troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Institutional Apparel

Who the devil are these guys? The Planaria Gang? Half the city's Municipal Elevator Operators having a club meeting? Those are prison uniforms. Not a wise idea; if they escaped, people would look over their heads, and be unable to give a good description. I — I can't say! I saw his face for a second, but then my eyes were unaccountably drawn upwards.
James Lileks (on the prison garb with upward-pointing arrows featured in Dressed to Kill)

There are a handful of outfits used to identify when a character has been placed in some manner of corrective institution, such as a mental hospital or prison. In the case of both, this trope is usually somewhat justified, because people from prisons or mental hospitals are people who need to stand out from the normal population if they haven't been rehabilitated or declared sane. Unless it's a comic strip or a cartoon with Limited Animation, the trope is, of a necessity, temporary. Crazy people and prisoners who don't want to go back to where they broke out from make it an immediate priority to find clothes that will let them blend in.

Note that the British trope of burglars wearing horizontally-striped jerseys is unrelated, being derived from the jerseys worn by seamen in the Napoleonic period and after. Crime committed by demobilised, unemployed servicemen was a BIG issue in the early to mid nineteenth century.

For prisoners:
  • Old school: Black and white horizontal stripes, either a jumpsuit or shirt and trousers with matching pillbox hat. Usually black and yellow in The Wild West.
    • Ball and chain manacles either on each prisoner, or they're all chained to each other by the ankles.
  • New school: Frequently, bright orange jumpsuits with white undershirts, though jumpsuits of less obvious colors are also used.
    • Grey jumpsuits with reflective vests for when they're forced to do the road work as part of their sentence.
  • In the United Kingdom and the (former) colonies, the old uniform used to be black arrows on a white shirt and trousers, sometimes with the pillbox hat.
    • The reason for this is that, back in The Middle Ages, all items purchased on behalf of the crown (what we'd now call "Government property") were stamped with a broad arrow. This included the fabric for prison uniforms.
  • Russian prisoners color-code their prison uniforms, that are originally either dark gray or blue. The Mafiya members dye their uniforms black; the common unlucky petty criminals wear dark blue, and the chushoks, the pariahs who are bullied and forced to do every bit of the dirty work, and the petukhs, who are raped, wear dirty gray. This is usually done in forced labor camps, where dyes, needles and thread to customize the uniforms are obtainable, and the prison guards do not object.
  • Truth in Television in the US, as jumpsuit color denotes severity of crime.

For insane asylums or mental hospitals:
  • Whatever outfit the inmate is wearing with a straitjacket on top. The strait jacket may be partly undone.
  • Scrubs in some neutral color.
  • Rags based on the inmate's original outfit.
  • Belts, drawstrings, shoelaces and/or anything else the patient could use as a weapon to harm self or others has been removed.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

Prisoners

    Advertising 
  • McDonald's mascot Hamburgler wears the horizontal stripes.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has all those thrown into prisons and corrective facilities wearing white shirts, trousers and shoes during their stay.
  • In One Piece, the inmates of Impel Down wear the classic black-and-white stripped uniforms.
  • Free from Soul Eater continues to wear his striped prison uniform and ball-and-chain long after breaking out, and uses the latter as a weapon in conjunction with his ice magic.

    Comic Books 
  • The "old school" arrow variant of the uniform still appears in British children's comics.
  • During the early Silver Age, Lex Luthor's "costume" was his prison greys, showing that he hadn't even bothered to change his clothes before starting his latest evil scheme (and considering he usually ended up back in prison by the end of any given story, it might be taken as a subconscious admittance of defeat). At some point, it was stated that he wore his prison uniform to remind himself how much he hated Superman for putting him in prison.
  • The Beagle Boys have prison stripes and prison numbers on their chests (they don't have names, only prison numbers). They also have shaved heads and masks covering their eyes, but that just shows they're criminals.
    • The Beagle Boys from works involving Scrooge McDuck (e.g. comic books and DuckTales) wear long-sleeved orange tops and blue jeans. Ma Beagle wears an orange jacket over a white blouse, and a blue skirt.
  • Watchmen has charcoal-grey prison uniforms, possibly as one of those slight differences (like everyone wearing double-breasted suits) to indicate its Alternate History.
  • The Justice Society of America fought a time-traveling villain, Knodar, who billed himself as "the last criminal" — he wore a custom-designed prison uniform, as there were no other prisoners in his time period; indeed, they had to reinvent jail just for him. For the record, it was a gray, form-fitting bodysuit with the letter "P" for "prisoner" all over it in black lettering.
  • Prisoners in Judge Dredd wear a variant on the horizontal stripes.
  • Lucky Luke: The Daltons, since they are constantly trying (and succeeding) to break out of prison, spend much of their time in black-and-yellow striped outfits.
  • In All Fall Down, IQ Squared and Pronto wear this after they end up in prison.
  • Marvel Universe villain The Absorbing Man wears prison-striped pants (typically either black-and-white or, oddly, alternating shades of purple). In his case, it's because he received his powers while in prison, and the enchantment deliberately included his pants. He probably could pick up a new outfit of unstable molecules that work with his powers, but he simply sees no need.

