"Yeah, like Batman and Robin. Only... I ain't wearing no tights. You can wear tights, but I'm not wearing tights."These superheroes just aren't called superheroes. They often don't wear costumes or use code names, but they have abilities far beyond those of normal men, and are superheroes in all but name. Occasionally, such stories will lampshade the trope by having characters in off hand discussions about whether they'd look good in a cape, or using Something Person-style nicknames, but discarding the ideas as being "silly." A "This Is Reality" remark can be thrown in, as well. Like many tropes this one has underlying practical considerations, such as:
— D.L., Heroes
- Aesthetics - Most classic comic book-style superhero costumes tend to look very silly in live action, which is why Movie Superheroes Wear Black. Plus, with a few relatively rare exceptions (such as Christopher Reeve as Superman, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, or Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow) it is very difficult to cast someone who physically resembles comic book interpretations (especially in cases where body shapes are exaggerated).
- Genre Shift - When the creator is actually aiming for the story to look and feel as if it belongs in Science Fiction or Urban Fantasy categories, and does not initially realize that the story fits the conventions of the super hero genre. They may or may not act kindly to people pointing out the similarities.
- Marketing - Some creators may wish to avoid their characters being seen as superheroes in order to prevent incorrect expectations of the work. The marketers may also want to play up the popularity of their lead actor or actress, meaning that a face-covering mask is a big no-no.
- Budget - Mostly affects TV shows rather than films. Most live-action shows have to work within very tight budgets, so it can be difficult to create a faithful translation of a comic outfit without it looking cheesey or low rent. The Justice League of America pilot and the later seasons of Smallville are rather infamous for having comic-accurate but extremely cheesey looking costumes, for instance.
- Legal - Licensing for intellectual properties can be very complicated and they may be unable to use the iconic costume of the hero but can still use the character itself. A well-known example is Smallville where they had the rights to use Clark Kent and some back story elements but not have the rights to show Superman (for most of the series).
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Anime and Manga
- Darker Than Black is a seinen series, but its "Contractors" are superheroes in all but name — and with a decidedly darker twist. Overall, the whole Contractor idea and the prejudice against them has rather a similarity to mutants in X-Men (although this is one of the few cases where the Fantastic Racists actually might have a good point). Also, the protagonist Hei wears a mask and uses a Grappling-Hook Pistol but no one uses the "s-word" to describe him.
- ...though another "s-word" was used even before he became Contractor.
- This is actually more averted after the first series, as the interquel manga, set after the Masquerade is exposed, the news does explicitly compare Contractors to comic book characters. Also, as of the second season, Hei's not the only character who wears a costume. A female Contractor with Implausible Fencing Powers dresses in a black "ninja-like" outfit and a guy not only has a magic-themed power and Renumeration, but he also dresses like one as well.
- In a flashback to the Heaven's Gate war, Bai is shown to dress similar to a superhero.
- Lelouch in Code Geass dresses as Zero in costume, cape, and mask and turns his Large Ham quotient up to 11. He is a definite fit for the Rich Idiot with No Day Job idea. It's definitely implied that Lelouch was inspired by superheroes, as side materials make off-hand references to him liking comic books and Toku as a child.
- He promoted himself to Batman as a PR move. He called his terrorist organization 'The Black Knights' and had them publicly running around defeating drug dealers and terrorists with less PR-savvy. (He also actually employs a professional news-spinner to work on his PR in this period.) Though the suit itself is agreed to look more like Space Dracula.
- Li'l Slugger from Paranoia Agent: While hitting people in the head with a baseball bat isn't much of a superpower he definitely invokes a secretive vigilante image.
- Over time, he becomes a lot worse than that...
- NEEDLESS, similar to Darker Than Black, features many X-Men-like characters, but dives a great deal more consciously into other Superhero tropes.
- In the Wolverine anime, the title character doesn't wear his trademark yellow costume from the comics.
- Speed Grapher has a super-powered hero who fights against similarly super-powered villains in a Monster of the Week format. His similarity to a super-hero is lampshaded at one point by Ginza, who seeing his powers for the first time, comments sarcastically, "Silly me thinking comic books were fake." The Big Bad, Suitengu is a classic Diabolical Mastermind supervillain, and like V of V for Vendetta is the product of Playing with Syringes.
