How do you spot a superhero? Most of the time it's via a signature look of some sort. Superman has his signature S, Batman has his quintessential cowl and Wolverine has his timeless yellow spandex. Any way you slice it, most heroes have an easily recognizable costume to set them apart from the rest.
Some superheroes however, can't be bothered with outfits or the issues that come with them. There's the ridiculous dry cleaning bill, using public telephone booths for changing and, worst of all, getting a run in your tights. These are the folks concerned with jumping into action first, and having boots color coordinate with their underoos second. We at CBR count down some of our favorites that keep their superhero costumes strictly casual.
15 GHOST RIDER
Whether it be Johnny Blaze or Robbie Reyes, Ghostrider always stays comfortable. Having to ride around on a motorcycle (or in a super car) simply isn't well-suited to spandex outfits. Instead, both heroes rock leather jackets with leather pants or a simple pair of denim jeans. They also wear worn-in black boots and riding gloves, furthering the ensemble befit of a hellion racer.
Part of the reason for this uniform of sorts is likely due to the fact that Ghostrider's change is purely being engulfed in hellfire. His "outfit" in this case, is simply flames and mystical chains (or the occasional shoulder spikes), so there's no real need for colorful linens or skintight clothes. The vengeful spirit exudes a feel of badassery and doom, which is received well with the simple black leather jacket he boasts. There's no need for Robbie or Johnny to add to this classic look, and so they simply don't.
14 SWAMP THING
When it comes to staying casual, it's hard to top the Swamp Thing. Fighting to protect his home (as well as various lady loves), Swamp Thing is a hybrid plant-human whose body is literally covered in mossy vegetation. His tactics largely revolve around blending into the dark surrounding environment for surprise attacks or stealthily swimming just under murky pond water surfaces. A uniform of any sort would simply hinder Swamp Thing's movements and strategy in general.
Coupled with the fact that he is part plant, the idea of a super outfit just wouldn't apply well to Swamp Thing. Being part vegetation, anything covering him would likely feel suffocating. Aside from that, any clothing material stands a high chance of being destroyed from exposure to his damp and well, swampy environment. Besides the tactical aspects, Swamp Thing never having to wear pants practically guarantees that he will always keep his literal and figurative cool when fighting off enemies.
13 PHANTOM STRANGER
Talk about a character that's strictly business, Phantom Stranger started off as a man garbed as simply as possible. Sporting a black suit and tie with a similarly colored trench coat during his early days, his look has changed only a little in more recent iterations. Nowadays he's usually seen garbed in an old cape (think opera house instead of Superman) and white sweater instead of a button up shirt with a medallion around his neck. Regardless of the update, the Stranger's outfit has consistently retained his fedora and gloves as part of the ensemble.
Phantom Stranger has boasted a low-key look for some time in comparison to his more flashy comic book brethren. If he honestly removed his cape, he'd likely blend into a crowd more easily. His somewhat typical appearance is part of his strengths though, as he is able to quickly fade into surrounding shadows or smoke, furthering his supernatural persona. His look is refined, classic and if he accidentally found himself in a fancy restaurant, he would probably fit in without much fuss.
12 THE RUNAWAYS
While many teams of young heroes like the Teen Titans try to emulate their costumed mentors, The Runaways had zero intentions of rocking any style but their own. The original six members didn't appear to overly care about fashion, but rather just wore what suited them. With the exception of Nico, who wore a variety of goth-themed garb, most of the Runaways pretty much wore a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Sure there might have been the odd jacket or logo tank top, but the overall look of the team was largely casual.
Considering that the Runaways were a prodigy collective of scientists, mutants, witches and more, it stands to reason that their style was a reflection of that. These kids were too busy discovering their own powers or experimenting with stolen weapons to have time to concoct a series of super suits. At one point they even put down the idea of a group uniform as being too silly. The team was more than fine in being unique with their own casual aesthetic, and let their fighting leave the real impression on their enemies.
11 JONAH HEX
For a dollop of cowboy chic, look no further than to Jonah Hex. The sneering bounty hunter with a heart of gold has always rocked clothing reminiscent of the Old West, because that's exactly where he got his start. Originating in the mid-1800s, Hex looks like a typical gunslinger through and through. He often wears a simply linen shirt with jeans, gun belts, boots and a cowboy hat. Occasionally he'll wear a duster or jacket to complete the ensemble, but is cool either way.
