Created By: Floria on May 2, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 2, 2015

Dork In A Sweater

Wearing a sweater makes a character look nerdy or harmless

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Trope
A character who wants to look dangerous has several choices in outerwear - long swishy coats if you want to look dashing and mysterious, leather jackets appeal to the James Dean wannabe in all of us, stylish dark suits look aloof and professional - but not sweaters. Whether because of their fuzzy texture or sweaters' association with gifts from one's grandmother, sweaters do not look intimidating. In fiction, a character who wears sweaters frequently is often some variety of nerd, otherwise Adorkable, or at least approachable and non-threatening. Sweater vests, in particular, are normally a sign of extreme nerdiness. Keep in mind, however, that while Dorks In Sweaters don't look dangerous, that does not mean they are necessarily harmless. The various Hidden Badass tropes may apply. This trope can overlap with Sweater Girl if the lady in question is more of a Hot Librarian than a conventional bombshell.


Examples

Film

Literature
  • Harry Potter
    • Ron is afraid that the sweaters his mum knits him for Christmas will make him look like one of these but Harry, Fred and George can pull them off because they have a sense of humour about it.
    • In the same series, Dolores Umbridge, who wears a pink cardigan as part of her sickeningly cutesy persona, manages to be both far less harmless than she initially appears, and actively evil.
  • In Bridget Jones the Love Interest is introduced wearing a cheesy Christmas jumper with a reindeer's head on it.
  • In the non-fiction book "Stitch and Bitch", Debbie Stoller invokes this in her explanation for the superstition that knitting your boyfriend or girlfriend a sweater dooms the relationship: if you put all that work into a sweater but your special someone never wears it because it looks wrong, you could end up resenting each other.

Live-Action TV

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons, Ned Flanders.
    Homer: OK, OK, don't panic. To find Flanders, I just have to think like Flanders! [thinking in an impression of Ned's voice] I'm a big four-eyed lame-o, and I wear the same stupid sweater every day and - [aloud] The Springfield River!
  • The Venture Bros.: Dean Venture typically wears a sweater vest. He can be a formidable character even though he's easily terrified.

Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • May 2, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons, Ned Flanders.
    Homer: OK, OK, don't panic. To find Flanders, I just have to think like Flanders! [thinking in an impression of Ned's voice] I'm a big four-eyed lame-o, and I wear the same stupid sweater every day and - [aloud] The Springfield River!
  • May 2, 2012
    TheEvenPrime
    In Men Behaving Badly, the characters discuss how wearing a cardigan makes one seem tame and old.
  • May 3, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    One variety of these is the home-knitted Christmas jumper

    • In Harry Potter Ron is afraid that the sweaters his mum knits him for Christmas will make him look like one of these but Harry, Fred and George can pull them off because they have a sense of humour about it.
    • In Bridget Jones the Love Interest is introduced wearing a cheesy Christmas jumper with a reindeer's head on it.
    • In the non-fiction book "Stitch and Bitch", Debbie Stoller invokes this in her explanation for the superstition that knitting your boyfriend or girlfriend a sweater dooms the relationship: if you put all that work into a sweater but your special someone never wears it because it looks wrong, you could end up resenting each other.
    • An episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks had everyone mocking Simon Amstell for wearing a cardigan, even though it was an expensive, bright pink one.

    I don't know why I have so many examples of this, but it's probably because I am super lame.
  • May 3, 2012
    TonyG
  • May 3, 2012
    TrustBen
    Dean Venture typically wears a sweater vest. He can be a formidable character even though he's easily terrified.
  • May 3, 2012
    Generality
    • Neville wears a pretty goofy jumper in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, probably as a way to remind the viewer of the dork that he used to be, because in this film he acts like a badass more often than not.
  • May 4, 2012
    robinjohnson
  • May 6, 2012
    Alvin
    I want to say Chandler Bing in Friends.
  • June 3, 2012
    Floria
    bump.
  • June 3, 2012
    Doryna
    • James May of Top Gear, considered The Smart Guy of the three presenters, is also the only one of them seen on the show in brightly-colored sweaters and cardigans.
  • June 4, 2012
    Arivne
    Newspaper Comics
    • Garfield. Jon Arbuckle (Garfield's owner) sometimes becomes a fashion victim, and a few of those occasions have involved sweaters.
  • June 4, 2012
    Koveras
  • June 4, 2012
    MarkThis
    • Kevin from Sin City wears one of these. He's a cannibalistic serial killer.
  • June 4, 2012
    TonyG
    The Critic: Jay Sherman wears an argyle sweater vest.
  • June 4, 2012
    CosmicRock
    Jerry Gergitz is the butt monkey of the parks department on "Parks and Recreation". He also frequently wears a sweater vest.
  • June 4, 2012
    MB777
    Personally, I think the first episode of Sherlock subverts this, since Dr. Watson is not only the man in the sweater, but also the ex-soldier who shoots the antagonist with pinpoint accuracy from another building with a handgun.
  • June 4, 2012
    lexicon
    The Santa Clause: Neil wears goofy sweaters, one of which Bernard thinks was made at the North Pole.
  • June 4, 2012
    DanielCase
    Don't forget Rick Santorum's sweater vests during the 2012 U.S. Republican primaries.
  • April 26, 2013
    Arivne
    There are several Zero Context Examples under Live Action TV in the OP examples section.