- D.N.Angel has a boy who turns into a master thief with big black wings and special powers, and steals cursed items to purify them.
- In Trigun, Vash the Stampede is a Human Alien who wears a futuristic red coat, carries a customized revolver and has superpowers. And has a cyborg left arm with a minigun in it. Wolfwood is a Badass Preacher who carries a giant cross of massive destruction. They Fight Crime!! Or at least, they fight Vash's Evil Twin Omnicidal Maniac Arch-Enemy (who has similar or greater powers) and his minions.
- Said minions being, essentially, a team of supervillains.
- About a dozen episodes into Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, Seiya, the sidekick, becomes an Empowered Badass Normal. He doesn't have a Secret Identity and delusions of Super Hero pageantry get knocked out of him pretty quickly. Instead, he throws around energy projectiles and gets into aerial battles wearing jeans and a hoodie.
- Many shonen series are based around constant combat between good and evil people with unique or nearly unique superpowers (but often a common Meta Origin, such as being a ninja or shinigami)
- A Certain Scientific Railgun is full of supers, the morality of whom are all over the spectrum. About the only one who think of himself as a superhero is Gunha Sogiita, one of the Level 5. His appearance match his attitude.
- Played with in Dragon Ball Z. While the main cast don't fit the mold of superheroes, they do have most of the traits covered by one person or another within the group. The cast's outfits are all rather colorful, but for most of them this is a way to represent the martial arts schools that they come from. Vegeta's preferred outfit includes Future Spandex, but that's because it's a part of his iconic Saiyan armor. Piccolo's outfit includes a cape, but said cape is weighted and mostly used for training, and he'll toss it if a fight starts to get serious. Notably, the only character that fully averts this trope is teen Gohan, who adopts a superhero persona in order to hide his identity from his classmates, and is portrayed as a complete dork in doing so. This trope is played straightest by Future Trunks, who fights in plain clothes until Bulma makes him some Saiyan armor.
For comic books where a specific character or characters don't wear tights, but tights are still a big part of the setting, see Civvie Spandex.
- The Byronic Hero "V" in V for Vendetta wears a costume, mask, and cape. While he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist rather than a traditional superhero, it is kind of odd that no other characters think "superhero" when they see him.
- Superheroes tend to invoke silly images instead of creepy. Superheroes, when they have masks, either obscure only part of the face or are form fitting. V is neither. His outfit would be much more suitable to a conventional villain in most comic universes. The world he lives in has heavy censorship laws so it makes sense that many characters would have no idea what a superhero was.
- V explains the importance of his face-obscuring mask to Evie just before the end of the story. He wears it because if people knew his face, he would be just a man, but as "V" he is an idea, an icon, a symbol for people to believe in. Also, so that Evie can succeed him without anyone knowing the first V has been killed
- V actually wears tights and is one of the completely justified male examples of such hero. His persona is a XVII-century soldier and so his costume is a recreation of the historical garb that included tight-fitting breeches, doublet and a cape. Without the mask, he could quite well fit the crowd on the London street in an Elizabethan era.
- Perhaps in an attempt to capture the tone of the X-Men movies, the entire second volume of New Mutants had the kids operating without any costumes. However, once the series was cancelled and relaunched as New X-Men: Academy X, they all started wearing proper superhero uniforms.
- Despite Molly Hayes' most enthusiastic efforts, the Runaways do not have costumes (unless you count Xavin's Super-Skrull suit.)
- The graphic novel The Avengers: Endless Wartime, has Wolverine operating without any sort of costume, in order to make him more closely resemble his counterpart from the X-Men movies. The other Avengers do wear costumes, since their Marvel NOW! outfits were explicitly designed to make them look more like their MCU counterparts.
- In the early issues of Wolverine's first ongoing series from the late 1980's, writer Chris Claremont intended to have the book focus less on superheroics and instead more on adventure stories in the style of old school pulp magazines. To enforce this, Logan didn't appear in costume at all for these initial issues, and he didn't start regularly wearing his costume until #14, which by that point Claremont had left the book.
- Teen Titans: Earth One:
- Due to not being superheroes in this continuity and having only just received their powers, the Titans are only seen wearing regular clothing. And despite what the cover shows Victor Stone never gains a fully cyborg body in Volume One.
