A person is assumed to be in a subculture that they don't
belong to because their looks or behavior match the popular beliefs of what that subculture looks like or how it behaves.
For it to count, the behavior that leads to the false assumption must be coincidental. It's a mistake on the observer's part, not deceit by the observed.
Common mistakes by observers are assuming someone wearing black clothes in modern times is a goth, particularly if they're fair skinned or dark haired; assuming that someone who's naturally flamboyant is gay
; or assuming that someone who's both white and bald is a skinhead or a neo-Nazi.
See also Mistaken for Junkie
For more info, check the Useful Notes
page about the Subcultures
- After being in a Goth disco, Freddy hits on an Italian girl (who was wearing black clothes, a hat with a veil and a big cross). Unfortunately she's the daughter of a mafia boss...
- Also, in an early story: Freddy got his hands on a hippie and a skinhead costume and coerces Rudi to join him for a costume party. When Freddy drags Rudi along on the street, a group of (strangely, non-pacifist) hippies mistake them for a skinhead beating up a hippie and decide to teach the "skinhead" a lesson. And then, some real skinheads arrive at the scene...
- Dopin' Dan, an Underground Comics star dealing with Army life, is ticked off that their sergeant requires their getting army-grade buzz-cut hair before getting an off-base pass...he and his buddies decide that if they're going to look like soldiers they should go all the way, and hit town in full combat gear. They visit a hardcore music club where punk girls compliment them on their 'look' - they casually say "Yeah, we work at it."
- In The Pacifier, Seth, the older son, is mistaken for a Neo-Nazi when he dyes his hair blond and a swastika was found in his locker. Turns out that he was actually playing Rolf in The Sound of Music.
- In the 1960 Jerry Lewis movie Visit to a Small Planet, the alien Kreton (played by Lewis) is mistaken for a Beatnik while visiting a coffee house.
- 1632: Downtimers meeting Americans for the first time almost always assume that they are nobles of some kind.
What mattered—what had always mattered, more than anything—was what people are. And the Americans, it was plain to see, were nobility. It was obvious in everything they said and did, and didn't say and didn't do. It shone through their simple carriage. [...] Every American, on some level, took a fundamental truth for granted. I am important. Precious. Human. My life is valuable.
- Not Always Right: This story with a mix of Mistaken for Junkie. Two American Pizzeria cashiers refuse to serve a Maori uncle and nephew and tells them to leave thinking they were "druggie tattoo freaks" due to their Ta Moko tattoos. When the nephew tries to explain their Ta Mokos are actually part of their culture and itís against regulation to not serve customers just because they come from a different race, the cashiers think they're making it up. Thankfully, their manager knows Maori culture and apologizes to the customers by giving them a free pizza.
- Nayuta no Kiseki: Nayuta can buy doll clothes for Noi at the general store. The saleswoman promptly assumes he loves dolls and is overjoyed to have someone share her hobby.
- Diablo III: A meta example. When the secret level turned out to be full of purple unicorns, many assumed it was inspired by the Brony subculture. It was actually the result of an early controversy regarding "too bright" color design in screenshots, mocked in this Penny Arcade strip.
- Considering you can encounter unique monsters in Whimsyshire named Midnight Sparkle, Rainbow Western and Unique Nightmarity, it's pretty clear that bronies influenced them to some degree. At the very least, Blizzard saw the resemblance and decided to throw in a few references.
- On South Park, this is a running thing with the Goth Kids, who are not stupid conformist Vampire Kids or Emos. The episodes "The Ungroundable" and "Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Poseurs" are largely based around this trope with them.
- An episode of American Dad! had one of Steve's friends under fire for supposedly stealing a classmate's Bar Mitzvah money. When a bunch of bald guys ragged on him for it, he said "you're skinheads, you hate us." Turns out they were just the Lex Luthor fan club; the skinheads were one table over.
- An episode of Phineas and Ferb had Candance and Vanessa wearing each other's clothes after their dry cleaning is switched. Candace is mistaken for being a Goth, and Vanessa is mistaken for being a clown by her father.
- My Dad The Rock Star: A lot of Willy's problems come from people assuming that A) He's like his parents and B) that his parents fit every bad trope about Rock Culture.
- Taken Up to Eleven with Angela D'Angelo's parents, who assume Willy's mother is some tramp and gold digger despite just seeing her from a distance once, and Willy's only hope of dating their daughter was to pretend he had different parents (which was blown out of the water once they started making comments about how awful the Zillas were).
- The Venture Bros.: Kim is mistaken for a supervillain by both Hank and Doctor Girlfriend due to her outfit and hair. She decides just to roll with it.