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Outdated Outfit
Gotta love The Eighties.

"Does anyone... still wear... a hat?"
Company, "The Ladies Who Lunch"

Fashion is merciless. It beguiles kings and makes them slaves. It should come as no surprise that in the space of years (if not months) a perfectly fashionable dress or suit can go from tres chic to horrible; what is surprising is when someone keeps wearing said outfit... for over fifty years!

No, this is not the White-Dwarf Starlet, but rather a character who is identified with a type of outfit (or just one) and have kept the look for far too many years without getting an update. This is common in Comic Books where the story is set in the "Present Day" and the clothes become hilariously anachronistic.

If they ever do get some new duds, expect much poking fun at their hilarious past fashion sense, while said character adamantly maintains the look is "still cool!" and it's the world that's out of touch. On the flip side, if the outdated outfit has become an intrinsically linked part of the person's image, it can lead to fans crying that they should have stuck with the old clothes.

See also Grandfather Clause. Compare Awesome Anachronistic Apparel, where a character's clothes are so cool that, while they may be out of fashion, they are certainly never out of style. If a character has one oddly anachronistic detail on an otherwise unremarkable outfit, that's Bowties Are Cool.

See also Unintentional Period Piece and Popularity Polynomial.


Examples

The DCU
  • Jimmy Olsen sometimes still wears a blazer and bowtie in Superman. Possibly lampshaded in All-Star Superman, when Jimmy is voted worst dressed man in Metropolis. In that series, he also takes a shine to "Kryptonian Overpants"
  • Barry Allen was associated with a bowtie long after they were popular. With his return, Geoff Johns has Barry explaining that he had to borrow an old bowtie on the fly for a court appearance where he met his future love, Iris West, for the first time. She liked the look. He said nothing.
  • Superman himself. The "shorts over tights" thing was actually the outfit worn by athletes in the early 20th century and heavily associated with circus strongmen. So the "classic super-hero look" is actually over a century old. (And ironically the way that spandex outfits are sometimes worn with shorts brings the whole trope full-circle, with reality becoming fiction becoming reality again.)
  • It's come full circle with Superboy. His leather-jacket, colorful outfit, piercings and surfer cut suggest a completely different personality than the one he was originally going for. He has updated his look a couple of times since then and is now a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy.
  • The Beehive Hairdo associated with Night Girl of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. She did switch to 'letting her hair down' for a few years in 1970s, and again for the long-term in the early 1980s to the very end of the original Legion continuity in 1994.

Marvel Comics
  • Spider-Man:
    • Mary Jane Watson is a huge victim of this, being a fashion model during her appearances in the 1980s and 1990s. The funny thing was that the contemporary "big hair" look that Todd MacFarlane gave her in the 1990s actually dated more quickly than her "so outdated it's cool again" 1960s hairstyle, which was then brought back.
    • Also in Spider-Man, supporting character Captain Jean DeWolff dressed like someone out of a 1940s film noir and drove a matching vintage roadster, but that seems to have been a deliberately retro look.
  • 616-verse Dazzler; it doesn't help that she was created to cash in on the disco craze. And in 1980, when disco was running down. Dazzler wears her 1970s costume these days, though. Apparently, her singing career got a revival, so she's all glam again.
  • Misty Knight still wears a poofy 1970s-era afro (weirdly, though, it's far more exaggerated than her actual style in the '70s). Luke Cage, on the other hand, has managed to get his shirt buttoned all the way up.
  • Jubilee is the most extreme example that comes to mind. Although semi-possible as an outfit that a young girl would think is "cool" in the 1980s, the bright yellow trench coat and wrap around sunglasses became just plain painful as the '90s continued. She did have a more modern costume during her time with the New Warriors.
  • Dum Dum Dugan's trademark derby hat was already old-fashioned for his social class and nationality during World War II.
  • Thanks to Comic Book Time, Gambit's costume, with the wrap-around headpiece and leather jacket over actual body armor look, is now becoming a very dated 90s look. It doesn't help that almost all of the other X-Men have gotten a costume upgrade over the years except for him.

