Created By: CrankyStormingAugust 20, 2012 Last Edited By: ArivneSeptember 5, 2014

No Magical Aesthetic

Persons of magical power present themselves as ordinary as part of the setting.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Linkara: This was not what I was expecting.
Steven the Wizard: What the hell do you want? It's 2012. There aren't a load of people living in gloomy castles, standing over crystal balls and crap like that.

In a fantasy setting, the Robe And Wizard Hat is a great outfit for a great sorcerer. In Urban Fantasy or Magic Realism (or any other post-medieval setting), however, it can look silly and clash with the more grounded aspects of the the setting. By giving the magic users clothes that wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of a crowded street, the realistic look of the world is preserved. And don't expect them to dwell in a mysterious lair, either.

This can also give an air of mystery to the wizards, as it hides the strength of their powers and also implies that anyone could be a wizard.

The image of a magician in top hat and tails is the basis of this trope. Prior to the Victorian Era, most stage magicians dressed like Merlin. Then, a few entertainers decided magic would look more amazing if done by someone in (at the time) contemporary evening dress. Penn and Teller update the tradition by dressing in ordinary suits and ties.

Compare Not Wearing Tights.

Please only note examples where this is brought up or becomes relevant to the story. Otherwise, it's just an incidental detail.


Examples:

Literature
  • (Does this use the trope or just include it?) In the Young Wizards series, anyone and anything can be a wizard. Combine this with the modern setting and of course all the wizards wander around inconspicuously.
  • Played for laughs in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, where the wizards gathering for the Quiddich World Cup are ordered to dress like muggles so as not to create any suspicion.
...a pair of men who were having a heated argument. One of them was a very old wizard who was wearing a long flowery nightgown. The other was clearly a Ministry wizard; he was holding out a pair of pin-striped trousers and almost crying with exasperation. "Just put them on, Archie, there's a good chap. You can't walk around like that, the Muggle at the gate's already getting suspicious—" "I bought this in a Muggle shop," said the old wizard stubbornly. "Muggles wear them." "Muggle women wear them, Archie, not the men, they wear these," said the ministry wizard, and he brandished the pinstriped trousers. "I'm not putting them on," said old Archie in indignation. "I like a healthy breeze 'round my privates, thanks."
  • Several books by Mercedes Lackey apply. Three are three books about Diana Tregarde, a detective and practicing witch. Bedlams bard, a half dozen or so books about a bard, aided by witches and elves. Also there are the SERR Ated Edge books, mainly about elves and their allies driving race cars and helping people. Most of them have some manner of fancy clothes, for casting and/or fighting, though they don't wearer them around town.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden openly plies his trade as a wizard-for-hire, but dresses, monologues and conducts business like (and pretty much has a life as crappy as) a Private Eye. Since most other wizards keep themselves hidden nobody really believes him unless they're already aware of the supernatural side of things, though.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy both plays this straight and averts this. Powerful magicians tend to look like accountants; weak magicians look like wizards are expected to — beards, robes, etc, etc.
  • Most magic-users in the Iron Druid Chronicles tend to look inconspicuous like this. Atticus, for instance, deliberately looks like some New Age hippie doofus, an impression only heightened by the occult bookstore he runs.
When people see my red curly hair, fair skin and long goatee, they suspect I play soccer and drink lots of Guinness. If I'm going sleeveless and they see the tattoos all up and down my right arm, they assume I'm in a rock band and smoke lots of weed. It never enters their mind for a moment that I could be an ancient Druid—which is exactly why I like this look. If I grew a white beard and got myself a pointy hat, oozed dignity and sagacity and glowed with beatitude, people might get the wrong—or right—idea.

Webcomics

Web Original
  • Linkara openly practices magic to turn his toys into weapons, but he still wears a brown jacket and a fedora all the time. Similarly, the Great Wizard Steven (once known as Alpos) who provides the above quote wears a plain shirt and lives in a detached bungalow.

Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • August 20, 2012
    animeg3282
    Plain Clothes Wizard is better. Then again, in some places this is the norm, such as Young Wizards where no wizards wear any distinguishing marks of any kind.
  • August 21, 2012
    TheHandle
    I like this trope. We could expand it to cover all cases of people dressing mundanely.

    Also, no examples of wizards in white labcoats?
  • August 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Played for laughs in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, where the wizards gathering for the Quiddich World Cup are ordered to dress like muggles so as not to create any suspicion.
    ...a pair of men who were having a heated argument. One of them was a very old wizard who was wearing a long flowery nightgown. The other was clearly a Ministry wizard; he was holding out a pair of pin-striped trousers and almost crying with exasperation. "Just put them on, Archie, there's a good chap. You can't walk around like that, the Muggle at the gate's already getting suspicious--" "I bought this in a Muggle shop," said the old wizard stubbornly. "Muggles wear them." "Muggle women wear them, Archie, not the men, they wear these," said the ministry wizard, and he brandished the pinstriped trousers. "I'm not putting them on," said old Archie in indignation. "I like a healthy breeze 'round my privates, thanks."
  • August 22, 2012
    beautyistruth
    I haven't read very much of the Dresden Files, but surely this trope is present there? Hopefully somebody can write a more elegant description.
  • August 22, 2012
    juanguy
    Several books by Mercedes Lackey apply. Three are three books about Diana Tregarde, a detective and practicing witch. Bedlams bard, a half dozen or so books about a bard, aided by witches and elves. Also there are the SERR Ated Edge books, mainly about elves and their allies driving race cars and helping people. Most of them have some manner of fancy clothes, for casting and/or fighting, though they don't wearer them around town.
  • August 22, 2012
    Bisected8
    @beautyistruth: Allow me;

    • In The Dresden Files Harry Dresden openly plies his trade as a wizard-for-hire, but dresses, monologues and conducts business like (and pretty much has a life as crappy as) a Private Eye. Since most other wizards keep themselves hidden nobody really believes him unless they're already aware of the supernatural side of things, though.
  • August 22, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Does this apply just in Urban Fantasy or Magic Realism?
  • August 22, 2012
    CrankyStorming
    I think it could apply to any setting based on the real world, be it the present or historical, where there are people who use supernatural powers that one would expect to come with an accompanying get-up. I don't think it applies to science fiction, though, since usually the outfits have some kind of functional purpose or are a uniform for whoever the characters in question are serving.
  • August 22, 2012
    elwoz
    ... don't expect them to dwell in a mysterious layer, either.

    Did you possibly mean "a mysterious lair "?

    This may need an "examples only count when remarked upon or otherwise important to the story" marker. For instance, the Chrestomanci books are an instance, but it's only relevant in Witch Week, where nearly everyone has magical powers and is terrified of being discovered to have magical powers (because Burn The Witch is in effect). Chrestomanci himself is always fabulously dressed, but not in a Robe And Wizard Hat, and it's because he's subject to Call On Me and also somewhat of a dandy.
  • August 22, 2012
    cygnavamp
    • The image of a magician in top hat and tails is the basis of this trope. Prior to the Victorian Era, most stage magicians dressed like Merlin. Then, a few entertainers decided magic would look more amazing if done by someone in (at the time) contemporary evening dress. Penn and Teller update the tradition by dressing in ordinary suits and ties.
  • August 22, 2012
    desdendelle
    Literature
    • Literature.The Bartimaeus Trilogy both plays this straight and averts this. Powerful magicians tend to look like accountants; weak magicians look like wizards are expected to -- beards, robes, etc, etc.
  • August 22, 2012
    animeg3282
    ^^ OK, but they are magicians, not wizards.
  • August 22, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Let's not invoke Unequal Rites in the trope description, please.
  • August 23, 2012
    animeg3282
    what I mean is that Penn and Teller don't have magic powers.
  • August 23, 2012
    dalek955
    • Most magic-users in the Iron Druid Chronicles tend to look inconspicuous like this. Atticus, for instance, deliberately looks like some New Age hippie doofus, an impression only heightened by the occult bookstore he runs.
      When people see my red curly hair, fair skin and long goatee, they suspect I play soccer and drink lots of Guinness. If I'm going sleeveless and they see the tattoos all up and down my right arm, they assume I'm in a rock band and smoke lots of weed. It never enters their mind for a moment that I could be an ancient Druid--which is exactly why I like this look. If I grew a white beard and got myself a pointy hat, oozed dignity and sagacity and glowed with beatitude, people might get the wrong--or right--idea.
  • August 23, 2012
    animeg3282
    Hey! In The Magicians magicians wear regular street clothes, and the underground magic world is only known by the tattoos they have on their backs.
  • August 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Does this apply for 'verses where not all wizards have a characteristic outfit?
  • August 24, 2012
    MiinU

