How people dress says a lot about them, even when they don't dress to make a statement. So when Alice walks in wearing all black, chains, Spikes of Villainy, and sundry other signs of violence and villainy, Bob can assume they mean meanness.
Except, once Bob actually sits down and talks to Alice, he realizes she is possibly the nicest person he could hope to meet, be she a calm, friendly "Hells Angel", or an Evil Overlord offering cookies, not to mention the entire Perky Goth trope. Alice may wear Freaky Fashion, but she has a Mild Mind.
The cause can vary. The most common comes from the Aesop not to judge a book by its cover. Bob may have been wildly misinformed as to how Alice's group acts and is like, leading to a bad stereotype. Another possibility is that the group is very diverse, and the bad apples give the rest a bad name. Lastly, Alice may be a Defector from Decadence, or dresses tough to present a tough exterior, or simply likes the fashion statement without understanding what it means. In this last case, expect rank and file members of the group (who are as mean as they look) to give her grief over it.
AntonymtoAstonishingly Appropriate Appearance.
See also Perky Goth, Killer Rabbit, and Scary Musician, Harmless Music. Compare Was Actually Friendly, Erudite Stoner (who also have more insight than they let on) and Affably Evil (characters who appear completely sensible and level-headed, but are actually quite twisted and disturbed). Contrast with Clothes Make the Maniac.
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An English ad for sherry shows a girl introducing her extremely punk boyfriend to her traditional father. When she comes back from changing, they're sipping the sherry and chatting happily.
One ad for the Real Yellowpages featured a mohawked, tattoo-and-piercing encrusted punker sitting around his apartment, obviously bored. Not finding anything to do around the house, he picks up the yellow pages and starts leafing through it. Cut to the punk sitting at a table, happily sewing on a quilt, sipping tea, and chatting with a circle of old ladies, all of whom seem happy to have him there.
This seems to be the case, oddly, for Yugi Mutou from Yu-Gi-Oh!, who gets increasingly punky looking as time passes (his tame Superpowered Evil Side has probably been shopping) but actually becomes less dangerous and more reliable. Both halves.
It never actually comes up outside a first-chapter remark from Ushio about cosplay.
And also when Bandit Keith refers to him as a "baby goth" early on in Duelist Kingdom.
Nakanojo, a boy in Nichijou has a natural mohawk that leaves others thinking he's a delinquent (and at least one girl was attracted to him because of it.) However, he's a fairly kind and mild guy whose hobby is attempting to debunk the supernatural.
Similarly, Ichigo of Bleach is often mistaken for a rebel or a delinquent because of his red hair, which is actually natural. This causes Ichigo's teachers to assume he's a troublemaker and give him grief, driving Ichigo to become a model student just to spite them, and is also contrasted with an actual delinquent who dyes his hair and attacks Ichigo for copying his look.
In Ookami-san and Her Seven Companions, Ryoko dresses and acts tough, and if it really came down to it, she could probably kick most people's asses, but she also loves cute dogs and light novels.
Nico Minoru of the Runaways dresses like a goth and has a stereotypically "gothy" power (magic fueled by her own blood), but as the series went on, she increasingly embraced her role as the Team Mom.
One side character in Rat Race is this. While the family in the contest makes a detour to visit the Barbie Museum, their tour guide is dressed from head to toe like a Neo Nazi, while giving a low key and professional tour. In a bit of subversion, he is a Neo Nazi, and "Barbie" was a member of the Gestapo, not the doll.
The two bikers (complete with helmets and heavy metal T-shirts) in Takeshi Kitano's Kikujiro no Natsu are actually the most harmless members of the cast, and are bossed around by Kitano's pathetic Yakuza has-been.
In the 1982 dark comedy Eating Raoul, when Doris the Dominatrix isn't dressed in black leather and ordering worthless male S&M slaves to lick her filthy boots clean, she's a rather mousy but friendly suburban housewife who worries whether her finicky toddler is getting enough vitamins in his baby food.
In his cameo in the movie Wayne's World, Alice Cooper proves to be friendly, soft-spoken and surprisingly knowledgeable of Illinois history. Given the differences between his stage persona and the way he appears in TV interviews, this is pretty much Truth in Television.
