What happens when players equip their characters with gear solely based on stat bonuses without consideration to how it will look on them. The end results tend to be... colorful... to say the least.
Many games try to circumvent the phenomenon by allowing the equipment to be dyed, or allowing cosmetic alteration of equipment so it would look like another item.
Note that A: the work must enable the player/watcher to actually see the full clothing combination and B: The elements of the clothing combination triggering Rummage Sale Rejectmust have some advantage to equipping them (or else be saidto have some). If either element is absent, then this trope does not apply.note "player/watcher" used to allow for non-Video Game works
Compare Rummage Sale Reject, Impossibly Tacky Clothes. Not to be confused with Pimp Duds.
Contrast Virtual Paper Doll, where the items usually look better, even though they are superficial. Also contrast Set Bonus, where the items are meant to be used together and this is encouraged by giving a full set bonus.
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Shoot Many Robots falls into this. As there aren't very many full sets of equippable gear, you'll wind up wearing all sorts of random crap just to get the stat bonuses you want.
Soul Calibur 4: The Character Creation mode suffers heavily from this. While you can always play "Standard" mode, where clothing and weapon effects don't count, if you want to do well in other modes, you're pretty much forced to play with either the bastard child of Lady Gaga and a Silver Age superhero or a generic heavily-armored knight. The Random Character Generator in Soul Calibur 3 also produced pretty much exclusively this kind of character.
Your character's good/evil and cheerful/gloomy stats in Soul Calibur III were assigned via clothing options, meaning you'd often need to hide extra garments underneath your chosen costume to get the alignment you wanted or just shrug and settle for looking stupid.
The color slider on both games can help alleviate this problem somewhat, although sometimes it's impossible to hide the differences in clothing.
Tekken 6 can end up like this in its Scenario Campaign, due to various clothes you can find giving you special boosts. Though, this does vary character to character, as one characters clothing sets can end up mixing a lot better than anothers.
First Person Shooter
Team Fortress 2: Though there are theme-unified loadouts—some that even provide set bonuses—the sheer number of alternate weapons and Nice Hats in this game might result in this trope, especially since almost all items (there are a total of 6 equipment slots available for most characters: primary weapon, secondary weapon, melee weapon, hat, and 2 miscellaneous) can be painted in a multitude of colors.
World Of Warcraft is particularly guilty of this due its pseudo-cartoony style and initial poor itemization of gear, meaning it was very easy to build an efficient but stupid clownsuit. This was particularly prevalent in the first expansion, leading to "Outland Clown Syndrome"◊. This is usually only avoided in druids (whose shapeshifted forms mostly hide gear) and arguably trolls (who are stylistically gaudy).
Blizzard designed gear in the Wrath of the Lich KingExpansion Pack specifically to avoid this, with numerous items sharing models so as to mesh well with other items when equipped. Sadly, they went much too far in the other direction, with very few new item models and most of those hard to distinguish from each other, in a variety of shades that include very very dark purple, brown, very very dark blue, brown, very very dark green and brown.
Cataclysm at last seems to have found the right balance. In the revamped level 1-60 zones, new quest rewards of the same type (e.g. intellect mail or agility leather) usually form visually cohesive sets, so players who level through zones in the intended progression will rarely run into this trope. And level 81-85 equipment, while still going with the "shades of brown" direction, at least comes in several distinct enough looks.
Blizzard has taken steps to avert this in Patch 4.3 with the Transmogrification feature. This allows players to (for a fee) take two items and overwrite the appearance of one with that of the other, allowing them to keep the stats of the better itemized piece, while keeping the appearance of the better-looking piece.
Rainbow Pimp Gear in World Of Warcraft was parodied in the MachinimaThe Grind. This is what happens when, faced with an imminent horde ambush, one of the main characters switches to his "Damage Gear".
EverQuest and EverQuest 2 originally filled this trope. However, EQ1 introduced armor dye. EQ2 includes a feature where you can equip a piece of armor to appearance, and hide cloaks and hats.
The now-closed Tabula Rasa MMORPG seemed to generally avert this, as armor colors were generally of a duller shade, and dyes could be made to change the color of most armor, and so, were usually tolerable in terms of color coordination.