    E.g. Topher in Dollhouse, Chandler Bing in Friends.

    Just "<character name> in <work name>" isn't enough.
  • April 26, 2013
    McKathlin
    A character may look like this when he's obligated to wear the Homemade Sweater From Hell.
  • April 26, 2013
    McKathlin
    Webcomics
    • In Dumbing Of Age, most of Joyce's outfits involve sweater vests. This fashion-backward look fits her status as the sheltered fundie.
  • October 3, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    Do sweater vests and cardigans count? In post-70s works they seem like the archetypical "nerd" fashion.
  • October 4, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Prof X wears cardigan and he fits here.
  • October 4, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    You should add a pic, probably from HP because it's the most recognisable.
  • October 4, 2014
    Cappuccino
    Scooby Doo: Velma is typically seen in sweaters and Nerd Glasses. She's also the brain of the gang and solves most of the mysteries.
  • October 4, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    So this is just a list of neurotic characters that wear sweaters (and/or sweater vests)? Oh-kay.

    Franchise

    Webcomics
    • Rebusquest. Carson. note 

    Web Original

    Western Animation
  • October 4, 2014
    Cappuccino
    ^ I... think it's a "Beware the Sweater Wearers" thing.

    Characters who wear sweaters look harmless. They may be, or they may not be. Basically. To be honest, I'm not sure if not-dangerous characters apply as examples. Most of the examples seem to be hidden baddassess of some kind, but then you have people like Chandler Bing (who is awesome, but not a Hidden Badass) so I'm not sure.
  • October 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Again, ppl who wore sweaters are perceived as dorks. Even if they're hiding awesomeness/badassery.

    Ain't it simple?
  • October 5, 2014
    Chabal2
    Lackadaisy Cats: Viktor is given a sweater (along with other Christmas gifts) that turns him into a walking Christmas tree.
  • October 5, 2014
    Arivne
    Sweater Dork?

    • Capitalized the title.
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
      • Blue Linked and capitalized (fandom, badass) and a work name.
      • Deleted unnecessary blank line(s).

    All of the examples which take the form "<character name> in <work name>" are Zero Context Examples. They need information about how they fit the trope.
  • October 5, 2014
    Cappuccino
    ^ Thanks.

    To be more blunt, I think the description is unclear, causing confusion in the examples. 1) Sweaters can be perfectly elegant, in which case there's nothing dorky about them. 2) If 'normal' characters (again, like Chandler Bing) are not excluded, then the example is just a normal character who wears a sweater. In which case, there's no hidden badassery. It's a bit of a mess.
  • October 5, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Here's your ideal image. You're welcome.
  • October 5, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    ^^^^^ That wasn't made clear till now that the laconic has been changed (and even then, the description was a tad vague).

    I propose a name change, because Dork In A Sweater or Sweater Dork is misleading if this is supposed to be about characters who have a badass streak are presumed to be dorks/nerds/geeks because they wear sweaters.
  • October 5, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I say nope. Badassery has nothing to do with this trope; they're only optional. Point is, dudes in sweaters must be dorky in some way.
  • October 5, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • During Terry Moore's run on Runaways, Klara was frequently seen in sweaters, symbolizing just how out of place she was in 21st century Malibu.
  • October 6, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    ^^ That still wasn't clear. This thread seems to go back and forth saying these characters have a hidden badass streak despite looking like dorks because they wear sweaters, to saying that the hidden badassery is only optional and that this is just an index of dorky characters who wear sweaters.

    I'm sorry, but this thread is a mess; can we settle on which this covers?
  • October 6, 2014
    Cappuccino
    ^ Thank you.
  • October 6, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ again, ""sweaters are dorky".

    I'd like to grab this badly...
  • October 6, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Here's my take on it, if I may: This is a Costume Trope, where the costume tells you something about the character without the character having to do anything. This is not (and should not be) about people who just like to wear sweaters. This is about a conscious choice by the creators to make you think "this character is a dork" by giving the character a sweater.

    If Fonzie showed up in a sweater that wouldn't make him fit this trope just because he's wearing a sweater; he's still cool. Potsie is a nerd, and wearing sweaters is an indication that he's that way. If Fonzie got a Tap On The Head and thinks he's Potsie, showing up in a sweater would (temporarily) fit because Fonzie's characterization has changed.
  • October 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Pretty much.
  • April 2, 2015
    TitoMosquito
    • Peter Parker often wears sweaters before being bitten by the spider. He rarely does after.

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