Disney Comics
  • Several examples: Donald Duck's sailor suit, Big Bad Wolf's one-suspender-trousers and Cat-in-the-hat-hat, Daisy's bow, and so on. Admittedly, both Donald and Scrooge's outfits were supposed to be outdated from the start. Attempts to modernize them (as in Quack Pack) have been made, with mixed results. At best. Part of this is caused by a schism of canon among the comic writers: some of them consider the stories to still be set in the 40s and 50s while others insist that they take place in the modern world.

Other Comic Books
  • Archie Comics: Jughead's hat was actually in style for High School boys in the late Thirties/early 1940s. In The Nineties Jughead got a backwards baseball cap. Fortunately Powers That Be decided to change his hat back, given that he was named after it.
  • Tintin:
    • Tintin's plus fours. Tintin himself was slowly updated (he wore jeans instead in his last adventure, Tintin and the Picaros).
    • While Captain Haddock's jacket, turtleneck and naval cap are pretty much timeless and Tintin's plus fours were something people actually wore at the time of his first appearances (less so after World War 2, though), Professor Calculus' stiff high collar was outdated from the start. Like the beards sported by many of Hergé's scientists and savants it hearkens back to the time before World War 1.
    • Additionally, the Thompsons have tried a few times to blend in when investigating in a foreign country, but their outfits were often too "folkloric", and on at least one occasion, the national dress of the wrong country. Far from blending in, they've been known to attract crowds come to laugh at them. Nowhere more hilarious than The Blue Lotus, where they come wearing 17th century Manchu era clothes, complete with ponytails and fans note ! The result?
      Thompson (with nearly the entire town parading behind them laughing): "Don't look now, but something tells me we're being followed..."
  • Spirou is perhaps the ultimate incarnation of this trope: When he started the 1938 he was a bell-boy elevator operator in a chic hotel wearing the traditional red outfit. The outfit (especially the hat) has become tied with the character, even as bell boys. The thing is, bell-boys in general and elevator operators in particular no longer exist. Most readers ended up not knowing what the hell Spirou's uniform came from, but changing it became problematic because it was so intrinsically tied with the characters. Thus Spirou wore his outfit for many decades despite it being out of place. Newer authors compromised by making Spirou wear a variety of red clothes, and only keeping the uniform's hat to be used occasionally as a Continuity Nod. Many characters have even remarked on the odd hat's appearance or even outright questioned where it's from. Of course, it's lampshaded in Le Petit Spirou where every single member of Spirou's family wears the outfit 24/7. Recent takes on the series justify the clothes in different ways: in Emile Bravo's version for example, Spirou is a bell-boy operator but the reason he wears the outfit all the time is that he's too poor to buy new clothes. Meanwhile, Fantasio's fondness for bow-ties remains unexplained throughout the series.
  • In The Beano, the artists occasionally tried to 'update' the characters clothes. It usually didn't take (as with The Bash Street Kids and, to some extent, Dennis the Menace), but subtler changes did (as with Roger The Dodger getting long trousers).
  • Swedish military-humour character 91:an Karlsson still wears a blue uniform (outdated already when he was created in the 20's) despite most his comrades having switched to more modern camo.
  • While not as pronounced as others here, Garfield's owner Jon has hair, a collar shirt and shoes that firmly put his creation in the seventies.