Sure, Jonah might be rocking what would be considered period clothing nowadays, usually the Confederate Army uniform in particular, but we have to remember that his clothes are nothing fancy for the time he lived in. Hex needed clothing that was easy to breathe in and could withstand the harsh deserts of the old west. An outlandish costume of any sort wouldn't just interfere with his day to day activities, it would probably get him laughed out of the many tough saloons he frequented. With Jonah Hex, his signature sneer nets him his iconic look more than any special outfit could.
One of the few remaining members of his Flora Colossi kind, Groot doesn't really focus on clothes in his everyday activities. Being a plant-based creature, his entire being is largely composed of wood forming into a protective bark for his skin. In fact, his whole ensemble is strictly made up of his tree-like body, with a few errant sprigs or twigs thrown in for good measure. While he has on occasion worn outfits in the past, Groot has largely dropped any semblance of a super suit in favor of rocking his own bare flesh (of sorts).
It's hard to argue with a guy like Groot when it comes to sporting an outfit. Any clothing would likely hinder the hero in his day-to-day activities or be ripped to shreds immediately when he grows out his limbs during a scuffle. He's not a hero concerned with being easily recognized (although being a giant walking, talking tree pretty much takes care of that anyway), and is perfectly fine leaving the more fashionable choices of clothing to his fellow Guardians Of The Galaxy.
9 JESSICA JONES
Jessica Jones used to go through the laborious work of having a special superhero costume when she fought crime as the superhero Jewel. After going through several traumatic events however, Jones got rid of the outfit and name, choosing instead to be a private eye. With this change came a more casual look for her. Jessica is more inclined to wear simpler clothing like jeans and a t-shirt, while sometimes donning a jacket or scarf to combat cold weather.
Jessica's lack of a super suit may have far more important reasons behind it, but her heroic heart never stopped when she dumped the outfit. If anything, she is more at ease wearing everyday clothes, as it allows her to more easily investigate folks without drawing attention to herself. Jones' look coupled with her strategies in heroism makes her more akin to an undercover cop, melding into a crowd one minute and jumping into action the next.
8 LUKE CAGE
Everyone's favorite hero for hire also using to boast a specific costume but dropped it after a few years. Luke Cage nowadays is a humble bartender that assists his Defender teammates or other heroes as needed. His outfit went from the signature Power Man guise of a yellow blouse with matching metal headband and cuffs, to a more laid back look generally relying on jeans and a t-shirt as daily staples. In his Netflix iterations, the character made hoodies (more specifically, bullet-ridden ones) his go-to clothing item, but even that hardly matched a true superhero ensemble.
Ever the more level-headed character, Cage doesn't particularly find a need for a specific outfit to make himself stand out. A dude of already impressive stature, being bulletproof and having enhanced strength is more than enough to make him stick out given enough time. Besides, given the sheer amount of damage he withstands in battles, replacing specially made super suits would really start racking up a bill.
7 THE HULK
Capes, cowls or even tights are far too much for the Hulk. Bruce Banner is usually clothed before letting the beast out, but when the green monster comes to life, all of his clothes are shredded save for his pants. Be it suits, lab coats or athletic wear, Hulk's insanely muscular figure instantly ruins them all once he gets angry enough to transform. The purple pants he usually wears are more for propriety's sake than anything else, but are the only consistent, if tattered, item of clothing he boasts.
Similar to Luke Cage, the Hulk simply gets into far too many super-powered punch ups to bother with an outfit swap. His change is more in regards to his physical appearance, taking on green-tinted skin and an enraged demeanor. Indeed his outward look has turned out to be way more iconic than any superhero costume could be. Plus he'd be hard-pressed to find a seamstress willing to stitch together a costume in size 100XL.
6 THE SPIRIT
Traipsing around Central City and dispatching evil doers wherever he found them, The Spirit was the quintessential noir detective. Clad in a blue suit, fedora, gloves and domino mask, the only hint of color he boasted was his white shirts and red neckties. The vigilante embodied the Hollywood-style investigators of the 1920s and, even though his material changed from gritty to sillier as the years passed, his look remained largely the same.
The Spirit's more muted sense of fashion is actually his strongest point when it comes to his outfit. The lack of any modifications has made it sort of timeless in its own way, and somewhat recognizable at first glance. True to form, though, the hero is supposed to represent a ghostly protector of the city, and his outfit blends in perfectly to the hard brick and shadowy alleys. Sure he might be able to accomplish this with some form of super-stitched camouflage outfit, but he wouldn't look an eighth as dashing while protecting the innocent.
