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Clothes Make the Maniac
"Kleider machen Leute."
A German Proverb

The hero character gets some sort of apparel or accessory that seems to be great and useful, but it's really unstable, or sentient, evil (or at least mischievous in the way Muggles would consider evil).

In the case of a sentient, evil item, it often seeks to turn the hero to its own ends. Toward this goal, it begins manipulating the hero's mind. He becomes less sunny and more grim. He becomes less playful and more violent. Eventually the suit and or its wearer begin referring to themselves as "we".

In the case of unstable or dangerous items, various effects from Applied Phlebotinum can cause the same problems to happen as if it were a truly evil thing affecting its wearer.

At that point, the hero may very well realize there's a problem. Or the damage is done, and the hero's tipped over, and will have to be forcibly separated from his new item. In any case, whether the hero's willing or unwilling, don't expect removing it to be easy.

It needn't always be an article of clothing. It could be a gem or jewelry. In fact, they are often the worst offenders; they are ensorceled to whisper seductively to a prospective wearer, the better to get into position to take over the victim.

This trope has a fine lineage, sharing relations to Mask of Power, Artifact of Doom, Enemy Without, Evil Costume Switch, Evil Feels Good, Clothes Make the Superman, The Hat Makes the Man, Evil Makeover, and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. The difference is that the person who ends up the maniac in question started out a good guy and had no idea that the article of clothing would drive them evil/insane. Super Trope to Evil Mask. Compare Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Millennium Ring in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • The mask that turns its wearer into a host of Darkness in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
  • Kill la Kill's Junketsu zigzags this. It usually designates the antagonist at any time, up until Iori re-purposes it by infusing it with Senketsu's life fibers.
  • The title artefact in Sword of the Reanimator by Junji Ito.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man's black costume is sentient and aggressive, if not outright evil. It used to take his body walking and swinging around while he was unconscious, and its aggression in turn made Peter aggressive and darker. For that matter, this is true of most the spider-suit type symbiotes from the Marvel Universe. Venom is kind of an Anti-Hero, but the majority of symbiotes seem to generally bend toward what readers would consider evil.
    • Toxin and Hybrid are good, as well as Scream, apparently.
      • Toxin had to be taught to be good.
      • Toxin is FIVE. Hybrid on the other hand had to stop his wearer from killing a few times.
    • Blaming the suit was a Retcon. After fans demanded the old red-and-blue suit back, the writers decided to use it as a means of creating a new villain. There was also the fact that Peter basically tried to kill an alien just because it attached itself to him and some writers felt that was a bit too cruel. As the stories originally played out, Spider-Man was as jovial as he always was while wearing the black costume and in fact wore a handmade version briefly before going back to the red-and-blues. That costume still comes back from time to time.
    • This doesn't even account for the symbiote switching hosts to the son of a crime boss who auctioned it for his son, and then dissolved from around said son midway through a leap between buildings because he wasn't, well, venomous enough (he retained his normal personality, with the symbiote eventually giving up on grooming him into the next Venom). The symbiote then found its way to Mac Gargan (who was previously The Scorpion). When the symbiote re-encountered Eddie Brock and tried to bond with him again, Brock secreted his own, unknown symbiote that has a negative color scheme to Venom (Venom is black with a white spider and patches on hands, this new symbiote is white with a black spider), and called himself... wait for it... Anti-Venom. He's still semi-nuts.
      • Although Anti-Venom is a very appropriate name for the new Eddie Brock, as not only does it possess healing powers, it has the power to dissolve and destroy the Venom symbiote.
    • Spider-Girl muddied the waters by bringing back the Venom symbiote as evil and later having it go through a Heel-Face Turn, bonding momentarily with Spider-Girl and saving her life. Her father was highly dismayed by this, but as she said of the symbiote as it was executing a Heroic Sacrifice - "She's grown. Matured. Evolved. She's an alien being who never wanted to come here. A symbiote creature whose first host rejected her - filling her with hate and resentment. Her second host twisted and used her. She became a vicious monster - until Normie Osborn welcomed her into his life. He taught her about friendship ... love ... and maybe even redemption." The symbiote in and of itself originally exhausted its host, but the "making the host evil" part started with Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
    • When it comes to things like that, it's best remembered that the Spider-Girl series is based on the main Marvel universe... at the time the series began. The Marvel Comics 2 universe and the main universe tend to stay out of each other's way after that.
    • The upcoming Carnage miniseries (which brings the return of the psychotic symbiote with a new host), seems to imply that the symbiotes aren't naturally evil. The writer describes the symbiote as a kid being raised by a psycho (its first host Cletus Kasady), saying that had its first host had been some one not Ax-Crazy, the symbiote probably would have been good (see Toxin for example). They also explain that the Venom symbiote was already an Adult when it bonded with Peter, which is why it's more sadistic. This flies in the face of the Planet of the Symbiotes miniseries during The Clone Saga. It also forgets about the fact that Carnage's original symbiote was destroyed years ago and the last one he wore was from the Negative Zone.
  • The Mask removed all social inhibitions while granting huge power. In the comics, it was responsible for several murder sprees.
  • Iron Man occasionally lent his armor to James Rhodes or Kevin O'Brien, only to have them turn violent and unstable when it is worn too long because the armor's neural-interface controls were only calibrated for Tony Stark's brainwaves. Obviously, Stark has properly adjusted Rhodes' War Machine armor for him to wear safely.

