- The villain's power relies on said armor, forcing the heroes to find a way around to hurt him.
- Is a subtle way to imply that the hero is better, because he doesn't need any further protection.
- Armors can be associated with war, tyranny and oppression. Heroes without armor can symbolize peace and freedom.
- Armor increases the wearer's apparent size, allowing more opportunities for Evil Is Bigger.
- Creating a full suit of armor requires time, money and a skilled craftsman, which villains are more likely to have access to.
- Last but not least: seeing an unarmed and unarmored guy beating the shit out of a big guy in a armor is always awesome to look at.
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Anime & Manga
- The Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z wear some sort of armor, as do Freeza's soldiers later, in contrast to the protagonists who mostly wear martial arts gis. Vegeta in his long transition from villain, to anti-hero, to hero wears less armor every time he gets a costume change, from his first appearance with a battle skirt, winged shoulders, and a scouter, to the Buu Saga with no armor at all (though that was because he showed up to enter the Tenkaichi Tournament, where armor was forbidden, and never got the chance to get it back. He returns to wear armor again in Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! (where he claims it counts as formal wear), Battle of Gods, Resurrection 'F' and Dragon Ball Super, which all take place after Majin Buu's defeat). After fighting on Earth it is said Vegeta only survived because of his armor but by time the protagonists had reached Namek it was shown to be easily shattered even by Krillin.
- In One Piece one of the most memorable examples would be Luffy versus the weapon-loving Don Krieg. A good part of the fight revolves around Luffy trying a way to break his armor.
- However, Luffy always jumps at the chance to wear armor, believing to be a very manly sort of thing. He even weeps with joy at just getting armored boots and gauntlets from Mr. 3's Wax Wax Fruit during the Impel Down saga.
- Yaiba vs Takeshi Onimaru, after the latter is possessed by Fujin.
- In Fairy Tail we have most of the guild members against Master Hades, while earlier, we have Sugarboy vs Gray. In the latest arc, the Raven Tail flagbearer (Actually Ivan in disguise) is completely covered in armor.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Fuji at first wears a set of armor as he faces Hiko, but when he's told that wearing it will only boost his confidence and make his attacks weaker, he decides to opt for a fair and square fight, and removes it.
- In Gamaran none of the Ogame Ryu members wear protective clothes of sort, while many of their enemies may usually wear chainmail of sorts to protect themselves.
- Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite. In episode 11 Konoe Tsurugi's Onee-sama wears a heavy armor suit in combat, while her opponents Konoe and Yashima don't.
- Though the Seven Deadly Sins, the main protagonists of The Seven Deadly Sins, wore armor in the past, they don't wear such in the present. Instead they prefer to wear relatively casual clothes. In contrast, the antagonistic Holy Knights are practically almost always seen in full armor.
- Invereted most of the time in Berserk, where Guts always wears armor, while most of the villains are un-armored, Especially the Apostles and the God Hand.
- Doctor Doom, a Tin Tyrant, is the main adversary of the Fantastic Four, who are all armorless.
- Spider-Man, pretty much an archetypal skintight-suit superhero, periodically though not invariably goes up against armored opponents of various kinds, such as the Rhino or assorted Spider-Slayer robots.
- Back when the Silver Age Lex Luthor was sometimes inclined to try brawling with Superman in person, he had a fancy armored warsuit, and he has kept said suit for any battles ever since. Superman, the original Flying Brick, of course, had no need for such toys.
- The X-Men aren't big believers in armor, excepting those who come with it naturally through their power set, but they've faced a lot of armored enemies over the years.
- Apocalypse wears alien Powered Armor, although given his power set it's probably the least dangerous thing about him. His "heir" Stryfe, his son Holocaust/Nemesis/whatever-it-is-this-week, and anyone who takes over Apocalypse's role like Archangel or Age of Apocalypse Wolverine all wear armor as well. And for pretty much all of them it's more for intimidation than any practical purpose.
- Magneto for much of his history wore a costume of red chainmail along with his trademark helmet. Light, but just enough to keep Wolverine from gutting him on a few occasions.
- The Right, a hate group, attacked X-Factor and their associates with creepy Powered Armor that had evil smiley faces painted on.
- Iron Man inverts this at time especially with foes like The Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom who don't wear armor.
Films — Animation
- The robot probe sent by Gallaxhar in Monsters vs. Aliens has deflector shields that render it invulnerable to the Army's weapons. The five monsters battle the robot without armor or even weapons. Ginormica puts up a goodly tussle, and Doctor Cockroach is, of course, unkillable.