    Webcomics

  • August 24, 2012
    AlexThePrettyGood
    Played with in the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, where a group of wizards tries to go plain clothes. So to hide their wizard beards, they put pieces of iron wire in their beards so it looks like they are plain people trying to dress up as wizards with false beards.
  • August 25, 2012
    Tallens
    DO they have to be wizards? Would The Doctor count? He's frequently seen in fairly common clothes, though his sense of style may be a little...out there.
  • August 25, 2012
    cygnavamp
    ^x7 Actually, Penn and Teller prefer the word "illusionists". Still, I think this counts as a depiction of magic. All of it is fantasy, after all. (Refers to Magritte's This Is Not A Pipe.)
  • August 25, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I know we have a no motivational poster image pic policy, but i think you guys should still see this. [1]
  • August 26, 2012
    CrankyStorming
    @Tallens As I've said, I'm not sure this really applies to science fiction for the reasons stated in my reply to Septimus Heap.
  • August 26, 2012
    animeg3282
    ^^ what work is that from. I still disagree on Penn and Teller since I see them as part of Real Life not fantasy.
  • September 11, 2012
    CrankyStorming
    I changed the title to make it clearer that this is a setting trope rather than a character trope. I left the Young Wizards example since I'm not familiar with it.
  • September 11, 2012
    Damr1990
    the spellman family on Sabrina The Teenage Witch, while they have a considerable ammount of magic artifacts to their position, the witches themselves, and the house they live in seems perfectly normal for most people
  • September 4, 2014
    DAN004
    This could be called Not Wearing Wizard Hat. Or, to be even clearer, Casual Wearing Mage.

    Compare Blue Collar Warlock whose background is itself casual except for the "warlock" part.
  • September 4, 2014
    Tallens
    • Charmed: The Charmed Ones are a group of witches living in suburban San Francisco, and are most often seen wearing ordinary clothes.
  • September 4, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Isn't this Mundane Fantastic?
  • September 4, 2014
    DRCEQ
    ^ It is related to it. That trope is about people seeing/experiencing extraordinary things and not really giving much reaction to it. Much like how Flat Earth Atheist is about characters who deny the existence of a higher power despite having experienced proof of their existing.

    This trope is about magical beings who adapt to the setting and hide the fact that they are magical by not looking stereotypical. I.E. Wearing wizard robes in a modern setting.

    • The Devil Is A Part Timer starts off with this when Lord Satan and his closest follower are transported from their world to modern Japan. They quickly learn that they can't use magic nearly as well as they could, but are aware even with what little energy they do have, they shouldn't show it off in public except for in absolute emergencies, lest they draw attention to themselves. Shortly after arriving, they are picked up by the Police, who think they are foreign cosplayers based on the archaic outfits and capes they wear, and the language they spoke.
  • September 5, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
      • Namespaced a work name.
  • September 5, 2014
    hbi2k
    I second Plain Clothes Wizard, or maybe Street Clothes Wizard. It needs to be something that makes it clear that this trope is about a magic-user's mode of dress. The current name makes me think of the aesthetics of the magic itself, not the dress of the person performing it.

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