- Averted with Raven, who wears a rough approximation of the outfits she's worn in both the pre-Flashpoint continuity and the cartoon.
- Averted with Slade Wilson, who whilst he never receives the traditional Deathstroke outfit, he does wear some sort of armoured outfit implied to be a standard S.T.A.R. Labs security uniform.
- Scarecrow just wears a business suit and a mask in Batman Begins, rather than his traditional costume from the comics.
Batman: I'm not wearing hockey pads.
- Talking of The Dark Knight Saga, the second film opens with a series of fake Batmen, in loosely-fitting suits, and armed with guns, confronting the Scarecrow and the Chechen. Batman confronts and eventually overpowers them all, reprimanding the fake Batmen for getting involved. One of them asks how he's different from them, to which, Batman invokes, or rather, inverts the trope.
- The ''Blade Trilogy'. In large part because the first film was released at the tail-end of a period characterized by some of the worst superhero movies ever made, meaning that the film had to avoid too many direct connections to superhero movies. Then again, Blade's comic counterpart never wore spandex anyway which might have led to the film studio's being more willing to bring him to the big screen.
- Drive: The Driver's satin jacket with its scorpion motif is akin to this. In interviews, Ryan Gosling and director Nicholas Winding Refn have both likened the character to a superhero. The song "A Real Hero" plays over the end credits.
- The Green Hornet: Kato explicitly states "no tights" in the 2011 movie. The Green Hornet actually predates the spandex trend in superheroes and neither Kato nor the Hornet actually wore "tights" in any of their iterations. However, aside from the lack of tights, the situation in the film is a bit complicated. Brett, being a Man Child essentially becomes the Hornet because he wants to be a superhero (albeit one aiming for a Zero-Approval Gambit to avoid collateral). His "nemesis", crime boss Chudnofsky, is obsessed with image and being scary, even making a supervillainy weapon, a double-barrelled pistol. ("Do you know how hard it was to make this?") Later on, he develops the persona of BLOODNOFSKY, complete with a costume of a red gas mask and red overcoat. However, every single moment of this on both sides is thoroughly lampshaded as being utterly ridiculous, and Chudnofsky becoming BLOODNOFSKY is presented as a symptom of his Sanity Slippage rather than his becoming a supervillain.
- The first half of Hancock features the titular character dressed as an ordinary person, usually the same clothes a homeless bum would wear. The second half had him in a black leather flight suit as part of his efforts to clean up his act. It's more of a modern film superhero outfit than something you'd see in a comic book; he even refers to it as a Wolverine outfit when initially refusing to wear it.
- In Kamen Rider: The First and Kamen Rider: The Next, the Riders wear biker-outfit versions of their iconic suits. The chests resemble body armor, and the colors are toned down. However, said colors are in the same places as on the original suits, and the bug-eyed helmets remain. They look like bikers more than superheroes from The '70s while still recognizable as Riders 1, 2, and V3.
- King of the Rocket Men, a movie protagonist from the late 1940s the Rocketeer was based on. His attire is even more mundane than the Rocketeer's as it consists of regular black flyer jacket and pants (the helmet is pure Narm though).
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe averts this in most of its films:
- The characters in Iron Man technically don't wear spandex. Some wear Power Armor. The closest anyone gets to tights is Black Widow, who wears a black catsuit at one point. Additionally, Tony Stark has no Secret Identity and the term Iron Man is essentially just the name of the armor. Everyone else goes by their real names.
- The Incredible Hulk likewise avoids people wearing tights in keeping with its comic counterpart. Again, there are no code names or secret identities. The Hulk always wore a shredded version of whatever he was wearing when someone got Banner angry. That, or the ever-invincible purple pants. Interestingly, he does wear special Stark-made stretch pants with in Age of Ultron, but they're hard to notice.
- Thor plays with this trope. People in Asgard wear battle armor, capes, and other clothes which look close enough to tights. When Thor travels to Earth, however, he is stripped of his armor and wears normal clothes until it's time to go back to Asgard. As such, the costumes don't stand out in more "realistic" looking scenes. When they are shown, it is in the realm of Asgard which fits the fantastic setting and seems perfectly natural. Thor technically does not have a codename, either. Thor is his real name.