Runescape is guilty of this. "Hybrid" or "tribrid" gear for players who wish to use and/or defend against multiple styles of combat (melee, projectile, and magical) without changing armour will almost always look absurd. Wearing a robe skirt, leather body armor, metal boots and gauntlets, a visored helmet and a backpack with a chicken in it - while wielding a salamander - is optimized gear for certain activities.
Even worse, the developers try to give the player some control over the look, by having dyes... that only work when trying to dye armor that basically amounts to Vendor Trash. And basic capes. And dye doesn't work on metal or leather...
The Helm of Neitiznot, one of the best helmets in the game, is white with gold trim and wings. It tends to go badly with one's (probably brown) armor.
Averted in The Lord of the Rings Online you can make things like hats, cloaks, and even boots invisible, you can dye all of your equipment in a wide variety of colors, and you can even equip to alternative sets of equipment that replace the visuals of your actual equipment without having any effect on the stats. So nobody has to look like a clown. Except those people who want to.
Maple Story has this, especially once you get to a level where armour is no longer purchasable, and you have to take whatever colour armour you can get. Luckily, you can fix this with cash shop equipment, which masks over whatever you're actually wearing. It's rather expensive, however. If you don't want to be wearing something in a specific equipment slot at all, there's even invisible item masks, which just hides specific equipped items.
Subverted with like-colored equipment that has stat boosts. People who want the most out of a stat will tend to wear only one color — and if they're obsessive enough they'll just hunt down the gear... which, given the fact that the resident search engine for theFreeMarket, known as the Owl of Minerva, costs about 600 NX as opposed to the thousands that any given shirt or pair of pants in the Cash Shop would cost, a high-level player who bothers with NX (and getting all the different sets of equipment) could just bother with saving up their money (both kinds), buying a few, and jumping into the infamous sea of spam to find their armor or spending hours looking for it in the overpriced player stores. This was not actually too bad until Nexon constantly began to release special equipment which outshined standard equipment in stats so much that wearing standard equipment will automatically brand you as someone who isn't playing the game correctly. At least their outfits will match.
Then you run into people who practice in Min-Maxing. Let's just say that in any other game, you would not normally be allowed to run around wearing a glowing stone relic for a helmet, a paintbrush as their weapon, green shoes... and your only real armor consisting of nothing but a Modesty Towel. ** At as low a level as 18 (out of 200), a fairly simple quest gives out a terribly tacky full-head hat with defense and stat bonuses leagues ahead of any other hat. This, however, renders your head completely invisible, and the only way you can see your face again is to a) wear a less powerful hat or b) buy a NX hat. Ahhh Freemium.
Another Nexon game, Mabinogi makes it possible to completely avert this. There are many different styles of equipment with identical stats, grouped into three categories — clothing, light armour, heavy armour — with weapons and shields being a bit more varied. Combine this with cash shop dyes (which can be used to dye pretty much anything, including weapons), and it's fairly easy to customize colour and style combinations to create any look you want. However, since all gear, whether dropped, crafted, or purchased from NPCs, comes in completely random colour combinations (some of them fairly hideous on their own), and there are many items which exist solely to look silly (such as the "bald wig" and "tree costume") it is also possible to play this trope straight to truly epic levels.
Since shop items change colours randomly, it's also possible to create stylish and coordinated ensembles simply by waiting until the desired colours are available. However, this can take a very long time and a lot of shop-watching; and some colour combinations are only available via boss drops, special event rewards, or cash shop versions (such as pink and white shields, or bright purple longbows).
Vindictus, prequel to Mabinogi, plays this trope very straight. All equips drop or are crafted, and come in fairly random colours. Mix-and-match outfits are discouraged by the bonuses provided when wearing a complete set; but matching colours is a lot more challenging. Unlike most other MMORPGs, especially other Nexon games, there is no provision for choosing colours. There is a function to "dye" all equips, including weapons, but it is purely random; and costs a considerable amount of in-game currency for higher-level gear. Fortunately, the colour palette for each type of armour or weapon is very small, so there are limits on how clownish you can end up looking.
With later updates, cash shop dyes were released that allow for more control over colour; and create much brighter colours. This means that along with players creating some very coordinated and flashy sets of gear, others deliberately go for the insanely clownish look.
Along with that, there are some armour sets, especially at high levels, that look pretty clownish all on their own.