    Films — Animation 
  • Prince John, Sir Hiss, and the Sheriff of Nottingham at the end of Robin Hood.
  • In the dog pound scene in Lady and the Tramp, the shadows of the cages the dogs are kept in resemble prison stripes when reflected onto the dogs' fur.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charlie Chaplin wears the horizontal stripes to mark himself as an escaped convict in The Adventurer.
  • The convicts in the prison in Johnny Dangerously wear the horizontal stripes.
  • The Dark Knight has criminals in orange jumpsuits.
  • Con Air has criminals in jumpsuits of some other colour. The prisoners are Color-Coded for Your Convenience: normal inmates get Blue, the really scary ones get Orange, and the pants-wettingly scary Steve Buscemi gets White.
  • Hancock and the other convicts in the Los Angeles prison wear the orange jumpsuit.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? has the old school striped prison outfits. Justified in that if anywhere would have striped jumpsuits for prisoners, it's 1930s Mississippi.
  • In the movie The Quick and the Dead, Scars is still wearing his striped prison uniform, having just broken out of prison and come straight to the quick-draw competition.
  • The Fugitive has the prisoners in bright jumpsuits that are either all yellow or all green; Dr. Kimble's first challenge after escaping is to steal some less conspicuous clothing.
  • In the Harry Potter movies, Azkaban prisoners wear the stripes. Sirius has a shirt and trousers, and Bellatrix has what look like a striped hospital gown.
  • In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze wears the old-school prison stripes uniform, which fits in perfectly with the campiness of the rest of the film.
  • A major plot in The Hurricane. Ruben Carter refuses to wear prison stripes, and stays in "the hole" for weeks as a result. Finally the head guard let him wear prison pajamas without stripes on them.
  • In the Firefly film Serenity, in the intro showing River's time at the Academy, she is shown wearing a form-fitting gray outfit that is like the bastard child of a prisoner uniform and a hospital gown, at least aesthetically.
  • Whenever The Three Stooges were in prison, they'd be wearing the old-school striped uniforms.
  • The end of The Amazing Spider-Man shows Dr. Curt Connors wearing a yellow jumpsuit inside his cell. (Whether said cell is inside a prison or a mental institution isn't made clear in the movie; according to the game of the movie it's a psychiatric hospital, and actor Rhys Ifans thinks it's some combination of both. See also the videogames section under 'mental patients' below.)

    Literature 
  • The Stainless Steel Rat. The Grey Men put their prisoners in a transparent plastic outfit to prevent them hiding anything.
    • In the book that first introduces the Grey Men, diGriz is sent to infiltrate a closed totalitarian planet where everybody wears a colour-coded uniform. The military wear blood-coloured clothing, for instance, and as an off-worlder, diGriz is forced to don a high-visibility black-and-yellow wasp striped outfit. He wonders who the caste are who wear uniform grey...
  • In the short story "Good Friends and Good Family" (scroll down) by Desmond Warzel, the viewpoint character, a county jail inmate, decries the uncomfortable nature of the orange scrubs and the poor fit of the jail-issue sandals.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The arrow variation uniform can be seen in The Goodies episode "Goodies in the Nick."
  • In Prison Break the convicts have blue fatigues. At one point of the eponymous escape, they use bleach to make the uniforms white to blend in with the mental ward prisoners.
  • The general issue fatigues in Oz are grey with the prisoner's number on them. The prisoners in Emerald City get to wear civvies.
  • When Ned was Mistaken for Murderer on Pushing Daisies, he wore an orange jumpsuit in prison.
  • Rebus puzzles on Concentration used this trope to represent the syllable "con".
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the long-term human prisoners of Skynet wear ill-fitting, drab, dirty gray-white uniforms.
  • At least once on MythBusters the cast has worn the striped version while testing prison-based myths.
  • Misfits is all over this trope.
  • Sketches taking place in prison on The Benny Hill Show have the British arrow-covered uniforms. Some gags are milked out of it, such as Benny standing in a line with other inmates, whose arrows, both on the right and the left, all point toward him, while the arrows of his own uniform point upwards, toward his face.
  • Used in the series title for Orange Is The New Black. Played straight because new prisoners wear bright orange. Subverted in that they change into khakis once they've been assigned a bunk.
  • In the Prison Episode "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19) of Supernatural, the prisoners wear short sleeved orange jump suits with silver snaps and collars.