- Captain America: The First Avenger has Captain America's iconic spandex outfit show up as his USO costume, which is intended to look fairly ridiculous. When he goes into combat, he wears a more standard battle fatigue outfit with a stars-and-stripes theme. However, when Cap next appears in The Avengers, he's wearing an updated costume heavily based on the USO mascot outfit. Said outfit is explicitly stated to be tights.
- Captain America also plays with the trope concerning Bucky. He doesn't wear tights, but Bucky in the comics didn't wear tights at all, but a blue miliary uniform that sorta looks like tights. Bucky wears a suit very similar to what he wore in the comics, only without the Domino Mask. It also looks slightly less silly as, unlike the comic, Bucky is a fully grown man, possibly older than Steve, while in the comics, he was a kid still in his teens.
- In the comics, the men and women of HYDRA generally wear green and yellow costumes with masks. In The First Avenger, they're all clad in black body armor and helmets.
- Montgomery Falsworth is a costumed superhero named Union Jack in the comics, but appears as a member of the Howling Commandos in the film. As such, he has no costume to speak of.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier does employ costumes, but large stretches of the film have Cap, Black Widow, and The Falcon operating in nothing but civvies. Scarlett Johansson has said this was a deliberate decision on the part of the directors, who wanted the movie to seem more "grounded" and serious than the average superhero film.
- Guardians of the Galaxy has Star-Lord ditching his outfit from the comics in favor of a helmet and a Badass Long Coat.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron has Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch wearing street clothes rather than costumes. However, as a Mythology Gag, the outfits they wear have the same color schemes as their comic costumes. Although, at the end of the film, Scarlet Witch dons a traditional superhero costume of tights and red leather, after joining the Avengers. Also, notably, the Hulk is now wearing Avengers branded pants made of some sort of superhero costume material, rather than the remnants of whatever pants Banner was wearing when he Hulked Out.
- The Punisher's titular protagonist has an outfit which has always been function over form (the big skull baits Mooks to shoot at his armored chest, he wears holsters and ammo pouches all over), but his first movie didn't even give him his iconic logo. The second and third film versions slap the skull front and center on his chest, however.
- The Terminator sequels (including Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) fall into this, though admittedly the non-powered, human protagonists tend to get at least as much screentime as the butt-kicking cyborgs sent back in time to protect them.
- Unbreakable keeps wavering around, both employing and subverting superhero mythology. Notably, David never puts on an actual superhero costume, and simply goes out in a hooded poncho - because it's raining - and this somehow ends up with him in a sketch based on witness descriptions, looking exactly like a superhero.
- The X-Men films have generally steered away from wearing the comic book outfits.
- Downplayed since the film has the characters wearing dark-color body armor-suits.
- Wolverine (newly recruited) comments on the outlandishness of the outfits, to which Cyclops jokingly asks, "Would you prefer yellow spandex?" In reference to the early uniforms of the X-Men comic book (and main color of most of Wolverine's comic book outfits.)
- The X-Men Origins: Wolverine Spin-Off film even took the black leather from previous films away, leaving everyone in Civvie Spandex.
- X-Men: First Class makes them look more superhero-ish, though. It's not skintight but it is more brightly colored, and ends with Magneto donning something that's somewhere between his classic outfit and his look in the main trilogy.
- The Wolverine plays this straight once again, Wolverine wears street clothes instead of his costume from the previous films, as he is no longer a member of the X-Men, though the Silver Samurai wears a suit of Powered Armor resembling his comic book costume.
- In a deleted alternate ending, we see Wolverine opening a suitcase he's been given and finding there... his classic comic book suit. After the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, though, we might never see him wear that costume.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past Zig-Zags on this. The future X-Men do wear costumes (mostly black but with some ornamentation), while most of the '70s-era characters just wear their street clothes. However, the younger Magneto from the '70s does wear a red costume that looks much closer to his comic design than any of the previous cinematic takes on the character.
- According to Kevin Smith, when writing Superman Lives one of the requests from producer Jon Peters was that Superman should not wear his iconic costume, stating that it was "too faggy."
- Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li ditches everyone's outfits from the video games.
- Batman & Robin doesn't see Jason Woodrue don the look of his alter ego, the Floronic Man.
- The Seekers of Truth follow this convention, partly to avoid ghettoizing the story, and partly . . . well, because it's not easy to find a spandex tailor that won't talk.