Star Wars Galaxies averted this. It was unique in that nearly all equipment was fully customizable (since it ran largely on a player-run economy); but it was very difficult to find full sets of armor that were customized in the same way without buying it all at once from an individual, or even to wear every piece of a given armor set at once. (Since there was no armor certification system; the armor itself simply drained some of your other stats while equipped. It was very easy to simply be unable to equip a helmet depending on your class, which would not give you enough points for the armor to drain in order to equip it.) Many players never wore armor at all, opting for the robust clothing options instead. The game has... changed a bit over the years, to say the least.
In The Matrix Online clothing drops were randomly colored, sometimes leaving articles in colors that should never be viewed together, much less in entire ensembles of visual offensiveness. Any player dressed like a complete clown was assured to be kicking ass in their ubergear. Some kept more fashionable but less adventure-worthy gear for clubbing and socializing, and others amped their absurdity to 11. This was somewhat mitigated by players able to weave their own clothing from the Matrix, but it involved a very expensive skillset and time-consuming farming to gather the raw materials.
Earth Eternal can suffer from this if one doesn't take advantage of the Armor Refashioners, who can take an existing piece of gear that may be ugly or garish but have good stats, and make it look like another piece of gear that may be from ten levels ago, but looks really nice. This may result in grinding random mobs to see if they drop anything that looks interesting.
Gunbound: Each avatar item has different stats and not all of them mesh well together appearance-wise. Players that often disregard the appearance of the equipment in favor of the stats are called "Stat Whores".
Mobsters 2: Most high-level players wear what amounts to a uniform of Combat Pants (puffy camouflage trousers) and a Window-pane Overcoat (a long grey coat over a waistcoat, shirt, and tie). Their bottom half is in the army and their top half is attending a business meeting.
Before the patch introduced with the PC version of the game, multiplayer in Dark Souls has long been dominated by builds combining delicate rapiers and daggers, absurdly huge and heavy armor, nimble ninja backflipping, and comical-looking stat-boosting masks.
A common effect in Monster Hunter with new players, who forge whatever they can afford to increase defense without them knowing about skill points. More experienced players equip full sets of armor from a certain monster (which doesn't look tacky) to get the skill points that the monster set gives. Even more experienced players know that, with the right combinations of armor sets, a unique combination of skills can be attained instead of having to go with a pre-made set... at the cost of looking like a rainbow pimp again.
To provide a mild example, a commonly seen set in Tri is to have mostly advanced magical white armor from a certain Elder Dragon, replace the waist with a lower rank form of the same armor (which looks the same but gives different skill points)... and then replace the helmet with the head of a dinosaur which boosts rewards.
This very trope was mentioned on the Tibiaforums. The game itself suffers from this kind of gear as well, just take a look at the blocking set.
It should be mentioned that the equipped items have no bearing on a character's appearance and outfits are instead chosen in a menu.
Dofus only has three visible pieces of equipment (with the weapon also showing, but only when it's used). Hat, cloak, and pet / mount. A character is also allowed to customize their own colors (but only at character creation or for a small real money fee). These colors, combined with armor that stands out very starkly and tends to be rather absurd (A popular early hat is basically a severed sheeps head with the tongue still hanging out), means that the odds of your character looking not stupid is very low. Of course, anyone going into Dofus intending to look badass is playing the wrong game.
Averted in Wizard 101. Yes, when you first get an item it may clash, but you can go to a shop in the main shopping district and dye it to match whatever else you have on, if you have the gold (by the second world, you always will). This is good because it's almost always better to use drops instead of buying shop items (except in the case of decks and sometimes wands).
Though some hat and robe combos might look a bit odd regardless.
This tends to happen frequently in MUDs since they are entirely text based and the players don't have any graphical representation, and also because they tend to have a lot of equipment slots.
Averted in Spiral Knights. There are two equipment slots: for equipment that affects player stats, and for equipment to override gear appearance.
Averted in Star Wars The Old Republic. Players with a subscription or who pay a fee can unlock an option to match all of their gear to the palette of their chestpiece equipment. This trope is still played straight for players who are free to play, presumably as incentive to change that.
