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Sleeves Are for Wimps
Ryu doesn't need no stinkin' sleeves to kick your ass.

A tough (or wanna-be tough) character habitually wears a shirt without sleeves to show off his upper arms. And tattoos.

You might even say he has a Right To Bare Arms.

One classic variant is when the character has cut the sleeves off of a regular shirt, leaving visibly jagged edges. This was common in The Seventies and The Eighties. Consequently, an easy way to evoke The Eighties with costume design. Tends to go well with mullets, if you can fit your mind around a definition of "well" that allows it to appear in the same sentence as "mullets" without negations or brain implosion. Sometime before 1990, this trope made you look like a Bad Ass. Any time after that, it makes you look like a redneck.

Tank tops generally serve the same purpose. Vests worn without shirts also count. A vest worn over a cut-off shirt would count double. Vests worn over regular shirts are just vests. Sorry, Nelson.

This is mostly an Always Male trope, since the reasons for putting a woman in a tank top are usually somewhat different, but it's far from unheard of for Action Girl characters to dress like this as well.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Quattro in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (although he doesn't look as big as most of the other examples here)
  • Revy and Dutch from Black Lagoon.
  • All of Zafira's clothes in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are like this, from the black wife-beater he wore on his first meeting with Hayate to the barrier jacket that he uses now.
  • In the anime version of Ranma ˝, Ranma's "trademark" Chinese shirt has no sleeves and he's usually shown wearing arm bracers. In the manga, the closest equivalent shirt had short sleeves — in fact, there was also a manga version that had long sleeves (particularly when Ranma was in female form), but the anime, most likely due to budget reasons, suffered from something of a Limited Wardrobe. Though that didn't prevent both of the aforementioned manga shirts popping up on occasion. Ryoga Hibiki also occasionally wore a tattered, sleeveless shirt, which looked as though the sleeves were ripped off, but he's somewhat better known for a long-sleeved shirt.
    • The long sleeves version shows up in the first movie and OAVs at the very least
    • Pantyhose Taro always wears a vest with a snakeskin pattern, with no shirt underneath.
  • Bleach has several variants. The most straight-forward is Hisagi who wears a sleeveless version of the standard uniform top. Shinigami captains also wear a white coat over their uniforms and some (Komamura, Gin, Byakuya, Hitsugaya, Kenpachi) wear sleeveless versions. Kenpachi's has the jagged look to emphasise his Bad Ass nature since it supposedly belonged to the previous Captain of the 11th Division that he beat in a duel to the death to gain his position. Tousen after betraying Soul Society also wears a sleeveless long jacket. Finally Kensei of the Vizard wears a tank-top and favoured the sleeveless version of the coat back when he was Captain of the 9th Division.
    • Sui Feng, and all previous 2nd division captains, also wear uniforms that are both sleeveless and have a low-cut back, because the most powerful flash step techniques would destroy those parts of the uniform, destroying a conventional uniform.
  • Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star wore outfits without sleeves. When he went into Hokuto Shinken asskicking mode, oftentimes the shirt would disintegrate with the power of his Battle Aura and leave him shirtless.
    • Coincidentally, the only time he wore a sleeved leather jacket was the time when he got his ass kicked by Shin.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple gives us Berserker, along with Kenichi's new custom-made dōgi in a "sleeves-torn-off" style, debuted in the chapter 145.
  • Fate/stay night's Archer, whenever he takes his skirt-coat off. He never does this in the original game, but it's almost his default outfit in Hollow Ataraxia.
  • Although not quite as all-encompassing as many of the other examples, Kaidou Kaoru from The Prince of Tennis wears sleeveless shirts whenever he's not in school uniform.
  • Ryoma has the cut-off variant in New Getter Robo
  • Phoenix Ikki, Cygnus Hyoga, Unicorn Jabu, and Pegasus Seiya from Saint Seiya's civilian clothing include sleeveless shirts. In Hyoga's case, it looks like they were torn off.
  • Well, Yuuki does seem pretty badass, and he seems to avoid sleeves whenever possible.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Edward Elric typically wears a black jacket, a long, red coat, and white gloves, but frequently invokes this trope either via Adrenaline Makeover, or to lecture someone on why human alchemy is bad. His automail arm increases this trope's intended effect exponentially.
  • Heero Yuy from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. Yes, even in the middle of Antarctica!
  • Genos the cyborg from One Punch Man always wears sleeveless tops, to show off his robotic arms.
  • In Ninja Scroll, Jubei prepares for the final showdown with the Big Bad. It's all or nothing now, no more kid gloves, it's all come down to this. What's the very first thing Jubei does to prepare for the greatest fight of his life? ...He rips off his sleeves.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh, Jozak only ever seems to wear sleeves when he's in women's clothes, and not always then, either - much to Yuuri's horror when he sees the huge biceps on the "lady" flirting with him when Jozak is first introduced. Although he's not the best physical fighter of the cast, he is the Combat Pragmatist, and the one who spends the most time on the front lines/roaming the wilderness, since he's a spy and most of the rest of them are aristocrats of some kind.
  • If a shirt isn't sleeveless when Toriko puts it on, it will probably become so shortly.

