He pushed past me into the house, then turned and grabbed me by the shoulder.
"Now then!" he said.
I disengaged myself coldly. I had to wriggle out of my pyjama jacket to do so, but I managed it.
Narrow escapes make for big thrills, and elusive heroes slipping free of the grasp of doom is a classic. Grabbed by an enemy too powerful to fight, the overmatched hero may need to sacrifice fashion or dignity — possibly even modesty
— for survival's sake. When you're snagged by your coattails, remember that it's better to need a new coat than a new incarnation: You can always slip out of your sleeves, and leave your attacker with a secondhand garment as a consolation prize.
Most commonly, this trope is employed when a hero or intended victim is grabbed by the bad guys, usually by the jacket or sleeve, and discards or destroys all or part of the outer garment to escape. Footwear can also be shed in self-defense if an attacker is trying to drag the victim off a high perch, or if the subject of this trope is wading through deep mud. If a fleeing character's clothing becomes entangled in briars or barbed wire, baring skin may be their only means to free themselves in time, while providing a handy excuse for Fanservice
. Hastily removing a garment because it's on fire, doused in acid, or trapped in the gears of some heavy machine that would otherwise crush the wearer are also variants.
May be the opposite of Defeat by Modesty
, depending on how much clothing is (and isn't) shed. If discarding one's clothes isn't enough to win freedom, circumstances like these may force a Life or Limb Decision
. Sometimes combined with the Ninja Log
trick, Ankle Drag
, or Sticky Situation
. See also Losing a Shoe in the Struggle
, which may occur unintentionally.
Not to be confused with discarding one's garment to mislead a pursuer (Throwing the Distraction
) or removing a garment to fight someone off with it (Improvised Weapon
), as these are used to avoid being grappled in the first place. Battle Strip
is sometimes used to avert this trope.
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- A Heineken beer commercial full of Shout-Outs to James Bond films uses this trope, when its spy protagonist is grabbed from behind while boarding a train, but slips away leaving his winter coat in his pursuer's hand.
Anime & Manga
- Happens in the fight between Captain Kuchiki and Espada #7 Zommari Rureaux in Bleach episode 196. Rureaux grabs Captain Kuchiki, who Flash Steps away leaving Rureaux holding his captain's cloak.
- In YuYu Hakusho, Botan escapes from an ogre's grip by slipping out of her jacket.
- Ranma ½:
- In A Certain Scientific Railgun, a minor villainess causes the asphalt to become like quicksand and suck Mikoto in. Mikoto slips out of her shoes to escape. After defeating the woman, Mikoto complains about her now ruined shoes.
- Speed of Sound Sonic does this to the Sea King in One Punch Man, leaving him completely naked.
- The pickpocket in Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, leaving one of the Thomson Twins shrouded in his jacket. A tailor's mark in the lining proves to be the clue that tracks him down, though.
- In Astro City, 'Eyes' Eisenstein gets tied up to a fence by Jack-In-The-Box's entangling confetti. He manages to escape by twisting out of his jacket; leaving it still tied to the fence.
- Mr Stone, one half of a B-List merc team, tried to slow down the wall-crawler by using his Swiss-Army Weapon to coat the entire floor in glue so as to give his life-draining partner Mr. Styx a chance to use his touch of death. Spider-man easily leaped out of his boots onto the ceiling.
- Also, Phil Urich, the only lucid man to take the identity of the Green Goblin, did this the first time he encountered Spider-Man, simply discarding his glove when Spidey snagged it with his webbing. (Clearly, Sanity Has Advantages, even when taking on the identity of a villain who's usually Axe Crazy.)
- In an early issue of Excalibur Shadowcat and Phoenix (temporarily de-powered) are bound upside-down, by their legs. Shadowcat shows off her ninja skills (last seen in the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series) to slip out of boots and free herself. Phoenix comments that she couldn't do that even if she knew how, since her costume is literally one piece and went up to her neck. Kitty comments that she could probably still pull it off, if not for embarrassment.
