage. The Link of that game only starts wearing those clothes because when he was restored from his wolf-form for the first time, they appeared on him in place of his work clothes. The Light Spirit who restored him indicated this as a sign that he was The Chosen One.
- The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks takes a slightly different approach, in that the cap and tunic have become the uniform for the royal guard (presumably in honor of the Wind Waker Link that helped found this kingdom). This game's Link starts wearing them when he has to dress up as a guard to sneak Zelda out of the castle.
- Prequel The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword again has it as a preexisting uniform, this time for the Skyloft Knight Academy. Though in this case, it comes in multiple colors to note which year the students are in (but Link's year is of course green).
- Mai Shiranui, from Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters suffers from this, mainly due to her status as Ms. Fanservice in both games. They attempted a change of outfit in the Fatal Fury series, but it only lasted two games and she returned to a variation of her original outfit after that. In The King of Fighters only minor changes were ever made to her clothing, and only in the Maximum Impact she get to wear different alternate outfits, which are still heavily based on her traditional one.
- King of Fighters native Iori Yagami has only had one outfit for about 10 years (from his debut in 1995 to The King of Fighters XI in 2005): a black jacket over a long white shirt with red pants that are tied at the knees. In The King of Fighters XII, as part of his character's change away from flame powers to purely slashing attacks, he also got a new set of threads (the same black jacket but now over a short red shirt and a pair of white pants).
- Similar to the Mai Shiranui example, Chun-Li got a new outfit for the prequel games Street Fighter Alpha/Zero, but already by the second installment, there was a way to play as her in her original outfit.
- Ryu and Ken in their respective white and red gi's.
- Samus' Varia Suit, with shoulder pads and an orange/yellow scheme as the default colors.
- So iconic, in fact, that for a long time people didn't know she was a girl.
- And note that Metroid Fusion replaced it with a sleeker suit that was blue/yellow by default... which hasn't been seen since, as every game since then has been a prequel. (To be fair, some of those games have done their own meddling with the suit via powerups, but it's always returned to normal by the end.)
- Of course, the blue color was an intentional play off this trope: Samus started out weakened and without most of her equipment; you know you're back near full strength when a powerup restores the familiar orange color.
- Mages in Final Fantasy all have Nice Hats, except the white mages, which almost always have nice hoods.
- Dark blue and light blue spandex, both in about equal measure. An Arm Cannon. Usually a helmet. No mater how much time passes, that is the default equipment for all who hold the name Mega Man.
- Metal Gear Solid: Snake's dark blue stealth suit and bandana.
- Ocelot's Brown duster and quick draw gun belt.
- Eva's Absolute Cleavage jumpsuit.
- Most of the Disney Princesses have one of their Pimped Out Dresses show up on the majority of their merchandise.
- Cruella De Vil's huge fur coat.
- Mickey Mouse just doesn't have that same iconic status without the red shorts and yellow shoes. Same goes for Donald Duck and Goofy and their respective wardrobes. Even their outfits in Kingdom Hearts are still based on their classic looks. Mickey still has the red shorts and big yellow shoes. Donald's shirt is still blue and has a (modified) sailor collar. Goofy still has a tall hat and a vest over a turtleneck.
- Ironically, Mickey's outfit, while ubiquitous in comic books and merchandise, was actually not worn for much of his film career. The cartoons made between 1942 and 1953 have him wearing more contemporary clothes, not wearing the red shorts on the big screen until the 1995 short Runaway Brain. Furthermore, some of his more iconic roles (the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia, Brave Little Tailor, and others) have him wearing some other uniform (although the Apprentice costume is nearly as iconic as the shorts).
- It is much less ubiquitous in comic books than you think. Ever since Floyd Gottfredson, the first guy to seriously write Mickey Mouse strips, Mickey has been shown wearing just regular clothes in comics. (Gottfredson started a trend where Mickey is just a regular action comic hero who happens to be a Funny Animal). The original outfit is generally acknowledged by making his standard outfit red trousers and a white shirt, with whatever other clothes fitting the occasion (he generally wears a green baseball cap outdoors when casual, a Badass Longcoat and fedora outdoors when formal, etc.). When he started wearing the original shorts in recent European-sold Disney comics, fans cried Dork Age.
- Donald's sailors outfit has changed subtly over the years. His hat was white until around 1943, as were the stripes on his collar and sleeves, and the buttons and sleeve stripes disappeared for a brief period during the 1950s.
- Kim Possible and her black shirt, gloves, and cargo pants. For some, it was jarring when she got a new uniform in season four. Not many of the prodigious amounts of Fan Art featuring her dress her in the new outfit. (Even leaving aside those that don't put her in any outfit.)
- Characters in Daria all have a signature outfit. Lampshaded in one episode when Daria looks through her closet to "decide" what to wear. Her closet contains 3 sets of the same green jacket, brown shirt, and black skirt...and nothing else.
- Perhaps it's because he's a Mack truck, but Optimus Prime is always red-and-blue, with the truck's windshield acting has his pectorals. Except for Optimus Primal, of course. Likewise, it's quite common for Megatron to either have some sort of Fusion Cannon or other type of weapon on his right arm, or a strangely bucket-shaped helmet.Other examples exist in the Transformers francise, such as Rodimus Prime (always red-with-orange, with flame decals on his chest and large spoilers for his alt-mode) or Shockwave (a black plate with a single red LED light for a face), a yellow Kid Appeal Character (Bumblebee) or Cheetor, etc.
- Since the actual Teen Titans comics were not well known outside of the comic fandom, but the cartoon series was a huge hit with the general public, Starfire's animated continuity costume is now often cited by those who don't know otherwise to be her core outfit, going so far as to lament the "changes" made to it in DC's current comic lineup (though to be fair, her costume is different in the newest line than it was in either the older comics OR the cartoon show).