- The Stationery Voyagers only look like they're wearing something along the lines of "tights" to Mantithians. To everyone else, their suits appear to be just spy-geared forms of regular civilian clothing. Then again, how else do you dress six-foot-tall talking Up-Pens, but...like...large pens?
- The Animorphs do wear tights, but for practical reasons (see the entry on Magic Pants). Genre Savvy Marco often compares the Animorphs to superheroes, and talks about the idea of making their spandex outfits into actual costumes rather than a random collection of bike shorts and leotards. But it's obvious to all that the Animorphs are outside the category of superheroes in a strict sense, and they fall much more squarely within the tradition of Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World heroes.
- The freaks of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn by John Ridley are just folks — who happen to have one superpower or the other.
- Wild Cards: For the most part, Aces don't wear spandex, and while many of them have nicknames, these aren't really used to hide their identities.
- Remo Williams, the Destroyer:Williams does not use firearms, has various paranormal abilities, has recurring foes, said foes often having special powers, encounters the paranormal regularly. This placing Williams closer to the genre.
- The Dresden Files wouldn't look too out of place in urban fantasy series like Doctor Strange and has many concepts that could pass in a superhero setting, except operating in costume.
- What Zombies Fear is pretty much the other superhero versus zombies story aside from Ex-Heroes. It's just they don't call themselves superheroes, wear costumes, or use codenames.
- The IPB in TheInfected have codenames, but no masks or secret identities. Masked vigilantes are illegal, they're federal agents. The dress code varies, Team One (the PR fluff team) have colorful, distinctive constumes lacking only in masks to help sell the superhero image as best they can without breaking any laws. Team Two, which is a combat unit, have uniform blue jumpsuits. Team Three, the misfits who for whatever reason have to work alone in the field, wear whatever they want, usually casual clothing.
Live Action TV
- Smallville: "No tights, no flights." Clark ends up flying a few times anyway, and then Green Arrow shows up in full four-color superhero getup...
- When Aquaman shows up wearing bright green board shorts and a bright orange tank top, Lois says that he looks like Flipper threw up on him. The show explains it, correctly if not perfectly truthfully, as being the University of Miami school colors.
- A small lampshading moment when Chloe walks into a meeting of the Society and the League and asks if this is "costumes only" (Clark wasn't in costume, though).
- In "Checkmate", Oliver actually denies that his costume is "tights" twice.
- This resolution became increasingly silly as time goes on, because towards the end everyone except Clark runs around wearing a costume. The Justice League and the Justice Society both exist, Doomsday has shown up, and they have Hawkman! Hawkman, with the helmet, and the wings. Apart from Batman and Wonder Woman it's the full DC universe, yet somehow the show insists on keeping him out of his standard outfit.
- In Lois and Clark, though Supes wears a shiny suit, he's the only one who does. Almost all the villains wear plain clothes and operate in a Heroes-ish 'real-world' manner. For example, instead of wearing a giant light bulb on his head and making dramatic crimes, Dr. Light was an optometrist and blinded Superman by using a ray of concentrated UV radiation to give Superman super-cataracts. (You laugh, but he managed to inconvenience Supes way more than most villains.) The Prankster, instead of being the poor man's Joker, is a Magnificent Bastard who went to the Die Hard school of villainy, his 'pranks' being the crimes that are a misdirection, his real purpose different (and pragmatic and down to Earth) and carried out efficiently. Mr. Mxyzptlk wears a Victorian England style getup as opposed to his orange and purple outfit from the comic. The Toyman was a toymaker fired from a toy company and put mind-altering gas in toys that spread around the city via... the toy store. Oh, and he's also Sherman Hemsley.
- The live-action version of The Flash put the protagonist in costume, though they went to great lengths to rationalize it by having his powers shred normal clothing. Only one of his Rogues' Gallery wore anything resembling the gaudy apparel of his comic-book counterpart, though — and that one was a Cloudcuckoolander.
- The Flash reboot zig-zags this. Flash and many of the other metahuman characters do wear costumes, but there's also a lot of villains who don't wear any sort of costumes or uniforms.
- In the unaired Power Pack TV pilot, the costumes from the comic are nowhere to be seen.
- The Incredible Hulk. "Ol' Purple Pants."