Films — Animation
- In 9, 1's cape is caught by the bird-machine and he must undo it to avoid being dragged to his death.
- The Rescuers Down Under; not a clothes example, but Cody does slip out of his backpack to escape from McLeach.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Thief of Always, Mr. Hood grabs Henry by the back of the jacket, so Henry slips out of his jacket to escape.
- In Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter winds up abandoning all his clothes in the course of escaping the garden.
- At the end of Robert E. Howard's "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", Conan the Barbarian tries to grab Atali, but the gossamer cloth that is her only clothing comes off in his hand, and she runs away naked.
- Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Subverted in Mid-Flinx, when Flinx unwittingly steps into a "pool of water" that turns out to be alive and tries to dissolve him. He's about to remove his boot to escape when the pool/creature decides it dislikes the taste of its synthetic material and expels his foot.
- Tom Sawyer does this in the opening scene of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
- In Roald Dahl's The Twits, a group of boys get stuck in a tree because Mr. Twit has coated the tree limbs with glue to catch birds for dinner. When he threatens to eat the boys instead, the only thing they can do to escape is slip out of their pants.
- In Troubled Range by J.T. Edson, Belle Starr has grabbed Calamity Jane by the waistband of her jeans. Calamity escapes by unbuckling her belt and grabbing the leg of a table, causing Belle to pull her jeans right off her.
- The Dresden Files:
- In Fool Moon, the loup-garou pins Harry's duster to the ground with its paws. Harry escapes by abandoning his coat.
- Also happens to several characters' footwear when they're grabbed by the foot or ankle. Faith Astor loses a shoe to a troll in "A Restoration of Faith", Murphy loses another to the chlorofiend in Summer Knight, and the loup-garou previously ate one of Harry's cowboy boots when it chomped on his foot.
- In a supernatural variant, Susan attempt to grapple with Ortega in Death Masks, but his ectoplasm-generated flesh mask rips open and he slithers out of it to escape.
- In Deadly Quicksilver Lies Morley gets his brand-new shirt caught on something when he and Garrett climb down a wall. As Morley's such a clotheshorse, it causes him real pain (and Garrett, immense amusement) when he has to cut the cloth to get loose.
- Doctor Who:
- In the show Freddy's Nightmares, on a episode called "Sister's Keeper", Freddy is attacked by twin girls, one in front to distract and one in back to attack. When she swings her bat to attack Freddy, he vanishes and his clothes drop to the floor.
- Subverted on 30 Rock: Pete gets his arm stuck in a snack machine while trying to get a dangling treat. He realizes that he's stuck because his jacket is caught on a sharp piece of metal, so he starts slipping the jacket off. He successfully removes himself from the jacket, but finds that he is still stuck.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: Hoshi is the only one who is small enough to achieve an Air-Vent Passageway escape after bad guys take over the ship and lock everyone in their rooms, and then her top gets caught on something in the vent, leading to Fanservice.
- On M*A*S*H, Klinger got his skirt caught under a fallen school-bell when he and Father Mulcahy were retrieving some stolen medication hidden underneath it. One of the thieves started taking potshots at them, so he let the skirt tear away from him and ran for their jeep in his undershorts.
- Chouriki Sentai Ohranger: Juri does this in one episode. Bara Clothes tries to take control of her via her outer clothing as he'd done to her team-mates, so she casts off her swimsuit and fights in her underwear.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "What You Need", a man's tie gets caught in an elevator's doors. He nearly strangles, but cuts off his tie with scissors just in time.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy is Brought Down to Normal in "Helpless", she escapes a vampire by slipping out of her red coat when he grabs it. Unfortunately the vampire uses that same coat to trick Buffy's mother out of the house by wrapping himself up in it and lying on the ground outside.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus lampshaded it severely in the "Making of Scott of the Antarctic" skit, as the starlet on the run loses one clothing item after another on cactus plants she could have easily avoided going near.