Role Playing Game
Dragon Age: Origins tends to avert it, encouraging you to wear full sets of armour of the a specific type as that would give stat bonuses, and armour of the same class tends to be more or less similarly coloured. However, in the Feastday Gifts and Pranks DLC, there is the Butterfly Sword and Ugly Boots (Both are more or less Exactly What It Says on the Tin), which will massively clash with pretty much everything else in the game, but are decent items on their own. (Sten and Leliana will also take a big -50 approval. Because they clearly pretty much agree those items fall under this trope)
Fallout 3 and its expansions contain a lot of gear that can be just plain goofy looking all by itself, like the tribal power armor with its green color and attached skulls and such, powdered wigs, Abraham Lincoln's tophat, samurai armor, cowboy hats, civil war caps, motorcycle helmets, tinted sunglasses and assorted raider bondage gear. Late game you tend to move toward a handful of proper looking unique armor sets but low level lone wanderers are very likely to look like total jackasses.
Which seems to have become a post-apoc splatterpunk staple. Just check out anything from Mad Max all the way to Doomsday! Dystopian futures are also in the midst of perpetual fashion emergencies, as any reject-from-the-80s Shadowrun poster will tell you. Granted, in the movies it doesn't grant them any special abilities, but based upon how African warlords dress, it's easy to guess they probably believe it does.
Lampshaded in Shadow Hearts From The New World. A Ninja actually tells you that no matter how ridiculous something looks, if it raises your stats, wear it.
Too Human: Averted. You can buy special runes to change the color of your armor.
In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, on completion of a major quest, the city of Bruma will erect a statue of you in your honor. Your statue will wear the "best" armor and gear that you had in your inventory at that moment, not necessarily what you're wearing. The results can be interesting. In fact, "interesting" doesn't even begin to describe the weird things that can go on with this statue. On one hand, sometimes it equips magical equipment you no longer possess, due in part to a glitch that sometimes gives you magical bonuses for items forcibly taken from your character; on the other hand, if you carry out the insane task of completing the mission while carrying one-thousand torches, a one-handed weapon, and no shield, you're rewarded with the sight of your statue wielding a flaming weapon. So if you know how to manipulate the results of the statue, you can make it look like a big-headed dinosaur with a fiery sword. No matter what, though, the NPCs will comment, "You look just like your statue!" Why yes, I do have a dirty great staff implanted right through my arm, thank you for noticing. A particularly odd result can have the statue wearing the hood of the Grey Fox, leader of the Theives Guild and the most recognisable criminal in the entire province. And people still don't connect you with the Fox. Another effect is with a certain dagger you get from the brotherhood. The most powerful weapons in the game, but it's pretty small, and a statue heroically lifting a dagger to the sky does not have the intended effects.
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim generally avoids this trope, due to encouraging the player to wear a complete set of armor, since there is a high-level Perk in both categories of armor that gives you a bonus if you wear a full matching set. However, it can still come into play if you mix-and-match armors just right. Wearing, for example, a Dragon Priest mask, the dark-grey Nightingale Armor, blood-red Shrouded Gloves, and shiny green-silver Glass Boots just looks gaudy. As was mentioned earlier, though, this is usually inferior to actually matching your armor pieces.
Hellgate London averted this with a mechanic to color shift all your gear to match. Unfortunately this translated into a lot of brown (because Real Is Brown!) and similarly dingy colors.
Neverwinter Nights: Prismatic Dragon Boots. They give you great bonuses to DEX and AC, but they are so painful to the eye that they drain your CHA.
Go on. Tell me it isn't hilarious to put Mass Effect 1's Wrex, your walking tank party member, in some powerful, bright pink armor.
That armor, despite its power, is a punchline on anyone except Ashley Williams, your gunnery sergeant, where it serves as her default in the first two games.
The best equipment in a 3D Might & Magic game tends to look extremely gaudy and ridiculous. The in-game descriptions of said items tended to lampshade this.
Dragon Quest IX hits this badly due to widely varying equipment styles and occasionally counterintuitive bonuses. For instance, a leather kilt is better than cotton pants as warrior gear despite covering less, but iron armor is predictably more effective than a shirt, so a warrior may have substantial upper-body coverage and bare lower legs.
Almost every player runs into this problem because it's really easy to obtain the "Gooey Gear" early in the game, which has great defensive stats at that point, but looks completely ridiculous. It's literally a stack of brightly colored slimes that's worn by the character. Parodied in this fan art◊.
The Sonny series is pretty bad about this. Game two has perhaps two or three sets of equal-level equipment meant to be used together. For the rest of the game you are stuck with pick-and-mix gear in widely varying styles trying to maximize the attributes your skills depend on.