- Inverted with the armored conscripts that defend Imperial China from the armorless Hun horde in Walt Disney Pictures' Mulan.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars:
- Darth Vader. In addition to evoking the look of a Black Knight against the unarmored farmboy, the armor/life support emphasizes his inhumanity.
- The Rebel Alliance forces tend to have uniforms with with little more than flak armor, compared to the Empire's Stormtroopers who are armored head to toe. Even their pilots are Faceless Mooks.
- Played with in The Last Samurai with the armored samurai vs. the modern Japanese army in western uniforms.
- Inverted in Iron Man 3's final battle, where the eponymous hero, famed for his Powered Armor, fights the Big Bad who wears normal clothes.
- In Journey to the West, after starting the eponymous journey with Tripitaka, Sun Wukong wears nothing but a tunic and a tiger pelt used as a kilt, and being monks neither Pigsy or Sandy carry armor. Most of his opponents will show some impressive armors, helmets and plates, usually described in high detail. Of course, that doesn't help them much.
- A variant in The Stormlight Archive. While both the Alethi protagonists and the Parshendi antagonists have armor, the Parshendi armor is literally a part of their body. The Alethi just wear armor like normal.
- A common trope in artwork depicting Conan the Barbarian, but largely averted in the actual stories and films.
- For most of Daredevil's first season, Matt Murdock/Daredevil wears black Civvie Spandex while the mob boss Wilson Fisk wears suits lined with knife-proof material. Matt eventually manages to save Fisk's armorer, Melvin, from his service and receives a red suit of armor from him.
- In Doctor Who, the Doctor and his companions are always wearing normal Earthly clothing, while monsters like the Daleks and the Cybermen are heavily armored.
- Omnipresent in the first two seasons of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, in which the gladiators (and later rebels) mostly go into combat shirtless against Roman soldiers in laminar armour. In the last season most of the rebels take to wearing looted Roman armour.
- Game of Thrones shows why this is a bad idea in the first season, when the unarmoured Master Swordsman Syrio Forel takes on the villainous Kingsguard Ser Meryn Trant. To quote the Hound: "Your friend's dead, and Meryn Trant's not, because Trant had armour. And a big fucking sword."
Myths & Religion
- The Bible probably holds the Ur-Example: When David was fighting Goliath he refused to wear any armor note and took only his sling and five stones with him. Of course some Artists depict him wearing◊ absolutely nothing.(except maybe a helmet).
- Present in almost every telling of the Robin Hood legend — Robin and his Merry Men wear tunics of lincoln green (or, in more modern adaptations, homespun shirts) while battling the Sheriff's guards, who wear chainmail and helmets. Which are, of course, wholly ineffective.
- Warhammer 40,000: Both Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines use armor, but the CS Ms' is the Obviously Evil kind, decorated with skulls and spikes and sometimes demonically possessed. By contrast, the Imperial Guard has flak armor, referred to in fandom as "T-shirts" to emphasize just how badly the Guard is equipped.
- In God of War we have Kratos, who's almost always wearing a loincloth and sandals against the heavily armored Ares. The third game pit you against two notable armored bosses: Poseidon and Hercules. In both cases you have to smash the armor first.
- In Genji Dawn Of The Samurai there's Yoshitsune versus The Mask Yoritoshi of the Heishi. You can even cleave part of his armor to obtain an ingredient.
- Radiant Historia. Aside from Rosche, the heroes aren't depicted as wearing much armor. Meanwhile, the enemies start with helmeted soldiers and move up to
- In BioShock:
- Jack versus the Big Daddies in BioShock. Jack is wearing a casual sweater, while the Big Daddies don't look human because all you can see is armor. Justified as Jack is the Right Man in the Wrong Place and gains more health thanks to 'Adam', while Big Daddies were designed to survive bullets.
- Inverted in BioShock 2. Subject Delta IS a proto-type Big Daddy, while the splicers are just crazy humans.
- Booker versus almost anything in BioShock Infinite; The Handymen are disabled men now in Mecha-suits, the Firemen are permanently trapped inside their suits of armor, the Motorized Patriots are completely made of metal, and various soldiers have heavy battle armor. Booker, on the other hand, relies completely on an invisible magnetic shield around his body.
- Final Fantasy: Many villains from the series are encased in armor while the heroes are running around in normal clothes (well, for a given value of normal...).