- The live action adaptation of Witchblade did away with the clothing-shredding, Stripperific nature of the Witchblade's power manifesting. The heroine still gets covered in Instant Armor when fighting, but minus the Fanservice elements which the original was widely known for.
- Birds of Prey (code names yes, tights no, except in flashbacks)
- "No tights" was one of the stated rules of this series from the start.
- Lampshaded in Season 1 in two separate episodes, by characters who say words to the effect of "maybe I'll use my powers to become a hero, but there's no way I'm wearing tights".
- Ironically, of the two characters who are best known by their nicknames (Sylar & HRG), only one of them is superpowered, and he is evil.
- In the beginning of the volume four premiere, Hiro tries to make the now-superpowered Ando wear a costume, but the latter refuses. He keeps the "Ando-cycle" though.
- Hiro tries to invoke this, as he desperately wants to be in a Golden Age comic book, but fails to realise that his life isn't really like that.
- Future!Hiro is kind of wearing tights, but it's more of a ninja thing than a superhero thing.
- The only real superhero to appear, St Joan aka Monica was put on a bus before the arc could be completed and shown only in the more outlandish graphic novels.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer — she's referred to as a "superhero" a few times, usually not too seriously. Unsurprising, however, as Buffy takes most of its inspiration, according to Joss Whedon, from X-Men.
- Angel — Referenced a few times, most notably by Cordelia when she tries to drum up business for Angel Investigations:
Cordelia: He's already a genuine hero. Would it kill him to put on some tights and a cape and garner us a little free publicity?
Doyle: I don't see Angel puttin' on tights... Oh, now I do and it's really disturbin'.
- Kyle XY (debatable, but referred to as a superhero on the DVD)
- The 4400 — the heroes aren't super, but they deal with those who are, not all of whom are bad.
- Highlander: The Series, and the original movie as well.
- Charmed. There's even an episode where magic turns them into the tights-wearing, Stock Superpowers kind of superhero, called "Witches in Tights".
- In many ways, the Doctor: You mean his possessing two hearts, superhuman intelligence, the ability to regenerate his entire physical being and numerous other far-out abilities demonstrated throughout the series aren't superpowers? The main character even has a code name that he goes by in lieu of a 'proper' name.
- And the Third Doctor often wore a cape. Granted, he wore it with a velvet suit, a ruffled shirt and a bow tie instead of tights, but the point remains. And in any case, when it comes to the Doctor and the correlation between unusual clothing choices and being a superhero, are we really going to be pedantic, here?
- The Middleman comes as close to being a superhero as possible without being openly labeled as one. He even has a super hero name, but no tights. The first episode has him explain his job to Wendy in terms of it being "exactly like your comic books."
- Averted by the Power Rangers (and their Japanese Super Sentai equivalents), who are one of the rare few successful live action series where the characters do fight crime using tights and code names.
- A few series play it straighter, for example by having the heroes' identities be an open secret like Iron Man; in particular GoGo Sentai Boukenger and its counterpart Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, in which the heroes are members of a public Adventure Archaeologist organization. Or in Power Rangers SPD, where they are members of the police and the costumes count more as a sort of riot suit.
- Worth mentioning, Tokumei Sentai Go Busters is the first Sentai series to ditch the spandex in favor of leather bodysuits. When this information first hit the Internet, it was revealed that Saban (the company behind Power Rangers) had been leaning on Toei (makers of Super Sentai) to make this change for years since they felt that the spandex suits made the shows look too "kiddy". This is made ironic when Saban skips Go-Busters altogether in favor of yet another team in spandex.
- Sanctuary doesn't do much fighting, but the characters do a lot of using powers beyond things normal people can do. Occasionally played with in that sometimes the abnormals 'save the world' by using their powers and/or putting on actual tights.
- No Ordinary Family joins the list. Despite all their talk about super heroes Jim, George, Stephanie, and Katie never even consider Jim or Stephanie wearing masks.
- Averted with glorious pride on The Cape. The show is a Reconstruction of Superhero Tropes, and everyone has a code name and at least something gimicky about their appearance. While not tights in the traditional sense, they are more traditional than predecessor series Heroes by sheer fact that they dress up their villains and hero in some way.
- None of the heroes or villains in Alphas wore any kind of uniform, or anything approaching a traditional superhero costume.