    Comicbooks 
  • Wolverine. Several of his costumes have involved a full-body spandex suit, which leaves bare only the lower half of his face...and his arms.
  • Bad Ass bad guy version (Gender-Blender Name notwithstanding): Jody from Preacher.
  • Both used and averted by Ben Reilly from Spider-Man. His Scarlet Spider costume consisted of a red spandex suit covering his entire body - including his arms - and a blue hooded top with the arms ripped off.
  • A number of Gary Frank's redesigns for the Legion of Super-Heroes lack sleeves. This has been pointed out by the fans.
  • The original costume worn by The Mighty Thor invoked this trope, as did the alternate costumes he wore in the 90's while he was mortal. His current costume covers his arms with chainmail.
  • Hawkeye from The Avengers and Thunderbolts, usually had sleeveless costumes, as did his alternate reality counterpart in The Ultimates. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes lampshaded this in a Shirtless Scene, where he has a very prominent farmers tan.
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner and Thing from Fantastic Four often only wear speedos but when they do wear costumes with shirts, their arms will be bare.
    • Also from the Fantastic Four, both Susan Richards and Johnny Storm have had periods in which they wore sleeveless costumes.
  • The Savage Dragon often wears tank tops and has even worn trench coats and police uniforms with the sleeves ripped off. Sometimes, it is the result of Clothing Damage but sometimes, it's because he's too big for normal-sized clothes.
  • She-Hulk often goes sleeveless as well.
  • Plourr Illo in the X-Wing Series, past a certain point, is usually shown sleeveless. Even during a briefing when the other Rogues are in their dress uniforms, Plourr gets to go without the jacket. May be excused as this was after the arc in which she left the squadron to rule Eiattu VI; she came back, but it was clear that she didn't have to stay with the same rules.