Film
  • The 2009 Star Trek movie, set during the time of the original series, updated the Starfleet uniforms somewhat, but the female version still consisted of a miniskirt and go-go boots. Not that everyone would consider this a bad thing- for them The Sixties did get some things right. It is somewhat ironic, since the original Star Trek is supposed to be set many years in the future. On the other hand, the disco-era styles help distinguish Kirk's time from TNG's aesthetic, which younger film-goers are more familiar with. The go-go boots plant us firmly in 'the past'.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture got into this with McCoy's initial outfit, which makes him look like a renegade disco performer.
  • Plot-relevant in Good Bye, Lenin!. As stated below under Real Life, this happened in the Communist bloc. The entire movie is about tricking protagonist Alex's mom into thinking Communist Germany still exists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thus, everyone who is going to visit Alex's mom is required to take off their Capitalist Germany clothes and put on their Communist Germany clothes.
  • Steve Rogers in The Avengers. His fashion is hopelessly out of date (long-sleeve collared shirts, maybe with the sleeves rolled up and slacks) which makes him look stuffy and formal compared to Tony or Clint. Entirely justified, given that Cap literally spent the last 70 years as a Human Popsicle. Cap himself suggests that his old stripes and stars uniform is a bit old-fashioned. Coulson suggests instead that with everything that has happened, people "might need a little old-fashioned."
  • In I'm Gonna Git You Sucka former pimp Flyguy was sent to prison in The Seventies and when he gets out a decade later he wears the same outrageous pimp outfit he wore before his arrest: yellow suit with wide leopard print fur trimmed bell bottoms, a wide brimmed hat and clear platform shoes filled with water and goldfish. Instead of looks of admiration as he expects people they point and laugh, making fun of him. At the end of the movie he changes into a cooler (for The Eighties) outfit a slick, silk grey suit and fedora.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • The notion of an Outdated Outfit became a running gag on Arrested Development, with the character of Lupe who was known to wear exclusively hand-me-downs from Lucille. This usually resulted in funny background gags, such as a Halloween jumper on Thanksgiving or a Bush/Cheney jumper in late 2005.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • occasionally identifies vampires by their old-style clothes. (One of the more hilarious examples was in the episode that introduced Faith, where Faith is first seen dancing with a disco vampire.) Joss Whedon originally intended all vampires to wear clothing matching the time period in which they died, but realized that the concept was major Nightmare Retardant. The first episode had a passing reference to the idea, with Buffy identifying a vampire based on his 80's fashion.
    • Spike has been using the same leather jacket since he looted it off of Nikki Wood and has had the same bleached hair since at least before Billy Idol, seeing as it's been mentioned in canon that Billy stole his hair from Spike.
  • Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood fought in World War II, and has worn his military greatcoat ever since. On occasion, this has caused other characters (who are unaware that he is immortal) to speculate that dressing in period military means he's gay. (Of course, he's not that picky.)
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor. This is forgivable, though, since if his outfit isn't fashionable in one episode (or era), it may be in style in the next one.
  • Tony Blundetto of The Sopranos went to prison in The Eighties. It shows.
  • Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Stacy Keach wore the fedora and trenchcoat associated with the typical 1940/50's Private Detective, despite the fact that the series was set in The Eighties.
  • Parodied in Flight of the Conchords. Jemaine and Bret have updated their look, with gelled hair and 80's synthpop-like clothing, which leads to this exchange;
    Dave: You guys seem a lot cooler today. Usually you guys wear clothes from the 70's.
    Jermaine: They're not from the 70's, they're from New Zealand.
    Dave: Isn't that the same thing?
  • Captain Peacock of Are You Being Served? is always seen wearing semi-formal morning dress, which had long been abandoned by all but the staunchest businessmen, even in the 1980s. This goes hand in hand with the character, who is fastidious, pompous and stuffy.
  • At one point in The Red Green Show, during a discussion of Dalton's driver's license (expired in 1994), Mike comments that his wardrobe suggests 1962.
  • This is actually done for people who know their fashion history in Downton Abbey, where Grande Dame Violet, the Dowager Countess, wears outfits from the 1900s in the 1910s and 20s, while her granddaughters and daughter-in-law (and her sister-in-law, a forward-thinking American) wear the height of fashion.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, the crew of Voyager are lost in the Delta Quadrant before the rest of Starfleet changed their uniforms, leading them to continue wearing the old-style uniforms, even after re-establishing contact with Earth.

Professional Wrestling
  • Ric Flair became so associated with his long sequined robes that he continued using them in his entrances decades after they went out of fashion.
  • ECW's Tommy Dreamer drew an enormous amount of hate in his early days due to being a prettyboy face (good guy) and his comically outdated wrestling outfit, complete with bright green suspenders.