    Music 
  • The Johnny Cash song "I Got Stripes" is a reference to the old-school striped uniforms.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Kevin Wacholz wrestled in orange prison scrubs during his brief WWE stint as "Nailz" and his single WCW match as "The Prisoner".
  • Rey Mysterio Jr sometimes wore orange prison gear during that portion of his WCW career in which he was unmasked.
  • There was also a rather large NWA jobber who wore prison clothes and was known simply as "Death Row".

    Theater 
  • The female prisoners in Chicago wore drab greys, with fancies underneath. For their numbers, they wore typical performance outfits, but that was a conceit of the format in which the story was told.

    Toys 
  • LEGO police sets, starting in 1993, occasionally included a prisoner figure with a white striped shirt and black pants. This switched over to orange jumpsuits in the "World City" line, and then back to stripes since 2005.

    Video Games 
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, the prisoners usually wear orange jumpsuits with grey patches sewn onto the elbows and knees, or short-sleeved variants thereof. Riddick himself wears the trousers of this jumpsuit and a black tank top.
  • In Street Fighter Alpha 3, Cody, a recently escaped convict, has the horizontal stripes. In Final Fight: Streetwise, he's apparently been recaptured and re-escaped, since he has the orange scrubs instead. He's back in the stripes for Super Street Fighter IV with the orange one as DLC.
    • Streetwise is an interesting case in that Cody has actually finished serving his sentence from the time of Alpha 3 and/or SSFIV (and even was incarcerated again for taking the fall for one of Guy's crimes, which put a strain on their friendship) and instead chooses to wear his prison jacket over his classic Final Fight attire by choice.
  • The "heroes" in both Manhunt games, coming from death row in the first and an asylum in the second.
  • Jack's standard outfit in Mass Effect 2 is an orange prison jumpsuit (you did just break her out of prison after all), with the top half draped off to show off her chest tattoos.
  • The prison in The Suffering has a very 1920s-30s feel to it (including guards with Tommy guns) , but the prisoners all wear modern orange jumpsuits.
  • In the intro of Jak II: Renegade Jak wears a dark green jumpsuit before being rescued by Daxter. The front of it says CRIMI⅃AИ in the in-game writing system (the last three letters mirrored) and on his leg is "CELLB".
  • In Batman: Arkham City, all of the inmates wear prison issued clothing, which they may or may not have modified based on whatever gang they're following. In addition to the standard orange Blackgate prison scrubs/ pants, inmates may also wear white prison jumpsuits (If they're Two-Face's thugs).
  • In Portal, Chell is wearing an outfit very reminiscent of prison garb, which makes sense because she is imprisoned in a "research facility" as a human lab rat. In the sequel, she is wearing largely the same jumpsuit, undone to the waist to reveal a white undershirt.
  • In Ghost Trick, Detective Jowd and the other inmates of the special prison wear the traditional striped uniforms.
  • In the Famicom Disk System version of Monty on the Run (Monty no Doki Doki Daisassou), the player character is an escaped prisoner wearing the usual striped garb. Averted in the original version, where Monty was a mole.

    Visual Novels 
  • Terry Fawles in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations wears old-fashioned stripes, complete with ball and chain. However, all the other prisoners (such as Maggey Byrde, who spent nearly a month in solitary due to a rigged trial) seem to retain their civilian clothing, which makes one really wonder about poor Terry...

    Web Comics 
  • The KAMics: When Gertrude and Brunhilda are captured by King Jason, they're put in blue striped, midriff-bearing outfits with pillbox hats.
  • Last Res0rt Shows the prisoners being brought in and performing on the first episode in bright orange jumpsuits. The volunteers are also wearing these outfits during the first episode — but since Xanatos is the only volunteer NOT to become an executioner, he ends up tossed in with the prisoners as well, and keeps his outfit.
  • In Everyday Heroes, Jane and her cellmates wore the all-orange baggy shirt and trousers, as did J.P. Wunsch and his henchmen.
  • In The Lydian Option prisoners all wear magnetic arm cuffs to enable easy restraint.
  • In The Order of the Stick, prisoners in Cliffport City wears black-and-white stripped shirts. Elan is Genre Savvy enough to know that the first thing you do after breaking from jail is to change clothes.

