"Just then, a bank robber ran by. Sparky knew he was a bank robber because he was wearing what bank robbers always wear: a mask, a striped shirt, and shoes that were good for running."
A burglar so committed to his job that his clothes scream "ARREST ME NOW."
The type of clothing a Blatant Burglar
wears varies by work and sometimes by region:
- In the UK, France, and certain older works, the mandatory dress code is a Domino Mask, a black and white striped shirt, a flatcap, and a Thief Bag (often marked "Swag" for extra honesty) slung over the shoulder. Note that the black and white stripes are trademark old prisoner dress, implying one is dressing like one has already been caught and jailed.
- Striped shirts are also the old uniform of French sailors. It's said that the association with crime came because ships sometimes stranded a bunch of sailors on the wrong side of the Channel to avoid paying them off. The domino mask was originally the disguise of The Highwayman, where it made sense - riders usually wore greatcoats and hats that all looked alike, so just hiding their faces was enough.
- An even older variation is to give them a prison uniform covered in arrows (which is still popular with certain children's comics).
- In North America, expect to see black clothes and either a ski mask or a tuque/beanie. Gloves, a heavy coat and a crowbar are optional, but there's always a ski mask or a beanie. This is perceived as being more "realistic", since it actually covers the face. Pantyhose is also common.
- Bandits of old Westerns tend to tie a kerchief so it covers their face from the bridge of the nose down, kind of a homemade balaclava. Of course, this didn't look particularly burglar-ish in Real Life — in areas with a lot of dust and wind, everybody wore their kerchiefs like that on especially bad days.
- Japan has Stealth Clothes, where people trying to be stealthy tie handkerchiefs under their nose. They also have ninjas who dress like ninjas, so others will know they are, indeed, ninjas.
According to The Other Wiki
, the striped-shirt burglar originated in the 1888 book Burglar Bill
. Another theory is that the disruptive striped pattern enabled the wearer to hide themselves in the tall grasses of the savannah.
Subtrope of Malevolent Masked Men
and Stock Costume Traits
. Highly-Visible Ninja
, Institutional Apparel
, Conspicuous Trenchcoat
, and Highly Conspicuous Uniform
are related tropes. Mostly a Dead Horse Trope
, if it was ever taken seriously
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- The Hamburgler from McDonaldland wears a variation on the striped-shirt outfit..
- A commercial from Canada involves a man coming out of a store and putting on his ski mask because it's so cold, then being promptly arrested by cops who confused him for an actual thief.
- A recent Volkswagen commercial for the New Beetle convertible has a variation: A man wearing a black ski mask walks into a convience store, take an armful of snacks, pay for them, then leave, then be told by his friends - also wearing ski masks - in their (top down) New Beetle convertible that he left his mask on. He tells his friends they should probably go.
- The Cookie Crook and Chip, previous mascots for Cookie Crisp cereal.
- A Travelers Insurance commercial shows a dog reading a newspaper headline "CAT BURGLAR STRIKES AGAIN", and imagining a cat in a domino mask sneaking into his doghouse.
- A Vonage ad shows a couple complaining about how their phone company's fees are robbing them blind, while a bunch of black-clad and domino-masked thieves carry off their possessions.
Anime and Manga
- The Beagle Boys from Disney wear their prison numbers all the time. There is also a running joke about how they never take off their Domino Masks. The Beagle Boys don't even have actual names, they're only known by their prison numbers. They wear red shirts, though, not the typical white and black striped prison uniform, although they do have the flatcaps.
- Both Marvel Comics and DC Comics have similar characters: Black Cat and Catwoman. Both characters are cat-based burglars or were at some point. While they wear dark colors, they also stand out in that they are dressed in cat-costumes. The Black Cat, as well as older versions of Catwoman, actually wear domino masks, standard Blatant Burglar gear.
- Asterix in Britain features an unnamed thief wearing a domino mask◊. In a setting supposed to be ancient Celtic England.