Discworld: Igors all have scars/stitches or something else suitably odd (to us), but are generally kind, responsible, and always very capable surgeons. Enough that they will not use, "He has his father's eyes" figuratively.
Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club is dressed in over-the-top, ridiculous outfits, even though she is a normal, if artistic teenager.
The Harper Connelly mysteries have Manfred Bernardo. He shaves his head, has a lot of piercings and likes to dress in head to toe leather. Also, he's friendly, polite and supportive to his grandmother. And he's a touch telepath.
Live Action TV
In Dead Like Me, Daisy once reaped a menacing, huge, bald biker who happened to be very friendly and erudite.
Abby Sciuto from NCIS is a goth, with dyed black hair, a studded choker, spiked wrist bands, and black t-shirts and mini-skirts. She is explicitly stated to sleep in a coffin. She is also arguably the smartest member of the team, perky beyond belief, fiercely loyal to the rest of the team, and the first one they will rush to defend, under any circumstances. Not that they really need to.
Ellie in Degrassi was introduced as a full on goth-punk, but still acted like a normal girl who just happens to dress like a 90's super villain. Her fashion sense tones down to a more mundane style later.
God in Joan of Arcadia frequently showed up in the form of a spiky haired gothic boy who wears full face paint, to give charming and reasonable advice to her.
In Goth Girl by Anthony and Those Other Guys, the main character gets himself into detention just to see this goth girl. Goth girl didn't get detention though.
In the video for "Who I Am" by Nick Jonas and The Administration, one of the characters is a girl dressed up like a stereotypical Goth girl, holding a sign that says "Who I Am". During the scene where all of the characters flip their signs over, she breaks into a smile and reveals her sign: "Honor Student".
Michaela Paige wears very unique outfits to put it mildly and her hair is a multicolored mohawk. However, she's one of the sweetest, kindest, most generous and humble people you'll ever meet. She spends her free time doing stuff like mentoring kids who were victims of bullying and giving to charities. She even said after being eliminated from The Voice that she cares more about inspiring others than her own success.
Used in a Dick Tracy storyline; one of his daughter's classmates is a scary-looking Goth guy, the daughter turns him down for a dance date because she's afraid of him. He's actually a nice, friendly, and law-abiding guy who just happens to be a little too into a certain genre of music.
The UFC tries to hammer this trope home in regards to their fighters in their quest to legitimize the sport. Many fighters are covered in tattoos and wear flashy, punk-inspired haircuts, but behind-the-scenes features will usually attempt to paint the fighters as dedicated family men who are simply earning a living. Management will occasionally even cut a fighter who behaves in a way that breaks this characterization.
In Persona 4, Kanji Tatsumi skips school, dresses in gang-like clothes, and then goes to school in those same clothes when he starts to attend again, and was suspected of bullying and being in a biker gang. In reality, he was fighting the biker gangs for keeping his mother up at night, comes from a textile shop, is interested in sewing, and despite speaking what's on his mind to the point that he frightens a police officer away, is a really nice guy to be friends with.
Nicole from Fallout looks somewhat like a raider, with a punk mohawk, leather clothing, and an eyebrow piercing. She's the founder of the Followers of the Apocalypse, an Actual Pacifist group dedicated to the peaceful spread of knowledge and technology to all people of the wastes, and whose members offer free education, medicine, and scientific expertise to those in need.
Likewise, Julie Farkas from Fallout: New Vegas is the leader of the Followers' branch in Vegas and sports a prominent mohawk as well. She's dedicated to helping the poorer inhabitants of outer Vegas, and is exceedingly kind and well spoken.
Also, Raven. To quote Dora, "Is she too shallow to be concerned with identity issues, or am I too shallow not to be?"
Back before Wapsi Square involved deities and saving the world, one of its storylines featured some cool bikers.
By "cool", they mean mild mannered and friendly, while decked out in leather and tattoos. IIRC, one of them was a dentist.
Clarice from Girls with Slingshots moonlights as a dominatrix and decorates her bedroom with whips and paddles. Her dream career? Librarian. She's also generally the most levelheaded and patient of the main cast, and even helps Candy find safer outlets for her aggression and misandry.
