When Professor X introduced his team of super mutants to the world in 1963 wearing black and yellow tunics and face masks, it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted their future as comics’ style icons of the superhero world. But the X-Men have donned a number of cool outfits over the decades, from matching team uniforms to individual costumes reflecting their own personalities, setting the style-bar high for their fellow heroes. However, the X-Men have also been the culprits behind some of the worst hero fashion crimes to feature in comics. With years’ worth of X-Men wardrobes to rummage through, here is a quick rundown of their best and worst costumes of all time.
10 Worst: ‘90s Cable
It’s fair to say that Cable’s outfit has a lot going on, no matter the era. There’s so much to take in: the glowing bionic eye, bulked cyber arms, and giant guns combined with endless buckles, straps, and pouches (or fanny packs)—not to mention the giant shoulder pads. There’s been some dispute about Cable’s origins over the years, with Rob Liefeld openly stating he co-created the character with little instructions from the writing team. Cable’s outfit has been scaled back in recent years, proving that less is more and a larger than life character like Cable doesn’t need to hide behind the padding and pouches like his ‘90s counterpart did.
9 Best: Classic Nightcrawler
Fan favorite Kurt Wagner, aka the Incredible Nightcrawler, was conceived by Dave Cockrum during his Navy service in Guam, originally thinking the demonic-looking character could appear in a DC Comics Legion of Super-Heroes spin-off, The Outsiders. Instead, Nightcrawler found himself joining the X-Men in 1975. Continuing to wear his circus outfit, the red and blue costume perfectly captures Kurt’s performing, swashbuckling personality. Every iteration of Nightcrawler that has followed has drawn from the original design in some way, be it color scheme or shape. For a costume to still be used in a team that shakes up their style as often as the X-Men do reveals the real significance of Kurt’s classic outfit.
8 Worst: Emma Frost – Marvel Now
The White Queen’s no stranger to infusing sexiness with power when it comes to her wardrobe. The X-Men are all about embracing individuality, and Emma’s outfits work well with her confident character and her past links to the Hellfire Club. She has always been more than simply the lingerie she wears. This costume, however, makes the duds list. While the overall shape appears to be mimicking Scott’s Marvel Now costume, the bare chest and torso area seems very impractical for anybody considering going into action, and the hot pants paired with butt-high boots is a faux pas no matter who wears them. Emma would need to put a lot of faith in fashion tape whenever wearing this ensemble.
7 Best: Jim Lee’s Rogue
The runaway child adopted by Mystique, Rogue began life as a villain. After absorbing Ms Marvel’s powers, she turned to the X-Men for help. Her original costumes saw multiple variations of green on black, with her iconic streak of white hair always being present. But Jim Lee’s adaptation of her costume in X-Men #1 (1991) has become her trademark look. Combining the greens of her original outfits with the classic yellows of the X-Men uniforms, her outfit is striking. The addition of a brown bomber jacket let Rogue’s real personality shine through, and the large red X-symbols on her belt, chest, and jacket means there’s no mistaking that she’s fighting alongside the good guys.
6 Worst: Longshot 80s
Originally appearing in his own mini-series set in outer space, Longshot would find his way to earth and eventually join the X-Men. He had telepathic powers and the ability to impact probability. His probability powers of “good luck” unfortunately didn’t seem to work on his style. Mullets have not been kind to X-Men team members over the years, but combined with Longshot’s full-body black jumpsuit, this outfit seems truly stuck in the 1980s. During his appearance in X-Factor, it was also suggested he had a genetically engineered ability to attract women to him, but his real love was Dazzler.
5 Best: Astonishing Wolverine
No X-Men list would be complete without Wolverine, who has seen a huge number of costume transformations over the decades.
The release of Astonishing X-Men in 2004 presented another opportunity for a wardrobe overhaul. Instead of developing something totally new for Wolverine, John Cassaday used the opportunity to revisit Wolverine’s roots with a more diluted version of his yellow and blue Tiger Stripe outfit, with his pants on the inside this time. It became the definitive look for the hero, nodding to the legacy of the X-Men while looking toward the character’s heroic future, and remains at the core of new interpretations of Wolverine’s X-Uniforms.
4 Worst: All New X-Factor Gambit
It’s rare that a man can pull of a pink and silver ensemble, top it with a trench coat, headband, and fingerless gloves, and still look cool, but it’s something Gambit has done in style since he first appeared in 1990. That is, until he joined the All New X-Factor team in 2014. Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico made the bold decision to update the adventurer’s bold ensemble which ultimately proved there’s more to the magic of the classic outfit than the trench coat. This updated version removed everything from Gambit’s uniform that made him, well, Gambit, replacing the pinks and silvers with traditional X-Men green and yellow, and swapping his headband for tinted sunglasses.
3 Best: Original Pheonix
Jean Grey’s rebirth as the Phoenix (and subsequent transformation into the Dark Phoenix) is perhaps one of the most iconic looks of the entire X-Men franchise. With her return from the dead, she would need a new costume to herald in a new era of Jean Gray. Designed by Dave Cockrum, this skin-tight outfit harkened back to Jean’s days as Marvel Girl through the bright green and yellow color scheme while clearly showing readers that this isn’t the Jean we remember.
Topped off with the yellow sash and high boots, it’s a look Jean would revisit many times, even after the Dark Phoenix saga, proving the lasting impact this redesign had.
2 Worst: Kitty Pryde
Kitty’s list of embarrassing outfits is long. First appearing in 1980, she was often treated as the youngest of the group, often reflected through her costume choices. While her first appearance was the standard yellow and black that all students wore, Kitty has been determined to break the mould and incorporate her own fashion sense into her uniforms—all starting with the “snazzy” disco roller skate outfit. She later tried to pay homage to her hero, Dazzler, by copying her style. Kitty’s inability to settle on an outfit resulted in readers writing letters suggesting permanent uniforms for her. When she finally took on the Shadowcat mantle, her costume choices became slightly more palatable and permanent.
1 Best: ‘80s Punk Storm
It’s difficult to narrow down the very best of Ororo Munroe’s wardrobe, but the outfit that perhaps best represents Storm’s individuality as she becomes the leader of the X-Men is her 1980’s punk look. In one of the most drastic changes ever made to one of the X-Men, Chris Claremont and Paul Smith debuted her new look in Uncanny X-Men #173, featuring leather pants and top, and a bold mohawk. Her look was divisive at the time— Kitty herself stormed off when she first saw Storm’s new appearance—and remains to spark debate today. But with this punk look, Ororo ushered in a new era of bold leadership for the X-Men.