    Film 
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • In Spider-Man 2, Otto Octavius becomes Doctor Octopus as a direct result of the failsafe burning out that was supposed to protect him from the influence of his sentient waldoes.
    • In Spider-Man 3, the black suit issue rears its ugly head again, compelling Peter to uninhibited aggression. It's not quite revealed just how much it effects Eddie Brock's mind when it later bonds with him as well, as the theme of mutual revenge is retained.
  • The title artifact in The Mask and Son of the Mask is a partial subversion. It is an item of Loki, god of mischief. So when it takes over the gentle dreamer Stanley Ipkiss, it boosts his confidence and turns him into a mostly-harmless cartoon maniac, who indulges in one act of implied horrifying violence. Dorian, however, is bitter and violent, and the Mask only magnifies those bad traits to worse.
  • The evil hat, Doris, from Meet the Robinsons could take over its wearers and produce similar effects.

    Literature 
  • Most of the rings in Lord of the Rings, The One Ring being the most focused on, but most pronounced in the Nine; they turned their owners, once proud kings, into evil ghostly death knights.
    • The Seven Rings were meant to do the same to the Dwarves. Unfortunately for Sauron, while the Rings did magnify their greed and some other negative emotions, they did not prolong the lives of the Dwarves, nor did they turn the Dwarves into wraiths as the Nine Rings did to the humans. So Sauron sought to take the Seven Rings back; he managed to get three, while the other four were destroyed by dragons.
    • Averted with the Three Rings of the Elves; these Rings were never touched by Sauron, and were wielded by immortal beings who were not subject to the "unduly prolonged life" effect that the Great Rings all had. The Three were still subject to The One Ring if a sufficiently powerful being gained possession of it, however.
  • The locket Horcrux in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • The Haunted Masks in the Goosebumps series.
  • The Archchancellor's Hat in the Discworld book Sourcery. Played with in that the wizards weren't really on the bad side, just one of two sides wreaking havoc equally, and that the person who got the hat was already a scheming Evil Chancellor and probably couldn't have gotten worse. But still, the hat has a mind of its own, and not a nice one.
  • The amulet version turns up in Stephen King's book Needful things.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Clark has stumbled upon jewelry made of red kryptonite at least three times on Smallville, usually to the detriment of his personality.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids the Series had the Thinky-Ring, which turned the wearer into a psychic vampire that grows smarter by draining the intelligence of other people, not to mention addictingly evil. Wayne's wife went so far as to call the ring her "precious," a reference to The Lord of the Rings (the novel; This was years before the movie version), and when his son wore it he dressed up in a black robe and used a growth ray to enlarge his cranium.
  • Linda's magic hat from the Round the Twist episode "Copy Cat".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 brings us suits of armor corrupted or even possessed by daemons, with... predictable... results for anyone who dons them.
  • Some artifacts in Dungeons & Dragons have a tendency to do this. But then again, what were you expecting from an artifact that requires you to gouge out your own eye (or chop off your own hand) in order to use it?
    • This can be true of any intelligent magic item (and pretty much any item can be intelligent). Each such item has a Character Alignment of its own as well as an "Ego Score" measuring how strong its personality is. An evil item with a high Ego Score is this trope waiting to happen; if wielded by someone it disagrees with it can refuse to work, or attempt to control the user. Of course, it can also be reversed; a good-aligned item might attempt to control an evil user as well.
  • Exalted has a sort of demon called a Perronelle, an amorphous creature that can be worn as a suit of flexible, lightweight, durable armor...if you don't mind it whispering incitements to blasphemy and Yozi-worship in your ear while you sleep.