Worm's main character, Taylor, dresses in a black costume made of Black Widow spidersilk and armor plates with yellow lenses for eyes, and later uses her bug control powers to use bugs as a mask. She was assumed to be a villain from her first time out in costume, and many characters find her disturbing, intimidating, and an overall badass (though her actions while in costume certainly help those views along). Seeing things from her point of view, she's bluffing or has practical reasons for such a costume (Black Widow silk is really hard to cut with a knife). She's just an awkward and insecure teenage girl who's had a tough time.
South Park zig-zags this trope for comedic effect or to deliver an Aesop. A few examples:
The character of Big Gay Al is every Camp Gay stereotype amplified to offensive levels, but is one of the few truly positive role models in South Park's Crap Saccharine World. He is even willing to give up Scouting, which he is very passionate about, in order to protect the Boy Scout's First Amendment right of freedom of association (a subset of free speech). He vows to convince the Boy Scouts to accept gays, not to trample their rights with a court order.
Mr. Slave one-ups him by being a blend of Camp Gay, Hard Gay, and a "total whore." He regularly wears outfits that wouldn't look out of place in a fetish club. He's initially shown willing to perform quite perverse acts (involving small furry animals, tubes, and his colon) in front of kids just to help defraud the school district out of money, but later winds up becoming a genuinely "decent" character who occasionally mentors the kids. That doesn't stop him from performing a similarly perverse act involving his bowels, Paris Hilton, and no tube.
Petey the Sexual Harassment Panda insisted he was a panda and never removed his fur suit, yet was the voice of reason in his episode, evening finding a new purpose in life as "Petey the Don't-Sue-People Panda".
Robert Smith of the Cure had a guest appearance as a super hero able to stop Mecha-Streisand. Korn had a guest appearance where they acted like incredibly nice Scooby-Doo expies. They subverted this trope by exchanging their usual style◊ for clean cut track suits.
Inverted in "South Park is Gay," where all the men latch on to the metrosexual craze to become Camp Gay stereotypes aside from remaining heterosexual. The expected Aesop was one of tolerance and not following fads. The actual resolution was that metrosexuality was a way of "wussing down" the human male so crab people could conquer the now "unmanly" human race.
Satan looks like a massive red demon in a loin cloth. In most episodes he's a completely ineffectual Harmless Villain who's gender issues and relationship problems with Saddam Hussein and a very wimpy man named Chris are played for laughs. Saddam was the real evil force behind Hell in the movie. On rare occasions, Satan breaks character and actually does start acting like an evil Big Bad.
Butters tries to do this with his super-villain persona, Professor Chaos, but he's much too nice to possibly be a real villain. Dougie, as General Disarray, is a little more menacing, but not much. Despite this, adults actually react to his harmless schemes as if he really were about to destroy the earth. Kenny and Cartman both take on the role of The Cowl in "The Coon" and the Mysterion Rises three episode miniseries. Kenny acts truly heroically in both, reveling in this trope. Cartman dives straight into evil.
Finally, in "Child Abduction is Not Funny," a group of Mongolian warriors turn out to be benevolent pranksters who care for children and teach good family values. They look like they're ready to help Temujin come back to power.
Is the sky blue? Especially since fashion trends that were considered exclusively "bizarre" in the past have become more mainstream. Many men will shave their head if their hairline begins to recede, and tattoos are frequently used as cover-ups for scars, birthmarks, and older, smaller tattoos the person has grown to regret. That Bald of Evil inked-up guy that looks like a total badass could be a doting father and a total marshmallow in real life.
Billy the Exterminator (and the rest of his family to a lesser extent) looks like a punk/biker/badass-wannabe with his spiky mullet and uniform of black, leather, skulls, and studs but is really a friendly, intelligent guy who is serious about his job, cares about the environment, avoids hurting animals whenever possible, and rarely uses stronger language than "hauling butt" or the occasional "damn".
A United States Secret Service agent (who protected the President) wore a wig on the job because of his punk haircut. He has a number of stories of his and his girlfriend's off duty encounters with people. Let's just say, they never expect him to be a federal agent.
