To show that a character is in such dire financial straits that he's literally "lost his shirt" (though there are times where a character has to wear a barrel because he or she lost her clothes, not because he or she is poor) the otherwise naked character will resort to wearing a large barrel◊
held up with suspenders. Primarily seen in cartoons. This image probably came from a punishment for public drunkenness in Germany and England, where drunks had to wear a booze barrel. It's unclear how barrel wearing became associated with bankruptcy,note
but the trope stuck.
of Stock Costume Traits
Compare Improvised Clothes
. May overlap with Barefoot Poverty
. Contrast Conspicuous Consumption
open/close all folders
- Brainy Smurf wears one in The Gambler Smurfs after losing everything at gambling (even his glasses).
- In Carl Barks' "Statuesque Spendthrifts", Uncle Scrooge competes with maharaja of Howdoyoustan about who can raise the biggest statue of Cornelius Coot, which to the latter ends with this trope.
- In the album "De fez van Fes" of the Belgium comic book series De Kiekeboes, we twice see a man in a barrel; one is walking out of a tax office and the other out of a casino.
- In the Lucky Luke book The Daltons Escape, Luke runs into a man in such attire. The man explains that he was transporting a tequila barrel on donkeyback and the Dalton robbed him of everything, including the tequila (which they drank) and the donkey (which they ate).
- Jose Carioca (or Ze Carioca) once became invisible in order to manipulate a soccer game so he'd win the lottery. (There's one lottery in Brazil where people bet in the results of a series of soccer games) Because his clothes didn't become invisible, he took them off and went to the field. The invisibility potion wore off while he was at the field. Wearing nothing but a barrel, Zé was seeking revenge against the witch who sold him the potion and the guardian devil who goaded him into seeking her help.
- The page image for Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen shows Captain Marvel in one, which really raises more questions than it answers.
Live Action TV
- Although no one wears it, there is the barrel in the neighbourhood of El Chavo del ocho where the titular Chavo seems to reside. Quico did once, because Don Ramón was wearing Quico's clothes.
- Quentin on Welcher And Welcher expressed disapproval at the fact that this wasn't seen anymore, describing it as a very funny image.
- Mentioned in an episode of Seinfeld. Elaine finds out the man she's dating is poor, and Jerry asks, "Does he wear the barrel with the straps?"
- Saturday Night Live (which can be like a living cartoon at times) had this on a Weekend Update segment where Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld (played by Jason Sudeikis) comes out wearing a barrel because his company was the first to go under because of the 2008 economic crisis. Lampshaded when Fuld explains that he can't sit down because he's wearing a barrel.
- Ross and Moose end up wearing these during the You Cant Do That On Television episode about theft, when their clothes (and most of the set) have been stolen. Moose's has still has water, and a rubber duck, in it.
- A part of Brazilian game show named Topa Tudo por Dinheiro ("Agree to Everything for Money") consisted of an employee making an unusual proposition to a random person and the contestant had to guess if the random person would accept for less than a certain amount of money; for that amount or more; or not accept at all. At least one occasion had the random person was offered to exchange his/her pants for a barrel and some cash.
- Horrible Histories's version of Diogenes, much like the Real Life one, lives naked and penniless in a barrel.
- Appeared in one short Dilbert arc. "Our new dress code is barrels." The impracticalities of wearing a giant stiff tube of wood are explored for comedy such as them sliding up when sitting down.
- Long ago, Popeye managed to beat the Sea Hag at gambling so badly she ended up wearing one of these.
- Hägar the Horrible's looting sometimes results in the castle owners wearing barrels.
- An old Donald Duck daily strip contained a "lost clothes" example. In the first panel, one of Donald's nephews is shown coming home from school wearing a small barrel and looking embarrassed. The remaining panels show Donald going to the school with a ladder and retrieving the nephew's gym shorts from the top of a pole vault bar.
- There was a fairly popular early 1990s Dungeons & Dragons supplement called The Book of Marvelous Magic, which contained a cursed item called a Barrel of Poverty. The first person to look inside of it would have all of his personal items, including all clothing, weapons, armor and even spell components, magically transported back to his home, wherever that was. The Barrel would then become non-magical, but would grow straps to allow the now naked adventurer to wear it to avoid embarrassment and because it was slightly better than no armor at all.
- In Sierra's Jones In The Fast Lane, failing to buy new clothes for one of your character every once in a while will eventually cause the character to resort to wearing a barrel. Others walk around using censor bars.
- Also in a Sierra game, the first Leisure Suit Larry featured a broke guy with just a barrel and an apple he'll sell for 10 bucks. You'll need to buy it. (The guy in question is implied to be Apple's Steve Wozniak).
- There is a gambler in Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy who lost all his winnings. For some orbs to get him back on his feet he'll hand over your Plot Coupons. Mild degrees of discomfort can result when he hands you the coupon he's keeping inside the barrel.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants: Legend of the Lost Spatula for the Game Boy Color includes a mission where SpongeBob [the player] has to help Patrick find his lost shorts. Patrick is seen wearing a pink barrel and looking very sad.
- One of the sponsors for the Wrong Answer of the Game in the 2011 release of You Don't Know Jack is "Fashion Barrel", a chain of stores that sells wearable barrels.
- The main character in the freeware game Nonsense Madness wears a barrel, for no other reason than to amplify the nonsense.
- This is one of your first equipment sets in Half-Minute Hero, reflecting how your character is being fleeced for all his money by his hyper-capitalistic Goddess. Other characters remark it makes him look poor.
Truth In Television
- The philosopher Diogenes embraced a life of virtuous poverty and lived in an urn. Probably as close as this trope has ever come to happening, even if Diogenes' urn was too large and heavy to be worn.
- Though not really broke, Barrel Man (real name Tim McKernan) used to wear nothing but an orange-painted barrel to every Denver Broncos home game for 30 years until his death in December 2009.
- As mentioned in the lead section, wearing a barrel was a common punishment for public drunkenness in medieval and early modern Germany and England. Since the rich tended to get sloshed in private, the poor were generally the ones arrested for public drunkenness.