- Manitas in "Zipi y Zape" wears always his Domino Mask and Thief Bag.
- The movie Fantastic Mr. Fox has a Running Gag of Mr. Fox and his companions infiltrating the farms in "bandit hats". (He bought them for 40% off from a newspaper ad at the beginning of the movie.)
- In Half Baked, Scarface was caught in one of these...and tried to pass himself off as a mime. If it wasn't for the fact he was caught red handed, it might have worked. Scarface was wearing all black with a black stocking cap and white face makeup with black around his eye.
- In one of Ralphie's daydream sequences in A Christmas Story, he uses a BB gun to defend his backyard from a group of burglars dressed in striped shirts, masks, and fingerless gloves, while dressed in a ridiculous singing cowboy outfit.
- In the original Sleuth, as the two men plan a staged burglary, one proposes an archetypal outfit, complete with a bag marked "Swag". The other shoots down the idea.
- As mentioned in the description, the classic kids' book called Burglar Bill, in which both Burglar Bill and Burglar Betty dress as per the UK standard issue Blatant Burglar. So does their eventual Burglar Baby.
- Justified in Discworld: Official burglars are obliged by Thieves' Guild regulations to wear the full UK outfit, but official burglary is legal, due to the peculiar status of the Guild. So if someone breaks into your house and isn't dressed as a burglar, you can assume they're unlicenced, and therefore criminals.
- Assassins have the same deal with the Assassins' Guild. They have to wear all black (like a stereotypical ninja outfit), even when it makes them easier to see.
- Moist von Lipwig is careful to avoid this trope. Of course, he is pretty much the best confidence trickster ever.
Being caught in a bank vault at three o'clock in the morning wearing a suit with lots of little pockets and a sack marked 'swag' could be considered suspicious, so why do it? With the right suit, the right papers, the right preparations, and above all the right attitude, you could walk in at midday and the manager would hold the door open for you when you left.
- Referenced in a children's book involving a kid with a crystal that lets him read minds. He 'overhears' someone planning to rob a friend's house, but has no idea how to present the information. He tries leaving her an anonymous warning, but she sees through it, phones him, and sarcastically asks if the burglar-to-be was dressed like this trope when he tries to explain how he knows.
Live Action TV
- An episode of Trigger Happy TV featured a man dressed in full-burglar-get-up asking people on the street for a boost over a wall, since, he claimed, he'd locked himself outside.
- Or making casual conversation with people on the street of a wealthy residential neighborhood, asking about property values, back yards, alarms, and who might currently be on vacation.
- The best variation of that sketch was when he called out to someone from the second floor window to please hold the ladder for him as he climbed down. Of course, as he exits, the person can suddenly see that he is dressed as a burglar and carrying a bag marked "swag". To top it all off, he then ran off down the street shouting about how he and "that guy" just burgled the house.
- When Stuart and Paul from Spin City were ordered to break into Mike's ex-girlfriend's apartment to recover the semen she held hostage (long story), Stuart wore his usual clothes, while Paul dressed in the closest to a black jumpsuit he could find.
Paul: Which one of us do you think the police are gonna notice, huh?
Stuart: My money is on the guy looking like Catwoman on steroids.
- Tim's ancestors in The Goodies episode "Alternative Roots" are a clan of sheep rustlers who all dress like this. A striped shirt and Domino Mask are on the Brooke-Taylor coat of arms, along with a dead sheep and a noose.
- Discussed in the Target Women segment 'Broadview Security': "Your assailants aren't just Joe Burglar from Look-like-a-Caucasian-Burglar University." Cue shots from the commercials of various black hoodie/tuque-wearing men scowling at the camera.
- Monty Python uses the standard UK burglar costume on occasion, like the man holding up a lingerie shop, or the burglar on a Druidic sacrificial altar where the police employ magic.