Newspaper Comics
  • Dagwood Bumstead once commented to a man on a park bench about how many "weirdos" were walking around the city. That man couldn't help but notice that Dagwood wears a suit with one giant button on the front of it. (Apparently, this is a holdover from the 1920s, although it's a good bet not many Tropers are old enough to confirm this.) Specifically, it's a single shirt stud in a particularly stiff, formal shirt meant exclusively for white tie and tails. It's not meant to be worn with anything else, and is all but extinct even there, with most modern formal shirts taking two or three studs. (The high-waisted trousers and mandatory waistcoat worth with white tie mean that the four-stud shirts used with tuxedos don't really work.)
  • Most of the girls in Peanuts usually wear typically 1950s-style dresses. (Lucy and Sally eventually started sporting slacks, but kept their coiffed '50s hairdos.)
  • Nine Chickweed Lane - for a comic that's supposedly set in the present a lot of the characters dress in a style more suited to The Sixties or The Seventies (turtleneck shirts and dresses for the ladies, tweed coats with elbow patches for the men) ... though considering that most of the characters are academics and a bit old-fashioned and conservative at that, this makes some sense at least for Juliette and her peers (less so for Edda).

Video Games

Web Comics
  • El Goonish Shive's Elliot, Tedd and especially Justin have very 1990s/early 2000s hairstyles. They've been toned down as part of the Art Evolution but haven't gone away completely.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Scooby-Doo.:
    • Freddy's orange ascot.
    • Pretty much everyone's outfit really! Daphne and Velma look incredibly dated when not wearing more modern duds. The only one that could be said to have avoided it is Shaggy, and he's only avoided it out of luck — pants and a t-shirt just refuse to go out of style.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase: The gang's clothing was updated (and carried over to What's New, Scooby-Doo?). It had a hilarious comparison between present updated Daphne and her old-style Video Game counterpart:
    Daphne: Did I really wear that years ago?
    VG Daphne: That jacket, with that skirt?
    Both: Hmmm...
    • Fred and his counterpart, on the other hand happily reminisce on the relevance of the ascot.
      Fred: Nice ascot!
      VG Fred: Works for me!
    • It's also lampshaded in a commercial for the aforementioned ''What's New Scooby-Doo", in which the gang finds Fred's lucky ascot. As the gang tries to figure out what it is, Fred has a flashback to the time he wore it last and got made fun of by a girl at a party. Velma then deduces it may have been worn around the neck, at which point Fred dejectedly says he's going to wait in the van. The ad had this tagline:
      Same dog. New Tricks. No Ascot.
  • Schoolhouse Rock has a lot of those characters fall victim to this. The superhero Verb in his mirrored shades and shirt open to his belt really stands out. Not to mention all of those bell-bottoms!
  • Lampshaded in The Venture Bros.: The titular brothers (and even their father) dress in a mostly 60s pulp fashion. Same goes for Dr Orpheus (who dresses like Dracula, for lack of a better term). All of them have had their outdated duds remarked upon by people who avoid the trope. Dean and Hank have both remarked that their fathers forces them to wear those painfully out of date clothes. They'd much rather wear something more.... normal.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the Northern Water Tribe breaks out old Fire Nation uniforms for the purposes of troops sneaking up on the enemy commander (Zhao) and assassinating him. It's left to Sokka to point out that those uniforms are so old and out of date that they will never fool the enemy.
  • Disco Stu and his leisure suit on The Simpsons.
  • Popeye gets a pass when wearing his Navy whites (which haven't changed much in decades) but usually he's wearing a much more dated nautical outfit that was old-fashioned even in the 1930's.
  • Parodied in Futurama, in the episode "Less Than Hero", where Fry and Leela gain superpowers and, together with Bender (who already has them), decide to become superheroes; as Captain Yesterday, Fry wears a decidedly outfashioned white-and-blue disco outfit.