    Films 

    Literature 
  • In Allegiance, Mara Jade's black combat jumpsuit has removable sleeves. She takes them off in this book because the freighter where she is is overwarm. Also, her signature costume is a sleeveless Spy Catsuit.
  • Doroga in the Codex Alera series habitually goes around in a legionnaire's jacket with the front ripped open and the sleeves ripped off. This is because it was a gift, and by Marat custom it would be a deadly insult not to wear it, but he's so buff he couldn't fit his arms in the sleeves.
  • In Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, Ham (a physically-enhanced Thug) almost always wears a vest without a shirt. At one point he's forced to wear a uniform — shortly after he's no longer required to, he's found wearing it anyway... with the sleeves ripped off.
  • Chocolate Harry, supply sergeant of Phule's Company customizes his uniform by taking off the sleeves.
  • Destined to Lead: All the characters in the first book are this containing both male and female examples, particularly notable is Kajiya, the main character. Justified in that her left shoulder shows the mark of magic, marking her as the next leader of their tribe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ash from Supernatural wears this all the time, and has a mullet to go along with it. Though Ash doesn't do any actual ass-kicking in the show, he gets Badassery by pure brains and Memetic Mutation; and for bonus points there's a sign on his door which says "Dr. Badass is... IN/OUT".
  • B.A. on The A-Team (and Mr. T in anything else he was in as well)
  • Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard is one of the prototypes of the "good old boy" use of this look now.
  • One episode of Wishbone had Joe, in an attempt to fit in with some teenage basketball players, take scissors to his T-shirts while Wishbone commented, "Okay, why don't we like sleeves anymore?"
  • Power Rangers
  • Here's a female example: In the new Battlestar Galactica, number Six always dresses appropriately for whatever she's doing. When she's being a badass she wears a tank-top.
  • Scrubs gives us The Todd.
  • Mac, the wanna-be tough guy in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia often wears sleeveless shirts (to the point of cutting the sleeves off of almost any shirt, including polos and other collared shirts). One of the other castmembers calls him on it.
  • In later seasons of Stargate SG-1, Teal'c tended to wear these a lot. Occasionally Daniel and even Sam got in on the sleeveless action, such as the workout scene in "Orpheus."
  • Mike, a bully on Community.
  • Percival from Merlin has sleeveless armour.
  • Tearing the sleeves off of the work uniform seems to be in the employee manual at Rick's Restorations
  • When Stephen Colbert is about to rock out on the guitar, he knows that the first thing you do is rip the sleeves off your suit.
  • The Walking Dead has Daryl Dixon, resident redneck/hunter/tracker/zombie killer extraordinaire. The first time we see him wearing sleeves (about half way through the second season), he ends up ripping them off by the halfway point of the episode. It seems like this is changing, though, with the adoption of a blue jean jacket (with sleeves) as the timeline of the series moves into winter.
  • White sleeveless muscle shirts gained the nickname "wifebeaters" due to their frequent appearance on domestic violence suspects on Cops.

    Music 
  • Way too many eighties music videos to name here feature sleeveless shirts, vests worn without shirts, and similar things. Its one of the things that defines the period, along with '80s Hair.
  • Country Music singer Kenny Chesney is known for removing his sleeves.
  • A lot of the touring costumes worn by *NSYNC were sleeveless.

    Pinball 
  • In Rollergames, Chuck Skull, manager of the Violators, wears a denim vest with torn sleeves to show off his thick arms.
  • Everyone in Laser War wears identical sleeveless spandex jumpsuits, differentiated only by their Army's color.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Too many wrestlers to name, including Hulk Hogan. Face it, you're lucky if they wear a shirt at all, let alone sleeves.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Larry The Cable Guy. He even named one album The Right to Bare Arms.
  • Discussed by Demetri Martin. He compares the typical reaction to leather jackets (good) to leather vests (bad) and concludes that the appeal lies in leather sleeves. Apparently, he owns a pair of leather sleeves.