    Video Games 
  • In Warcraft III, Frostmourne, a magic sword, has an effect on Arthas not unlike the effect that The One Ring has on Frodo, Gollum, etc. In fact, Arthas's whole story can be seen as a reverse of King Arthur's, just as Lord of the Rings is more generally a reverse of The Golden Fleece or The Holy Grail. Right down to the fact that rather than having to PULL the sword from the stone like Arthur does, Arthas basically asks the sword to come out of the ice.
    • Though Arthas had leapt off the slippery slope long before he actually takes up the sword. He goes from leaping to... uh... skiing(?) down the slippery slope once he's got it. Then he ran out of slope and started digging himself in even deeper.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • See the Spider-Man entry under Comic Books. Every version of a Spidey Animated Series after the 80s has done a variation on the black suit saga.
  • Jenny's "human skin" on My Life as a Teenage Robot was fixated on being normal and beautiful and refused to let Jenny use her robot powers to save people when the situation warranted.
  • A police officer on Superman: The Animated Series is a milder example. He was given a combat suit to use that ended up addicting him. He shaved his head, the better to interface with it, began referring to himself as "we" and got violent when separated from the suit or thwarted from using it. It also made him territorial to the point of being willing to beat up on Superman.
  • Cash on Ben 10: Alien Force ended up with one, in the form of a cybernetic robot glove that could build itself a new body and compel its wearer to mindless violence.
  • The mother of Manny Rivera is recovering from an addiction to a pair of gloves she wore as the superheroine Plata Peligrosa, that turned her into an action junkie.
  • In Danny Phantom, there was a cursed necklace that turned its wearer into a raging dragon —literally—when the wearer became upset.
  • The invisibility suit used by an already slightly unbalanced man in one episode of Batman: The Animated Series became toxic when it was activated and apparently drove him completely over the edge into complete psychopathy.
  • Fang of Dave the Barbarian once acquired some lederhosen that gave her super-strength, but turned her evil. From this, and her rescue from them, she learned the valuable lesson that Dave has really tender eyebrows.
  • In The New Adventures of Superman episode "The Wisp Of Wickedness", a possessed hat causes anyone who dons it to commit evil acts.
  • Used in one of the Halloween episodes of The Simpsons. Homer receives a toupee made from the hair of executed criminal Snake, and it forces him to seek revenge on those who helped put in him jail. Specifically, on Bart.
    • Now now, he did kill a couple others too, Bart just proved to be harder to murder. Just ask Sideshow Bob!
  • In an episode of TMNT: Back to the Sewers, an antiques store owner hastily gives Casey Jones the evil Ring of Yin to keep it out of the hands of the Purple Dragons. Not knowing what it is, Casey gives it to April as an engagement ring. It rather quickly possesses her and turns her into a powerful, monster-summoning demon. Casey, being the one who put it on her, is magically bound to be the only one capable of removing it. No small task, as by the time he is told this April had grown to epic size and was flying over the city.
  • Gargoyles features the Eye of Odin, a necklace that turns its wearer into a living embodiment of their darkest impulses. Even in human form, they are incredibly reluctant to relinquish it.
  • Inverted, sort of, in the Invader Zim Christmas episode, where the already-evil Zim makes a robotic Santa suit that takes him over to make him jolly and Santa-ish. Played Straight later when the suit goes crazy and turns into a psychotic monster; it flies off into space and apparently terrorizes the Earth every Christmas one million years in the future.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, the Living Laser and Madame Masque both slowly went insane and became terminally ill as a result of the unstable ore in the Howard Stark inventions they used to give them powers.
  • Adventure Time: The Ice King's Crown. Centuries prior, Simon Petrikov, an collector of ancient artifacts, purchased the crown for his collection, and put it on momentarily as a joke when showing it to his fiancee. However, the crown's power never left him; although it granted him immortality and amazing power over ice and snow, it slowly drove him insane, transforming him into the Ice King.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Bugs' Bonnets", in setting up its The Hat Makes the Man premise, invokes this by putting a meek suit-wearing everyman in a pirate outfit, with this result:
    Man: (waving sword and flintlock) Batten down the keelhaul! Kill the women and children first! Blood!! Gore!! Hang 'em from the mizzenmast!!! (stands there panting with a crazed grin until costume is removed)


Armored Villains Unarmored HeroesVillainous Fashion SenseDress-Coded for Your Convenience
Clothes Make the LegendCostume TropesClothes Make the Superman
Cabin FeverMadness TropesDamaged Soul
Clasp Your Hands If You DeceiveEvil TropesComplete Monster
Clock RoachesJust for PunClothes Make the Superman

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