- An episode of Warehouse 13 features a superhero. Actually, it was a regular guy using an artifact (Charles Atlas's underpants) to alter density, mimicking superpowers.
- Altering one's density would, in fact, be considered a super power. Ergo, he used an artifact which gave him super powers, which still makes him a superhero, in the vein of other superheroes who use some sort of object or artifact to give them super powers (eg, Green Lantern).
- Justified for the main cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since they're non-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agents rather than proper superheroes. However, even the characters who do have powers (such as Blackout) tend to eschew costumes, which is a particular point of contention for many fans. The only person in the show so far seen wearing a costume is Deathlok (Sif technically isn't wearing a costume; see the Film section under Thor).
- The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. The two superpowered heroes usually wear regular street clothes. Steve Austin does possess an iconic red tracksuit that he wears in occasional episodes, and Jaime Sommers gets to don a wrestling costume (with tights) in one episode, but that's about it.
- There are no costumes or tights of any sort in Jessica Jones, which is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, this is justified since the three main superpowered characters featured in the show (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Purple Man) generally don't wear tights in the comics anymore either. There is one episode where Trish tries to get Jessica to wear a costume during a Flashback, but Jessica just mocks how silly and impractical it is.
- The original Adam West Series/Batman was filled with spandex left and right, but it fell into this trope with the Riddler. Actor Frank Gorshin found the 60s era spandex costumes incredibly uncomfortable and would only agree to keep returning if the Riddler regularly (but not exclusively) wore something else. The production staff custom-made him a green and purple three-piece suit and bowler covered in question marks. This ended up becoming the best known look of the character for decades.
- Mage: The Ascension, from the Old World of Darkness was periodically sneered at as "supers without the tights". (Mages being mages, they might as well.) A common derogatory term for how some players played sister-series Vampire: The Masquerade was "capes with fangs". In fact all of White Wolf's games essentially feature superheroes without tights — individuals with powers far beyond the ken of mortal men who fight a greater evil. Frequently they even have code names. White Wolf however always tries to paint themselves as far away from superheroes as they think they can get away with; even their most blatantly superheroic game Aberrant features articles about how super powered humans who wear capes and masks and go by code names are not in any way related to superheroes. Werewolf: the Apocalypse was a notable exception, in that one of the suggested Second Edition play styles was actually called "Superheroes," and explains in some details how ridiculously easy it is to fit the Garou into a (dark) superhero-style setting. This was before the Dark Knight, Watchmen, et. al.
- The fangame Genius: The Transgression doesn't bother with distancing itself from superheroics; in fact it talks about superhero games under the storyteller advice section and has a Fellowship just for superheroes. Still no tights though, just lots of Powered Armour.
- This was a result of some players' playstyles, but was not what the writers intended. The word superhero implies a certain constellation of tropes, tone, and ideas which the default tone of each game really didn't fit well, with the possible exception of Hunter: The Reckoning as a deconstruction. Vampire was intended to be gothic horror, Werewolf cosmic horror, Changeling post-modern chivalric romance and Urban Fantasy, and so on. "Individuals with powers far beyond the ken of mortal men who fight a greater evil" would be an apt description of everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Call of Cthulhu (as players learn spells) to Shadowrun, and few would consider any of these games to fit the superhero genre.
- Cole, from inFAMOUS, just runs around in perfectly ordinary clothes. He doesn't even bother to hide his face. Doesn't help his face appeared everywhere around the city with claims that he was a terrorist.
- [PROTOTYPE] too, being a Dueling Game with inFAMOUS.
- A lot of the characters of Metal Gear, and almost all of the vilains could be seen as superheroes. Some have mastered the arts of manipulation and use a huge array of gadgets like Batman, while others have psychic powers that would make them fit in perfectly with the X-Men. By the time of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, just about all the major characters are superpowered cyborgs in one capacity or another.
- MMO example: City of Heroes's costume generator, despite being based primarily on comic-book superhero stories, allows players to use this trope. Possible costumes can range from the most eye-watering spandex imaginable to normal civilian clothes, and in between.
- A few in-game characters have costumes like this, in particular the Dark Watcher.
- Deus Ex, where you play as a crimefighter enhanced with nanomachines which give powers and stat boosts. It wouldn't really fit in with the genre, so you wear a longcoat and sunglasses (even at night!).