    Videogames 
  • SoulCalibur: Xiba.
  • CJ from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas starts out wearing a white tanktop.
  • The Bad Dudes
  • Left 4 Dead: Francis doesn't hate vests.
  • Final Fight: Unless you count the tiny sleeves on Cody's t-shirt that just cover his shoulders, none of the playable characters in the original three games (Cody, Guy, Haggar, Carlos, Maki, Lucia, and Dean) have sleeves. (Though Haggar might have an unfair advantage seeing as he doesn't wear a shirt at all.)
  • Street Fighter
    • Ryu, Dan, Sean, Akuma, and Ken. Incidentally, Ken is the only character in the franchise who seemed to have the good sense to buy a sleeveless gi, rather than tear the sleeves off.
    • Balrog has a double whammy, with a tank top over a shirt with the sleeves torn off. In one of his Victory Poses in Street Fighter II (and his win portrait in Street Fighter Alpha 3), he tears both off at once.
    • And of course, Guile and his tank top.
    • Also Abel, Guy, Cammy, Ibuki, Birdie, Cammy, Charlie, T. Hawk, Yun, Yang . . . tons of them, really.
  • Over in SNK's territory, Ryo and Yuri Sakazaki (Robert varies between this and long sleeves) and Terry and Andy Bogard appear to have shared the same paper cutter when it comes to their fashion sense. One of them then lent it to Shen Woo.
  • Oni girl Suika Ibuki from Touhou. That despite looking like a 10 year old.
  • Most Final Fantasy female characters. Expect some of them to bare their midriff.
    • Cloud Strife too.
    • Squall Leonhart wears a black sleeveless shirt as one of his alternate outfits in Dissidia 012. Also comes with a badass chain wrapped around his left arm.
    • Oddly enough, in Final Fantasy XII, Ashe, Penelo and Fran all have some sort of sleeves, while the sleeveless ones are Vaan and Basch. Ashe doesn't have anything covering her shoulders, but she does wear sleeves covering the top of her arms. Many NPC wear sleeveless tops.
      • Crisis Core has fun with this since the standard SOLDIER uniform has a sleeveless turtleneck as the top. Zack certainly made it work.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Riku never wears sleeves. Not at 6, not at 15, not at 16. Never. Except once, when he had to wear the Organization coat, and even then it's a wonder he didn't cut off the sleeves to look more badass (if only because it would have jeopardized the whole 'impostor' plan).
    • Kairi as well.
  • Lewis, lead singer in an electric punk band in Primal wears a white tank top, even when he's a demon.
  • Purge in Space Channel 5 Part 2 is found to have a Sleeveless Purple Disco Suit underneath his Cloak.
  • Apollo Justice, of the Ace Attorney franchise, wears a sleeveless vest over a sleeveless shirt. He's on a quest to end injustice and sleeves.
  • The protagonist of Cave Story wears a tank top. Humorously enough, he appears a bit on the scrawny side, but he's much stronger than he looks seeing as he's a robot.
  • Torn and Sig in Jak X: Combat Racing both wear sleeveless shirts. Jak himself had his sleeves removed in the beginning of Jak 3.
  • Carver in Dragon Age II and Hawke (if played as a mage) adhere to this in the opening act.
  • Billy and Jimmy Lee from the Double Dragon beat-em-ups both wore sleeveless vests and shirts. Curiously, in the movie, where Billy wore a blue long-sleeve sweatshirt and Jimmy wore a red t-shirt, they spent most of the movie screaming and running away from the bad guys, making it a literal example of this trope.
  • Being a ninja, Ninja Gaiden main character Ryu Hayabusa almost completely covers his body, but still leaves his sculpted arms on display.
  • Rick exhibited this trope in the original Splatterhouse trilogy. In the 2010 game, he's instead a Walking Shirtless Scene.
  • More or less justified about half-way through Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Due to Clothing Damage, the prince's full shirt eventually degrades to a sleeveless shirt, then nonexistent. It's shown that he is using the scraps of cloth as bandages, so kinda justified.
  • In Sengoku Basara we have Kuroda Kanbe and his ragged, sleeveless jacket. While he may not be the most badass character in the series, but needs no excuse to showcase those arms of his.
  • Pokémon
  • The World Ends with You: Neku Sakuraba and Daisukenojo "Beat" Bito.
  • Wario qualifies, showing his muscles while he gathers treasure and defeats enemies with next to no problems.
  • The Fire Clan from the Golden Sun games tend to go sleeveless. It's justified by the fact that they have scales and spikes on their shoulders, which would make clothing in those areas difficult. Karst also plays up the fanservice aspect with a pair of Opera Gloves.
  • When discarding his greatcoat, Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution wears an armored vest that leaves his biomechanical arms exposed.
  • Ulysses from Fallout: New Vegas manages to combine this with Badass Longcoat and Badass Bandolier when he finally shows up in Lonesome Road. After the DLC, you get your own version of his coat with a symbol based on your chosen faction.
  • Strider Hiryu's ninja getup puts his nicely toned arms on display.
  • Kyle Blackthorne.
  • Makoto of BlazBlue only wore sleeves as part of the Military Academy's dress code - her combat outfit and her Amane-induced makeover are both sleeveless.
  • Genetically enhanced soldiers in XCOM: Enemy Unknown go sleeveless.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Sokka. "Look at you, sleeveless guy! Been working out?"
    • Also, Zuko goes sleeveless on occasion in the first season, when wearing his training/lounging outfit. Cue massive squees whenever this outfit appears.
    • When Katara adopts a more combat appropriate version of her usual outfit, it also lacks sleeves.
  • The Legend of Korra shows off Korra's well-toned arms with a sleeveless outfit. She even tries to roll up the sleeves and cape on her airbending training uniform. She doesn't even usually wear sleeves in the winter or at the South Pole (except when she's wearing her coat), her season two outfit has Detached Sleeves that still show her shoulders, and even her formal wear is sleeveless.
    • When Bolin is saving the president at the Pro-Bending arena, he tears of the sleeves of his jacket (inadvertently matching the character he plays, Nuktuk, Hero of the South, who NEVER wears sleeves despite living at the South Pole) before kicking some serious Northern Water Tribe ass.
    • Wei and Wing, Suyin's two metalbending sons, have yet to wear sleeves on their shirts. Considering that they're always fighting or playing a Pinball-esque metalbending game, it's practical. It also helps show the bracelet on their biceps. Wei wears his on his left arm, Wing on his right.
  • Todd on Beavis and Butt-Head.
  • Though he doesn't act like a tough guy, Ding-A-Ling Wolf from Hokey Wolf wears a vest AND a sleeveless shirt under it.
  • Matrix in ReBoot only goes sleeveless. When he his forced to do a tux for his sister's wedding, he immediately proceeds to rip the sleeves off.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Loan-A-Lisa", Principal Skinner decides to start working for Nelson to earn more money. Upon remembering that Nelson likes the sleeveless look he rips off the sleeves of his shirt and jacket, but makes no other changes. Superintendent Chalmers in a case of Strange Minds Think Alike shows up with the exact same look.
  • Several Young Justice characters, including Aqualad, Red Arrow, Wonder Girl and Guy Gardner. In Aqualad's case, it also shows off the Power Tattoos on his arms; he usually wears a long-sleeved jacket when he needs to be inconspicuous.
  • Jorgan Von Strangle from The Fairly OddParents enjoys showing off his muscles, so naturally sleeves are a pet peeve of his.