    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible's bad guys all end up with orange jumpsuits.
  • The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob, for some reason, wore his prisoner orange jumpsuit under his regular clothes when he had gone straight and moved to Italy.
  • The striped prison outfit and the jumpsuit prison outfit both appear in Danny Phantom. Wulf wears the jumpsuit type.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
    • The defeated Gorilla Grodd, turned human is placed in prison stripes, cap and all. No shoes, though.
    • Various villains who have just escaped from prison, or are in the process of escaping from prison, appear to be wearing prison stripes over their costumes. Or at least are allowed to keep their distinctive headgear.
    • And in the Music Meister episode all the Arkham inmates are shown to wear either prison stripes or straitjackets — bar Clock King, seen working out in a wifebeater and a doorag, for some reason.
  • The stripes and the orange jumpsuits turn up on The Powerpuff Girls.
  • Escaped Luthor on Justice League Unlimited wears the Orange Prison Fatigues.
  • Cosmo and Wanda in The Fairly OddParents: "School's Out" end up in the black and white stripes when Jorgen puts them in jail.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes uses the traditional black and white stripes.
  • The Twisted Whiskers Show has Dine & Dash, two thieving cats who have the "mask" design to their fur, and the black and white jailbird stripes as a pattern in their fur.
  • The criminals in Belle Reve prison on Young Justice all wear the orange jumpsuits.
  • An episode of Beetlejuice has him thrown to prison after a frame-up; one guard changes his pinstripe suit's stripes from vertical to horizontal.

Mental Patients

    Anime & Manga 
  • Played with in Code Geass, where (some) prisoners are restrained in the same way as mental patients. C.C. wears prison garb, a sort of odd, undone straitjacket, as her default outfit in season 1. Apparently, these are only given to women, since later on Kallen wears the same type as C.C. while all the male prisoners wear more traditional straitjackets.

    Films — Animation 
  • One of the weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a half-done straitjacket on, in lieu of the zoot suits worn by the other weasels.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day has Sarah Connor in the scrubs, including the accoutrements that could be used as weapons, though she found a way anyway.
  • Dead Again has people in scrubs, straitjackets or both on top of normal clothing or pajamas.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Quantum Leap has people in scrubs on top of normal clothing or pajamas.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • TNA wrestler Abyss wrestles in the white scrubs from the mental hospital he was placed in (which have his last name, "Park", stenciled on the back, for some reason) after he was freed from James Mitchell.
  • Mike Shaw wore pajamas from a mental institution when he was competing as "Norman the Lunatic" in the NWA.

    Video Games 
  • Psychonauts uses both the "straitjacket" and "rags" versions of the "mental institution" type: Fred wears a straitjacket, and Gloria has a tattered dress. And they also use the "scrubs" version. It turns out that Crispin was actually originally a patient in the asylum and Fred was the warden, but Crispin is now literally Running the Asylum.
  • Both of these are actually costume options for the mentally unbalanced Psymon Stark in SSX 3; One of his alternate shirts is a straitjacket, and one of his alternate bottoms is a pair of orange prison scrubs called "Standard Issue." Note that Psymon has had his trouble with the law before, as well.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, a few of the villains (Zsasz, Ivy, and Croc) are wearing asylum-issued orange clothing, though they take steps to emulate their usual getups. Croc and Zsasz go shirtless, whilst Ivy goes around without pants. Stanard transfers from Blackgate either wear mottled grey scrubs or dirty white pants with no shirt. There's also hordes of "Arkham Lunatics" who are released midway through the game, who wear white scrubs and are covered in restraints, with muzzles over their faces.
  • In Dead Space 2, protagonist Isaac Clarke wakes up in a straitjacket. It's pretty inconvenient, seeing how there's a Zombie Apocalypse going on and he can't fight back.
  • In the video game sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, Connors is shown wearing off-white scrubs with a dark shirt underneath while in Beloit Psychiatric Hospital.

    Web Original 
  • In KateModern, the inmates of St. Grinstead Psychiatric Research Institution wear plain grey pajamas. Straitjackets are reserved for especially dangerous patients, such as the infamous Patient #12.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series has the villains in their normal costumes with straitjackets on top in some episodes, or in scrubs in others. (The Joker was the only one who ever wore a straightjacket, but that's not surprising.)
  • The Joker wore an oversized straitjacket in his early appearances on The Batman, later donning the traditional purple suit.
  • Sometimes the women wore short dresses (like in the lobotomized Ivy in the Justice Lord's Universe in Justice League Unlimited, and BTAS' tie-in comics.

Implicit PrisonPrison TropesJail Bake
Instant Costume ChangeCostume TropesIt's a Costume Party, I Swear
The SmurfsImageSource/Western AnimationVanity Is Feminine

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
48483
1