Real Life
  • Portuguese fashion was decades behind other countries in the 17th century, which was embarrassingly shown when a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, sailed to England to marry Charles II.
  • Likewise the Communist bloc during the Cold War; this was much commented on in media coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • In 16th century England, portraits and funeral images show that the fashions of the country nobility were at least 20 years behind those of the royal court in London.
  • Jeff Foxworthy once did a routine on how men in general (and his father in particular) tend to tune out fashion at a certain point after marriage and parenthood and simply keep wearing old stuff; the usual timing of fashion cycles and human development mean that dads' clothes are the most horribly dated when the kids are in early adolescence.
  • Jerry Seinfeld also did a bit, saying you could tell what a man's favorite year was, since that's the fashion style he'll wear for the rest of his life.
  • "Throwback uniforms" began appearing among US sports teams when baseball's Chicago White Sox brought back the 1917 design for one game during the original Comiskey Park's last season in 1990. The trend quickly spread to other teams and leagues.
    • In 1994 the National Football League brought back old designs for all its teams to celebrate the league's 75th anniversary, and they've appeared on and off ever since. Some were attractive enough that they were retained on a semi-permanent basis. Some...not so much.
    • Similarly in England Arsenal used a kit design based on their original colours during their final season at Highbury stadium.
    • The Los Angeles Lakers tried to play a game with the uniforms from The Eighties. They changed back to their normal uniforms at half time. Short shorts on gigantic men do not work well together.
    • The Canadian Football League also got in on this. Caused some amusement with the way some team colours have changed over the years.
    • For some reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trotted out throwback unis based on their infamous orange-and-white "creamsicle" look in 2010. Nostalgia Filter?
    • The Utah Jazz did a few throwback games in their original uniforms in the 2009-10 season, which proved popular enough that they permanently restored the original logo to their uniforms the next season.
    • Many National League baseball teams reverted to the old-fashioned "pillbox" hats in 1976 for the league's 100th anniversary. The Pittsburgh Pirates kept them for ten more years, the only team to do so. The hats were so far out of fashion that they were arguably cooler than the ubiquitous modern-style caps.
  • Think you'll be immune to this if you wear a nice, conservative suit? Nice try. The cut of the jacket, the width of the lapels, and the height of the gorge (the point where the collar and lapels come together) all change drastically over the decades, and it's immediately obvious in a crowd when your suit is not the same as the ones currently in fashion. That said, you could probably get away with a double-breasted '30s suit with a pleated back in a way that you couldn't with a hilariously exaggerated '70s number with a wide tie, or an '80s Power Suit. Just hope that you're at the age where you buy most of your business apparel when things are at a happy equilibrium. If not, you will look dated for the rest of your adult life.
  • Likewise, neckties. Historically, they have varied in width from 1 inch up to 6 inches, according to the whims of fashion. The pendulum has just swung to the point where all those narrow ties from The Sixties and The Eighties are back in fashion, but it's impossible to get away with an ultra-wide tie from The Seventies in any age. A fairly classic middle-ground lies between 3 and 3-and-a-half inches, but keep in mind that ties have also increased in length over the past 50 years: they started out at no more than 48 inches or so, but with the near-death of the vest and the ever-lowering trouser waistband, modern ties have lengthened to between 56 and 58 inches, which is much too long for pants worn at the natural waist. Meanwhile, vintage ties are far too short to be worn with modern, low-waisted trousers. (Sean Connery's James Bond probably wore his ties around 52 inches long, which was a typical length towards the end of The Sixties.)
  • High-waistedness is coming back for men and women, at least in America, and vests have just become extremely popular, possibly because of Mad Men.
  • According to The Big Book of the Unexplained "real-life" Men in Black were known to wear clothes that were either "wildly out-of-date or not yet in style" to go with their vintage yet seemingly brand-new cars "(black, of course)".
  • Nurse wearing white uniform with cap. In the United States, this started to be phased out in the 1980's, with specialty units (OR, ICU, Maternal-Child) having color-coded scrubs to make them easily recognizable. Other units started following suit. Now, all nurses wear scrubs, in the hospital and other care settings. However, most nursing schools still have "capping ceremonies" before graduation, because every school has its own unique style of cap.
  • Sometimes, clothes that were merely the norm on the street in one age become some profession's uniform. One example would be the habits worn by many orders of nuns — basically the clothes of a respectable Renaissance-era widow. Another is the 18th century wigs and gowns worn by British judges.


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