This is more common than one might expect. The Goth and Punk (cyber and regular) cultures have been sliding towards the Middle Class in recent years. And a lot of people who joined the culture when they were young are now working, sometimes in pretty high places. Unsurprisingly, the more serious clubs catering to the culture have instituted limitations on photography.
The Hot Topic chain has some of the friendliest staff at most malls. This tends to surprise parents accompanying their children, as the employees are often heavily pierced and/or have hair colors not found in nature.
This holds true for large part of the Heavy Metal subculture in Europe. They often look like a drunken hordes of bikers, however, very large numbers of them actually come from upper middle-class families, and are students or have university degrees. Though looking intimidating, most of them are actually very kind and well mannered.
The General opinion around those handling event security in Denmark is that Copenhell is one of the most peaceful festivals to be at.
The Israeli Heavy Metal scene includes a fair percentage of Modern Orthodox Jews.
The straight edge movement in the American subculture is a similar group of rule abiding rebels.
Their "bad boys" FSU (Friends Stand United officially, Fuck Shit Up unofficially) are actually classified as a gang. They were formed to beat up white supremacists and Neo-Nazis at hard rock/metal shows. Though the group splintered and some members formed "real" criminal organizations, it's hard not to be a little sympathetic to someone punching a skinhead in the face. Other members went on to found charitable organizations in line with their values.
Many American metal or hard rock bands might dress in all fashions which would shock very conservative folks. Many of these bands music falls straight into Scary Musician, Harmless Music and are listed on that page. The page image perfectly explains this trope: Ozzy Osbourne may have been shocking once upon a time, but his stage persona as the Prince of Darkness is completely contrary to his music and his real-world, nice guy family man persona.
Lady Gaga is one of the most outrageously dressed pop singers around (like if David Bowie and Marilyn Manson somehow gave birth to a female sex god), but in interviews, she seems quite polite and well spoken.
Bowie himself came off this way in some interviews, especially as Ziggy. This interview with Russell Harty has him dressed in a most bizarre manner, but he is actually quite soft-spoken and polite.
Henry Rollins is the muscular, heavily tattooed singer for hardcore punk band Black Flag. He's also an eloquent public speaker, a published poet, and considered to be one of the nicer folks in the music business.
Listen to an interview with the monster-costumed Finnish metal band Lordi sometime. In character, they're ferocious, out of character (but still in costume, they never remove the outfits in public), they're very calm and polite. Awa is supposedly a school teacher in her civilian life, although no one knows their true identities.
Porn star Nicki Hunter specializes in rough, rude femdom videos, but also hosts a show on Playboy Radio, in which she's easygoing and a little boisterous, and outside the adult world, she's very, very nerdy. (Does nudity qualify as a fashion?)
On that note, former infamous porn star Sasha Grey is an erudite, intelligent [[A Telecine musician] and writer. While her Julliette Society is a rather bold erotic novel, it's a few intellectual levels above your usual erotica.
Impending Doom◊ look like a bunch of guys you wouldn't want to run into in a back alley, and their name certainly gives this impression too. But their music is actually Christian metal and, by all accounts, they are extremely kind, down to earth guys.
Gene Simmons may wear spikes and full makeup on stage, but he's actually fairly mild mannered and very intelligent.
The TNA tag team the Motor City Machine Guns dress in a style that Alex Shelley (who often has 50/50 blond/black hair) called cyberpunk-pirate, and yet they're both known for being pretty polite and mellow in reality.
The majority of the Goth crowd is like this, Goth largely being a purely aesthetic movement in nature.
The same could be said of folks in fetish clubs and the like. Most are upstanding individuals as long as one doesn't use circular logic to define them as "deviant" just based on their sexual activities. There is weak evidence that shows a correlation between high intelligence, good character, and being into less conventional behavior, but the jury is still out on that.
Matthias Isecke-Vogelsang, punk and primary school principal (photo).