- New Tricks: In "Dark Chocolate", Gerry gets his jacket caught on a Conveyor Belt of Doom and is almost dragged into a chopping machine. He escapes by taking off his jacket.
- Gilligan's Island:
- In the episode "Beauty Is as Beauty Does", the group holds a beauty contest between the three women. During the talent portion Mary Ann is to perform a dance routine, and Mr. Howell tries to sabotage it by pouring glue onto the stage. Mary Ann, of course, steps right in it, becoming instantly stuck and loses her shoe (which is still stuck in place in a later scene).
- Earlier in the same episode, Gilligan accidentally hooked and reeled in a swimming Mary Ann's bathing suit while fishing.
- Happens in an ending chase scene of The Benny Hill Show, where Benny as an escaped prison inmate evades two bobbies by striping of the jacket and pants of his Institutional Apparel. Finding new clothes to replace it proves problematic, however.
- On Blue Bloods, a detective chases a man who dives into an accomplice's car, slamming the door on the corner of his pursuer's raincoat. The car starts driving away, and the detective, unable to keep up running, has to struggle out of the coat to avoid being dragged off his feet.
- Pulled off his feet by a grasping walker, Carl from The Walking Dead narrowly escapes getting bitten when he manages to slip out of the shoe it's clinging to.
Myths & Religion
- This was probably Truth in Television in ancient times before zippers and tailored shirts, when clothing was more just cloth wrapped or draped around the body.
- The Bible
- Mark 14:51-52 tells of a young man who witnessed the arrest of Christ. They grabbed him, but they caught his garment and he fled naked. Some theorize that the young man was Mark himself (because he's the only one who mentions the incident in his gospel).
- Joseph escapes from Potiphar's wife this way. She later uses the torn garment as evidence to accuse him of rape.
- Suggested with the Seven Sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16), who tried casting out demons in the names of Christ and Paul. The Bible describes them fleeing naked and bleeding.
- Likewise pops up in mythology and other ancient stories from time to time. For example, Pyramus & Thysbe, that inspired William Shakespeare on a couple of different occasions. Thysbe is waiting for her lover in a forest by moonlight and is attacked by a lion, dropping her shawl which the lion mauls.
- Pops up in medieval legends of "Black Colleges". After the Devil shows the students whatever books they ask for, they all rush out of the room, with the slowest student being the Devil's payment. If they're smart they'll toss their cloak just as they get to the door and be home free.
- In the NFL in the 1970s, several players — most notably Houston's Earl Campbell and Cleveland's Greg Pruitt — wore "tear-away" jerseys, which would rip apart when pulled, allowing offensive players to escape tackles. Playes like Campbell and Pruitt would go through several jerseys a game. The NFL banned tear-away jerseys in 1979.
- Enforcers in hockey back in the 80s favoured loose-fitting jerseys that could be quickly shed once an opponent grabbed onto them. Since fighting on skates requires pretty good balance to begin with, removing anything that an opponent could hold onto was considered a major advantage. As a result, it was not uncommon after a line brawl to see a good two-thirds of the combatants wearing next to nothing above the waist. The NHL reacted by mandating tie-down jerseys, with untied jerseys being an automatic game misconduct if discovered.
- In Sherlock Holmes, Billy escapes from one of Moriarty's men this way.
- In the first act of The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge, Michael James Flaherty attempts to strong-arm his son-in-law-to-be, Shawn Keogh, into a plan that Shawn wants nothing to do with, and Shawn abandons his jacket to get away.
- Omega Guardians:
- About to be tossed over a cliff by Count Dracula's Familiar (who's holding onto him and slowly pulling him over the edge), Leo has to have his shirt cut off to get out of the situation alive.
- Later in the same episode, the poor guy has to sacrifice his pants to make sure Dracula stays down after he's defeated.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- In "Christmas With the Joker", Batman attempts to grab the fleeing Joker, only to end up holding the Joker's cardigan, complete with a false set of arms.