5 JOHN CONSTANTINE
This master of the dark arts has always kept a casual look about him from the very beginning. Acting as an advisor to Swamp Thing in his first appearance and battling all manner of terrible demons throughout the years has called for only the barest of wardrobe updates for John Constantine. Although he has worn different business suits in the past, the character has made his more recent signature look of fairly humdrum clothing: a plain white button up shirt, slacks, a loose tie and a tan trench coat.
Always dressed for England weather (even when he lives elsewhere), John seems to refuse any changes that would compromise his look too drastically. His trench coat is a particular soft spot for the sorcerer, as he's worn it through so many mystical mishaps that he would be hard-pressed to let it go for anything else. Given his pessimistic attitude and intense opinion of himself, Constantine would be far more likely to light a costume on fire than give up his regular clothes.
Hellboy is a character that likely had a tough time finding clothes that would fit properly, much less a superhero suit. When he finally settled on a large overcoat to cover the mass of his body, he never looked back. Hellboy has rocked his signature coat with a variety of underclothes including black shorts, pants or shirts, but many times he chooses to go bare-chested underneath. Eschewing a special uniform, he was content to have the coat modified to accommodate his massive right hand and slap a B.P.R.D. patch on the shoulder.
Similar to the Hulk, Hellboy's physical appearance is often more than enough to stop bad guys in their tracks. He doesn't have a need for a special outfit, especially given that he is primarily working for a covert operation. Wearing a particularly loud costume would do Hellboy little good against a hoard of skeletons who care even less about the clothing of their enemies. This demon is nothing if not stubborn, and that probably has affected his casual look staying that way over his comic history.
3 THE QUESTION
Vic Sage started out as a Hub City news correspondent that investigated into various accounts of corruption in the town. True to the part, Sage dressed in a plain blue business suit with a fedora for his work both in front of the camera as a journalist and behind the scenes as a vigilante. The only difference between the two outfits is Vic's pseudoderm mask that makes him appear as if he doesn't have a face when he takes on the persona of The Question.
Vic Sage took the idea of a super suit and made it apply to clothes that worked well in his various superhero activities (not to mention Hub City weather). He treated his regular wardrobe with a special compound that would allow him to change the colors of his garb with the release of a special gas. For all the dilemmas that would arise from needing two sets of clothes for superhero activities and civilian wear, the Question came up with a query of his own: why not both?
2 THE PUNISHER
The brutal vigilante fighting crime with good old-fashioned firearms, Frank Castle, is known for wearing his signature skull logo. The great thing about this is that the symbol can be applied to anything he needs to wear for a specific mission. Be it t-shirts, long sleeves, tactical vests or other items of clothing, Frank can slap the white skull on just about anything. With the days of his weird spandex outfit mostly past, he's usually seen clad in BDU style pants and combat boots with the occasional trench coat (all colored black of course).
Frank Castle wore a uniform for a good portion of his life while he was in the military, so it stands to reason that he'd want to wear something that was tactically sound and comfortable while being a vigilante. Often his missions would call for stealthily infiltrating areas or scouting out locations ahead of time, which is likely why he chose to wear dark-colored clothing that shifted little with movement. Besides that, we're pretty sure Frank Castle's image of badassery might take a slight ding if he started wearing short shorts and a cape.
1 PROFESSOR X
Generally wearing a nice suit and tie, Charles Xavier has deviated little in his wardrobe throughout the years. True, he has donned a version of the official X-Men uniform when the time called for it, but Professor X has mostly remained classic in his look. Sometimes he'll sport the odd sweater over his oxford shirt to ward off colder temperatures, but his style has generally remained consistent.
First and foremost, Charles is an X-Man who doubles as a headmaster for his school, so his needs vary more than your typical superhero. With his simple but tasteful suits, he exudes the look of a trustworthy teacher. This works two-fold in that he gives off gentle persona to people who might be afraid (like young mutants), and also allows his enemies to assume he's harmless from his appearance; a sometimes deadly error on their part. If Xavier wore anything else but his business casual attire, tactically and personality wise, it just simply wouldn't work.
Costume or no costume? Let us know in the comments what you prefer to see your favorite superheroes dress.