- On Justified Dewey Crowe plans to rob some criminals who stole a large amount of drugs from the mob. He is missing a ski mask for his disguise so he goes shopping for one. It's summer so none of the stores have any in stock and Dewey loudly complains about the fact to the manager. The manager is about to call the police about this suspicious customer when Dewey has an uncharacteristic bright idea and instead buys a cowboy hat and cheap suit. This way he can commit the robbery disguised as a US Marshall.
- Burn Notice, subverts and lampshades this when he broke into someone's house in the pilot. He stated it is better to pretend that you just entered the wrong house if you are going to rob it because that way you can just play dumb if you are caught. If you look like a burglar you are screwed.
- James May's Man Lab: James harnesses the power of the UK version of the trope, complete with stripey shirt, to sneak around town and test out the experimental cat-cams. He actually wants to be obvious, so people don't mistake him for a real burglar and "beat him to death with pick-axe handles."
- In an episode of NewsRadio where Dave is explaining how the new security door works with a series of visual aids, Matthew points to the drawing of a cartoon burglar and says "I've seen that guy around!"
- There's a callback to this in the episode where everyone has a different story for why Catherine left. Instead of explaining why she left, Matthew explains how the coffee pot broke, which involves a sneaky man dressed as a cartoon burglar.
- One of the Little Britain radio shows dealt with a burglar getting criticized by his retired burglar-father for NOT looking like a Blatant Burglar (example: "Burglars do not wear tracksuits! And where's your big bag marked 'Swag'?").
- The burglars in The Sims have striped shirts. And if your Sim chooses the "crime" career track, he will change into the burglar outfit before going to work!
- To specify: a black ski-cap, though not one pulled down over the face, a black mask covering their eyes, a black-and-white striped shirt, and black pants. In The Sims 2, Sims whose homes are robbed will automatically "meet" the burglar, meaning they can call them up on the phone and eventually befriend or date them. In The Sims 3, this is still possible with the added chance of running into someone around town dressed like this, say, reading a book in the park.
- The thief class from the later Disgaea games wear this, but brightly coloured and converted into a catgirl costume (swag bag, striped thigh high socks, comically large cat gloves, and goggles, instead of a mask, on the forehead).
- Sly Cooper wears a dark blue variation on the flatcap-and-prison-shirt motif, with a black domino mask, in spite of the fact that he's a raccoon character whose markings look like that anyway. The outfit is basically just another way of saying, "I'm so good at what I do, I can advertise what I am and still get away with it."
- Lampshaded in Katamari Damacy's sequel, We Love Katamari. The description for "Burglar" in the collection of items you have rolled up is "He wants to be stealthy, but he looks so obvious."
- The Burglar trainers in Pokémon Red and Blue, Pokémon Gold and Silver and remakes.
- The spy's balaclava in Team Fortress 2, though in this case a stealth character in general vs a burglar, unless you're stealing the intel of course.
- The Beagle Boys from DuckTales.
- Swiper the Fox of Dora the Explorer is clearly a burglar because of his name and the fact that he always wears a mask.
- When his clothes and sword were stolen, Samurai Jack gave chase and ended up in a peculiar land. He ran into one of these types of crooks, and had to borrow his clothes (mask included... seriously, Jack, this didn't tip you off to anything?). Only later does he find out his mistake, as he'd usurped clothes from a cat burglar.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Dash was discharged from a hospital before being able to finish reading a very good book, so the obvious solution appeared to be breaking into the hospital and stealing it back. But what sort of attire would be appropriate for this hair-raising heist? Apparently Rainbow Dash thought a full-body stealth suit, complete with hood, was the best option.
- Repeated by Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie later when they try to break into the Canterlot Archives. Twilight is suffering Sanity Slippage so forgets she is completely authorized to be there anyway, and Pinkie Pie is just along for the ride. Perhaps justified, as both instances happened at night so the black would be suitable and covered their brightly coloured coats and manes (though still leaving their tails out).