- In Final Fantasy I, Garland, the first boss and Big Bad, is a Tin Tyrant. The heroes (minus the Warrior) are in clothing or robes.
- In Final Fantasy II, Firion and co. wear civilian clothing, and only one of the temporary party members wears armor. The Evil Empire's mooks and The Dragon all wear heavy plate armor.
- Golbez of Final Fantasy IV is a Tin Tyrant, while only two out of the twelve members of the player party are armored (Cecil and Kain). Cecil also loses some armor coverage when he transforms into a Paladin, although he's still clearly a knight.
- Exdeath from Final Fantasy V, in wizard form, wears a pale blue armor with gold trims. The Light Warriors do have several heavy armor jobs, but their Freelancer outfits (which they're liable to fight the final battle in) are just clothes.
- In Final Fantasy XII, the main party are wayward members of La Résistance who spend a good chunk of the game fighting Archadian Judges, powerful warriors armored head-to-toe to enforce the will of the Empire. The main party sticks to normal clothing, which only includes a couple of token armor pieces if any.
- In The Legend of Zelda I Link faces foes dressed only in a tunic and pants, while his armored enemies range from stone statues to ten-foot-tall knights in full plate. Later games would add a thin chain or scale mail shirt under the tunic, and in Twilight Princess he can get a full set of armor that renders him invincible at the cost of constantly draining his rupees.
- In the Castlevania series, heroes rarely wear armor at all, while, among various things, living armors are recurring enemies, in one form or another.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, none of your enemies wear body armor, but the Final Boss does. The protagonist calls him out on being a wuss by wearing body armor and how a real gangbanger doesn't need it. However, the insult can dive into Hypocritical Humor if you make the protagonist wear body armor and this is never pointed out.
- In Strider there's Hiryu and his official rival, Solo. Hiryu wears a simple ninja outfit and relies entirely on melee weapons/skills whereas Solo appears decked in several types of Powered Armor that lets him fly and shoot missiles around.
- Inverted in Metroid, where Samus is clad head-to-toe in Powered Armor, fighting for the most part dangeorus alien lifeforms with nothing but their own bodies as weapons.
- Played with in Dragon Age.
- Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins is a major villain who wear armor all the time and some of the player's party members(as well as the player themself) are unarmored with Liliana starting out unarmored when facing a bunch of Loghains's men and is one of the most noble hearted characters, but gets inverted with the Archdemon with his lack of armor and being the villain and Alistair being a heroic member of the party in armor.
- Dragon Age II inverts this with the Arishok as a major antagonist without armor
- The Urpneys from The Dreamstone wear metal armor and helmets (they also wear swords on their belts that are never used in combat). The Noops Rufus and Amberley are completely unarmed children (though Rufus has a similarly underutilized sword in the first season) and the magic-powered Wuts are completely naked. Both of the latter groups suffer much less to slapstick injuries than the Urpneys despite their armor.
- Ben 10 versus the Forever Knights. Ben transforms into different aliens, but none of them really have armor. Gwen and Kevin count in the sequels. Kind of.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ninja Turtles only have shells, and many of their allies are completely unarmored, but Shredder is heavily armored. Especially so in his 2003 incarnation, where he is clad from head to toe in armor.
- In Regular Show, season 4 "A Bunch of Full Grown Geese", when the baby ducks fuse together to become a giant duck man to fight a bunch of geese who also fuse together to become a giant goose man, the geese giant has armor and the duck giant is unarmored. It's subverted when the duck giant is losing and he has Mordecai and Rigby summon Powered Armor for them to fight and they succeed.
- The Fire Nation Mooks (as well as Admiral Zhao and Zuko, but only during the first season) in Avatar: The Last Airbender wear body armor, in contrast to the heroes who dress in travelling clothes and monk's robes. Azula, being a Lightning Bruiser skits the line by wearing lightweight armor that could be mistaken for a regal outfit. But this trope is directly averted by the series Big Bad Ozai, who spends his final battle against Aang shirtless.
- In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, both the Equalists and the Earth Empire mooks (as well as their leaders, Amon and Kuvira, respectively) both wear conspicuous armors: industrial combat suits for the former and fascist-inspired armored uniforms for the latter (mooks from both wear even Darth Vader masks). While Korra and the rest of the protagonists and their allies rarely use armour at all, the exception being metalbenders like Lin. Inverted with the Red Lotus, who are armourless anarchists contrasted in later episodes against the armored but heroic Zaofu military, and averted at all by Unalaq and his troops, that don't bear any armor whatsoever.