Bikers. Sure, there are the self-identified 1%'ers, who run in gangs and act like the criminal scum of the Hollywood Biker stock character. Yet for every one of those guys, there are dozens of clubs who join charitable causes such as Bikers Against Drunk Drivers, Pony Express Relay (against breast cancer), Dykes on Bikes who support Gay Pride and LGBT rights causes, and the Perth Biker's Charity Ride (an annual event to support the Salvation Army). There are also religious biker organizations such as the Jewish Motorcyclist's Alliance, who work for Holocaust remembrance and anti-Anti-Semitism causes, and Bikers for Christ, who are dedicated to charitable fundraisers for the disabled and spreading the Gospel of their Christian faith. Finally, there are a lot more simple motorcycle enthusiasts in clubs with no agenda than there are outlaws. Of course, they all dress like, well, bikers.
Generally, the outlaw groups do go out of their way to make themselves recognizable and take their patches and insignia very seriously, so they can usually be identified quickly. If a biker isn't wearing the colors and patches of one of the outlaw groups, he or she probably fits this trope.
In the US, one of the most sympathetic organizations is the Patriot Guard Riders. The organization would escort the funeral processions of deceased American service personnel and maintain a ring around the funeral as the request of the deceased's family. Their main adversary, the Westboro Baptist Church, was infamous for protesting funerals with signs such as "Thank God for IE Ds" and claiming that the deaths of US troops was divine retribution for toleration for homosexuals. Since the PGR limits themselves only to keeping protestors from harassing the family at the actual service, has no stance on the war, only attends if given permission by the family of the deceased, and doesn't care what the protestors do away from the funeral, very few Americans disagree with them. They still dress like bikers everywhere.
Given the cost of owning and maintaining a Harley nowadays, most "Hawg" bikers have to be at least upper middle class just to have something to ride.
During the height of the DC Sniper incident, it was reported that local bikers in the DC-metro area volunteered to form human shield lines outside schools to protect children while they were outside.
There was a journal article in an APA associated journal (sadly forgotten by now - if it can be found please cite) which discussed this phenomenon in terms of the gay rights movement. The author, a homosexual professor of the social sciences, was observing the Gay Pride March in NYC when he saw a family of bewildered tourists from Middle America who were shocked and somewhat offended by the event. For those not in the know, the event certainly includes a lot of public behavior and forms of dress that on most days would be considered shocking. He noticed that the family had a teenage son. The author recounted many feelings at the event, including being glad that so many people accepted the marchers as decent folks despite their open homosexual behavior and extreme fashion. In other words, most straight observers of the parade recognized this trope was in effect. He also recounted wishing that homosexuals were accepted just as homosexuals, with no qualifiers, no undue focus on their sexuality and practices, and no stereotypes. He finally wrote about his thoughts should teenager be gay. How would his coming out to his conservative parents be made more difficult by failure to see this trope? Coming out to conservative parents would be hard enough, but coming out to them if their memory of a LGBT event involved lots of fetish wear would be worse. The author ended up painfully describing the double-bind which traps anyone whose sexuality forms a big part of how society perceives them.
It's a Cyclical Trope that members of romanticized criminal elements or subcultures have their style appropriated by people in higher social classes. In one era, harmless suburbanite youths wear fashions stolen from gangbangers who commit real crimes. Tattoos were once for sailors, inmates, and other hard cases. They're now mainstream. Other young people wear Goth clothes or dark metal-inspired fashions that a couple of decades ago would only be worn by people on the fringe. Dressing like a "punk" in the eighties would pretty much exclude anyone from a "real" role in society, whereas most folks in Western countries today wouldn't bat an eyelash at a professional with a Mohawk and a couple of piercings.
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull took to wearing outrageous clothing◊, especially in The Seventies (long coats, unkempt hair and beard, tights, long boots, overzized codpiece). made psychotic, bug-eyed faces, and performed with hammy, theatrical, flamboyant (and sometimes saucy) stage moves. He was well-known for tongue-in-cheek, sometimes playfully risqué, self-deprecating humor (or teasing humor towards his bandmates), especially in between songs. Often his fans misbelieved he took drugs, but in spite of having a free-thinking personality, did not like hippies. He is very straight-edged, mild-mannered, and a family man, raises wildcats, promotes wildlife conservation, and, as can be noticed by the tone and lyrics of his music, is one of the most intelligent and eloquent rock stars in the world.
Pete Burns of Dead or Alive. Even sadder when you consider his disfigurement from addiction to plastic surgery.