- The Thief series' protagonist, Garrett, goes for an In the Hood look, along with a longer cloak that also doubles as his impromptu cape. Other than that, though, he wears practical, period clothing with minimal decorative elements. The 2014 reboot attempt gave his typical clothing a more comic book-y makeover, but still based on in many ways on the clothing he had in the third game of the original series.
- Although Jackie Estacado sports a suit of armor that evokes typical superhero apparel in the the original comics, in the video game edition of The Darkness, he contents himself with just his long hair and coat.
- Late-game X-COM operatives can be genetically enhanced super-soldiers, master psychic powers, wear power armor that enables them to fly or move rapidly using a grappling hook, and be converted into walking cybernetic tanks, but generally still look and act like conventional military personnel.
- Overwatch has yet to identify its characters as superheroes, and probably never will for two important reasons: They almost all use guns, and the titular organization was formed to combat the Omnic Crisis. Despite this, many of the characters have unique powers, backstories, and appearances that wouldn't be out of place in a typical comic book.
- In spite of being a Time Master and getting his powers in a Freak Lab Accident, Jack Joyce in Quantum Break never even considers getting an outfit or a codename, the closest the game gets to mentioning superheroes is when Nick compares him to an X-Man (which doubles as an Actor Allusion for his actor, Shawn Ashmore), and he uses guns just as much as his time powers.
- Same New Woman Marita, although she has a hyper-muscular body and extraordinary strength, tries to go on with her old life dressed in plain, normal clothes that cover her up whenever possible.
- Many of the heroes and villains from Union of Heroes wear civilian clothes. Probably for budget reasons, because this is a Photo Comic.
- In I Dont Want This Kind Of Hero, Naga's first thought upon meeting members from Spoon, the resident Heroes "R" Us, is why, despite claiming to be 'heroes', they're not wearing technicolour spandex suits. In general, Spoon members wear whatever they want (heck, Naga does most of his missions in his school uniform, as he usually goes to work right after school).
- Global Guardians PBEM Universe:
- Martini is a psychic superhero whose costume is a pristine tuxedo, complete with tails.
- Stone is a Flying Brick whose costume wouldn't look out of place in a biker bar.
- The Reliquary campaign featured street-level mystic-oriented superheroes who didn't wear costumes, didn't use code names, and didn't generally get into big, street-smashing brawls. But they were superheroes nonetheless.
- The majority of the cast from Phaeton fits this trope, so far.
- While most parahumans in Worm wear costumes, there are a number of exceptions, most notably Jack Slash, the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad, who wears a dress shirt and jeans. And then there are a few heroes and villains, such as Narwhal and Siberian, who don't wear anything at all.
- In Curveball, the eponymous hero did have a costume when he was with The Gladiators, but since he "retired," he does most of his crimefighting in a badass longcoat. Jenny/Zero hasn't had time to put together a costume yet, and so makes do with some borrowed body armor.
- Ben 10 (trades in tights for bizarre alien forms instead). He even calls himself a superhero, and each of his forms has a codename. Ben 10: Alien Force put it further by making "Ben 10" an actual nickname.
- Kim Possible, a Badass Normal who doesn't even bother with a Secret Identity.
- Young Justice: Superboy is the only member who refuses to wear a costume just like the rest of his team.
Superboy: No capes, no tights; no offence.
- Wonder Girl follows Superboy's lead in the second season, wearing nothing more than a Wonder Woman t-shirt and a pair of athletic pants.
- The Runaways, although they're not superheroes yet, do this since they are already known to the villains and they don't have anything better. Except for Arsenal when he joins them.
- Batman: The Animated Series: Temple Fugate was a Sharp-Dressed Man before his Start of Darkness. After he becomes the Clock King, he averts all the tropes at the Evil Makeover indice and commits crimes in a nice brown business suit. He could fit right into The Dark Knight Saga.
- Terra's first appearance in Teen Titans. Her costume after joining the Titans is basically the same but with the Titans logo on the t-shirt.
- In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, William Cross never donned his costume, instead wearing a business suit with the only thing related to his comic self being an eyepiece. He's never called "Crossfire" either.
- Similar to the Crossfire and Union Jack examples, in both Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Spectacular Spider-Man, Miles Warren doesn't don his Jackal costume or use that codename—though given the latter was Cut Short, it is entirely possible that he could've at some point.