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With the long hours at a hospital, you don't have a lot of time to worry about your appearance.
[[caption-width-right:350:The project was only 9 days in.]]
This trope is about characters who, for various reasons, don't have time for the usual grooming rituals or to keep their personal space tidy. It can be a one time thing (to show a given character is under pressure or has become obsessed with something) or part of their normal characterisation. Either way, they have something other than their appearance on their mind.
The reasons for this can be external; events out of the character's control are keeping them from a nice warm shower. Or they can be internal; the person in question's let their appearance slide because they're more interested in what they're doing. The former can either emphasise the significance of what they're doing (i.e. their job's hard) or suggest the character's having difficulty dealing with it (i.e. they're bad at their job). The latter tends to simply mark the character out as devoted to their job (or whatever it is they're doing) and is far more likely to be Played for Laughs
. Although it can still be Played for Drama
, especially when it's motivated by guilt
Characters who frequently show this trait include the Defective Detective
(and their more well adjusted colleagues when the situation's really
serious), the Salaryman
/White Collar Worker
, The Atoner
and the Absent-Minded Professor
. The Panicky Expectant Father
is an example of the "one time" variation (although looking after their new offspring might make the trope stick). It can also be a sign of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer
, Sanity Slippage
and the reason somebody's a Genius Slob
. Someone who Must Have Caffeine
will often display this trope with or without the two being connected (in the former case, it might be cleared up after they've had their fix). Plot-Powered Stamina
tends to have this as a side effect when it's being played more realistically.
This is, obviously, Truth in Television
; Your personal appearance needs daily maintenance (clean clothes, washing, combing hair, shaving, etc.), so it's usually the first thing to slip when someone's pressed for time.
Supertrope to Messy Hair
and Einstein Hair
(which specifically marks someone as a Mad Scientist
). Compare Fashionable Asymmetry
and Rummage Sale Reject
for other wardrobe problems, Beard of Sorrow
and Mess Of Woe
for depression induced deterioration and Forgets to Eat
. Contrast The Pigpen
(who's a mess because they're lazy rather than busy) and the more positive Adrenaline Makeover
Anime and Manga
- L from Death Note is a genius detective who rarely seems to even sleep (let alone do something about his hair or put on something other than a baggy white shirt and trousers) when he's working on a case.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex often shows this trope when the team are burning the midnight oil (along with many empty or half empty boxes of pizza and cigarette stubs). Mainly Ishikawa (and whoever ends up helping him), since he does most of the research related work. Togusa also falls into this when he's investigating the death of a former colleague in "Interceptor".
- Inverted by Dr. Stein in Soul Eater. When his appearance is going downhill, it's usually a sign he's in no fit state to work. In the anime, after the Kisin is released, Soul drags Maka away from her studies to play basketball in order to avert this trope.
- Discussed in Spider-Man; Aunt May remarks that Peter is so busy that he often leaves his room untidy.
Live Action Television
- The "Work" edition of the Worst Case Scenario Handbook series of Faux To Guides suggests invoking this (messing up your hair and clothes) as a tactic to avoid being made redundant.
- Combined with Mess Of Woe in The Count of Monte Cristo when Villefort works several days nonstop to keep his mind off the death of his in-laws and his daughter, looking dishevelled and unshaved (though he shapes up in time for the trial).
- The Discworld's unshaven and scruffy cop Samuel Vimes prefers to conform to this trope, although his wife is quite insistent that he maintain appearances after he marries her. One of his monologues even notes his disgust at a palace guard's sword, since it didn't show any nicks and dents and clearly never saw any use (as opposed to a well maintained sword which still showed wear and tear).
- The video for "Le Café" by Oldelaf features an office worker who slowly deteriorates thorough the day, thanks to the stress caused by work and too much coffee. The result is played for Black Comedy.
- Stressed Eric plays this trope for laughs with the main character. As he gets more stressed, the vein on his temple throbs until it eventually bursts out and strangles him. Naturally, his environment tends to be rather cluttered, too.
- Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a tendency to turn into a disheveled mess whenever stressed or preoccupied. She usually ends up turning her library inside out in the process. Exaggerated in "Lesson Zero" (where forgetting to write a letter causes her to almost go completely insane).
- Inverted in Wander over Yonder: The titular character suffers stress from being prevented from helping, or from his curiosity being denied but doing so actually clears it up. The stress takes the form of his eyes changing color, pupils changing size, his fur getting frizzy and brittle, and patches appearing on his hat.
- The 100th episode of The Simpsons introduces Principal Skinner with a dishevelled appearance from having a hectic day in his office.