- In "The Last Laugh", the robotic Captain Clown snatches Batman's cape and attempts to reel him. Bats is forced to ditch the cape and is seen without it the rest of the episode.
- In the "World's Finest" crossover with Superman, Batman's cape gets stuck in some gears and he's forced to remove cape and cowl to save his life. In front of Lois Lane, who isn't thrilled that her latest love interest Bruce Wayne is a vigilante dressed up like a bat!
- In "Heart of Steel", a mook grabs Bruce Wayne, who removes his jacket to escape.
- The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends: In the TV adaptation of "The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck" the fox escapes from the dogs chasing him, but not without losing his clothes first — presumably to make it easier for him to throw the dogs off him and escape.
- House of Mouse:
- Baby Shelby does a variant; he escapes from Donald Duck by unhinging his shell and running about in just his diaper.
- In "Mickey's Mechanical House", Mickey escapes from a robot holding him by escaping though the butt-flap in his pajamas.
- The Counter-Earth version of Green Goblin loses his pants to escape a symbiote blob monster in Spider-Man Unlimited. He lampshades this by mentioning that he's the only superhero on the planet that would consider doing this.
- In the Betty Boop episode "The Old Man of the Mountain", when the titular Old Man grabs Betty, she escapes by slipping out of her dress. The dress then slaps him in the face and runs off after her.
- G.I. Joe:
- In "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains", Lady Jaye gets turned into a child, and in a fight she's forced to drop her pants because they are now too long to run in (strangely, the two guys who got turned into children didn't have this problem). Afterwards, she uses her now over-sized shirt and jacket like a dress. Leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny when she gets turned back to normal and awkwardly covers her panties with her hands.
- In "In The Presence of Mine Enemies", a monster grabs Slipstream's foot, but his boot comes off.
- Proving that COBRA members aren't always dumb, during the five-part series where Dr. Mindbender created Serpentor, Zarana (that would be Zartan's sister, in case you didn't know) broke into a tomb to steal the DNA from a mummy, only to fall into a temple trap that grabbed her foot with a stone vise, then triggered a Descending Ceiling that threatened to crush her. She eventually slipped her foot out of her boot to free herself and escaped.
- In Gargoyles, during MacBeth's introduction episode, Goliath lifts him up by his coat. MacBeth slips out of it and jets under Goliath's legs, who rips his coat apart before chasing him.
- The Looney Tunes Show has Yosemite Sam slip out of his Modesty Towel to escape from the police in "Off-Duty Cop".
- In Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama, during her attempt to kidnap toymaker Nakasumi, Shego grabbed him by his coat with a mechanical claw, only for him to slip out of it when Kim pulled him to safety. Upon returning to Drakken's lair with the coat, the mad scientist tore it apart in a rage, only for a doodle of toy design (which was the reason Drakken wanted Nakasumi in the first place) to fall out in the process.
- In The Smurfs episode "Hefty's Heart", Gargamel has Papa Smurf and four other Smurfs stuck to the table with glue, and then proceeds to pull Papa Smurf off the table so that he could give him a shave when Hefty, who was affected by the Hate Plague, breaks free of the plague's control on him and rescues Papa Smurf and the four other Smurfs from Gargamel, pulling the Smurfs still on the table out of their pants so that they could flee back to the village. By the episode's end, the four Smurfs are wearing barrels and waiting for Tailor to finish up with their new pants.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: In the episode "The Flower," a jealous Gumball, believing Leslie (a potted plant) is dating Penny, decides to Murder the Hypotenuse by super-gluing Leslie to a park bench and then releasing a slew of plant-eating snails and bugs on him to eat him alive. Leslie manages to escape because, as he points out, Gumball only glued his pot to the bench.
- Cutting one's self free of a harness that's snagged on something has saved the lives of many underwater divers or spelunkers.
- Standard laboratory safety procedure, in the event of a caustic spill, is for anyone splashed by the hazardous substance to strip off all contaminated clothing and rinse themselves in the safety shower.