The Last Story averts this, allowing the player to dye the characters's clothing, item by item, as well as partially undress them and so on. The colours you are given at the start of the game include orange and hot pink. The uniforms include one with assless chaps. Hilarity Ensues.
Half Minute Hero, since most of the items are deliberately mismatched and stupid, and since you can't take equipment you gain in later levels with you. You will probably be wearing a long brown wig for most of the early game due to its big critical hit ratio.
In Xenoblade Chronicles every piece of armour has an effect on characters appearence. They're divided into Head, Top, Bottom, Gloves and Legwear, and mixing-and-matching can cause some... odd combinations. (Combining Heavy torso armour with light bottoms is particularly jarring, especially if said bottom is a bikini) And naturally, you will have to do this to maximise stats. And the best part is characters keep their armour in cutscenes, so you can ruin dramatic scenes with ridiculous outfits for your amusement.
Zettai Hero Project lampshades this: fairly early on, one character suggests that you should equip tank treads because they'll let you walk across spike traps unharmed, but the other says not to because you'll look ridiculous. And indeed, you (and your enemies) can equip some fairly ridiculous combinations of gear in the game, all of which are completely visible.
Meanwhile, the infinite ammo face paint needs no explanation of why it's good to leave on at all times, but the pattern is redundant kanji graffiti covering Big Boss' entire face from forehead to chin, which looks rather silly.
Wide Open Sandbox
Saints Row has a variant - you can pick colors on just about anything, but really, the most bang from your buck will come from purple gear - which happens to be the Saints' flag.
Spore can get quite silly in the tribal stage, with a wide variety of items available in different categories. Getting the best stats for a creature requires some unusual combinations of clothing, but the game's built-in colour-coordination and ability to move and size the items generally averts total ugliness. Still, it's tricky when you find that your Bad Ass warlike tribespeople absolutely need cowboy hats. One method for dealing with that is to make it as small as possible, and try to hide under something else.
In the Creature phase, it can happen with body parts, particularly for a "social" species. It doesn't help that they're acquired randomly.
This can happen in Minecraft, although its generally not so much based on stats as what you can afford to craft. And additionally, the various armor bits can potentially clash not only with each other but with whatever outfit your player skin was drawn wearing. Most texture packs only exaggerate this trope further by giving each armor set a unique look.
It gets worse when you start getting into useful-ability-granting one-to-a-set armor items added by mods like the odd-looking jetpack, batpack, and solar-helmet added by IndustrialCraft or the various garishly coloured magical armor items (and capes, and gloves) found in the Aether.
Non-video game examples:
Anime & Manga
Tenchi Muyo GXP: On a much larger scale than anything else in here, the Unko. Designed to be as lucky as any ship could ever possibly be, without any regards to its appearance. Dear God◊.
Noob has a short story involving Gaea and Omega Zell helping Sparadrap choose new equipement with the stats they considered to be important. The end result fits the trope, with the irony of some of Omega Zell's choices being attemps to give Sparadrap better charisma.
Forgotten Realms: Jarlaxle is this trope exactly, possibly due to living in a world that is also a Dungeons & Dragons setting. Everything he wears is highly magical and very, very... unique. He almost fits this trope literally, as he wears a color-changing rainbow cloak (it also cycles through ultraviolet!) and a large be-plumed hat that could best be described as pimptastic. Of course, he's probably doing this on purpose, as he's quite flamboyant and is happy with his look. It also makes him quite memorable, which is what he's going for. Jarlaxle's reputation is "He dresses like a goofball, but don't screw with him." It also helps that everything he wears has a perfectly practical use. Even the ridiculous plume on his hat can be used to summon a monster in a pinch.
In an early The Order of the Stick strip, Haley describes finding a pair of boots that would have been great, except that they were lime green. Later on, you see her wearing them in a flashback, and her Nemesis's first words to her are sarcastically noting the "nice boots". It turns out she's not only been carrying them around, but she also had them dyed to go with her new armor.
Haley: ... so the Boots of Speed were totally powerful, but they were, like, lime green. Vaarsuvius: Indeed. A most grave conundrum you faced.
Parodied by Stolen Pixels in regards to Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age actually tends to avert this by giving stat bonuses to characters who wear a full set of armor (e.g. chainmail breastplate + gloves + boots.) At that point in the game, though... yeah, most characters fit the trope.