    Real Life 
  • For some reason, a gray hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off has become the signature wardrobe item of NFL coach Bill Belichick, lampshaded in an ESPN ad.
    • More generally, wearing no shirtsleeves in blisteringly cold temperatures is a mark of pride amongst NFL players. Because players over the last few decades have wanted tighter jerseys with less loose material for opponents to grab, sleeves have been reduced to little more than shoulder caps, strictly to keep the shoulder pads from flapping loose. It's a rare player these days who's not a kicker or punter that still has sleeves on his jersey.
  • You're rather likely to find gangsters or secret society members wearing these in Asia.
  • Almost a uniform for anybody at a gym with good arms, especially if they use free weights. Seriously, check it out sometime.
    • On a related note, in many high school gym classes you're likely to find a few athletes who have cut off the sleeves of all of their T-shirts to show off their bodies during the class.
  • This female bodybuilder explains her preference towards tanktops over regular t-shirts during workouts - the sleeves would end up with very ugly stains in the armpit areas due to sweat. Not to mention the heat especially in summer.
  • Modern ballistic armor (like the classic kevlar "bulletproof vest") doesn't include sleeves.
  • At the end of the medieval era, the invention of muskets and pistols made full plate armor (which was thin to conserve weight but angled to deflect swords and arrows but could not stop bullets) completely obsolete. Soldiers eventually eschewed such protection in favour of a single thick breastplate that could absorb the impact of the primitive musket balls but left the arms and head more vulnerable. This was an acceptable tradeoff due to primitive muskets and pistols being woefully inaccurate.
  • The majority of Australian Rules Football players wear sleeeveless guernseys, although sleeved versions do exist, and some players regarded as being among the greatest ever (such as Essendon's James Hird and Hawthorn's Michael Tuck) almost always wore sleeved jumpers.
  • Seems to be popular among Cybergoths. It looks cool but is also pragmatic - Cyber-dancing can get very involved and sleeveless clothes help cooling and allow more flexibility.
  • Tank tops and t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off are quite common in the punk and metalhead subcultures.


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alternative title(s): Right To Bare Arms
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