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White Shirt of Death

"Even though we are going to shatter thousands of lives, wearing white is gonna make the blood look so pretty."
Ladd Russo (right), Baccano!

Ever notice how much more dramatic blood looks on a white background? It follows that wearing a white shirt can be more hazardous than wearing a Red Shirt. The death of a white shirt wearer will be much bloodier than that of your traditional Red Shirt.

Also, in Korea, China, Japan, and any Fantasy Counterpart Culture strongly influenced by the same, white is the traditional color for funeral dresses.

A quite literal interpretation of the trope existed in the Bulgarian army around the beginning of the 20th century as some common soldiers would keep a white shirt for last and put it on when defeat seemed imminent, in odd contrast to Bring My Red Jacket.

Compare Snow Means Death, which uses the color white to similar effect. See also Woman in White, Man in White, Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress, and Bedsheet Ghost. Contrast Bring My Red Jacket.

Since this is a Death Trope, expect spoilers.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Nanoha's near-death incident that occurred sometime between the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS used both this trope and Snow Means Death to great effect, as her blood is shown splattered all over her white Barrier Jacket and the snow-covered field.
  • Ladd Russo from Baccano! finds himself subject to this trope — see page image. He doesn't die per se, but he does get his ear clipped off and his left arm completely skinned to the bone. Notably, Ladd invoked the trope, explaining that he and his friends all wear white because he thinks blood spatters look best on white clothing. Of course, at the time, he probably didn't think it would be his blood... And then there is the Rail Tracer, whose white conductor uniform gets completely coated in blood of his victims.
  • Ayashi no Ceres:
    • Chidori is wearing a white dress when she is fatally shot in the chest to protect Yuuhi.
    • Aya is wearing white clothes when she is stabbed by Aki, who is possessed by Shisou. She survives, along with Tooya's baby.
  • For the final arc of Code Geass, Emperor Lelouch wears a fancy white set of robe. In the very last episode, he is stabbed through the chest with a big honking sword, just as he planned. A lot of focus is put on the blood.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • When Kenshin and Tomoe met in the manga and OAV, she was wearing a white kimono. He had just killed a man in front of her. She said "you make rain blood".
    • Tomoe was wearing the white kimono in her own death scene.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni:
    • Battler Ushiromiya combines white shirt with Bring My Red Jacket; his habitual outfit is a white suit with a red shirt. Although he doesn't tend to die in as many arcs as some of the other characters, his luck still sucks a lot.
    • Subverted, at the end of the series he is shown to be the only one besides Eva that survived Rokkenjima.
  • Solf J. Kimblee in Fullmetal Alchemist starts wearing an entirely white suit after being released from prison. His death? Having his jugular vein and possibly the carotid artery bitten off by a chimera, which Pride lampshades before eating him and gaining his alchemic power.
  • Inverted in Darker Than Black. November 11 habitually wears a white suit, which usually remains spotless. The one time he wears a black suit, he gets killed.
  • The Kurama vs. Karasu fight in YuYu Hakusho is definitely an example of this. Karasu's bombs eventually make Kurama bleed so much the entire front of his outfit and some of the back is dyed red.
  • Hakuron from Haou Airen is shot to death while wearing a white suit.
  • Rei "Hana no Saint Juste" Asaka from the Oniisama e... anime is all dressed up in white when she falls in the path of a train and to her death.
  • Inuyasha often sustains his worst injuries when he's stripped down to his white undershirt, losing the protection of his armored kimono. The most notable example was during his fight with Goshinki, who predicted his every move, avoided his attacks, clawed his back open left him dying in a pool of his own blood. He got better.

    Film 
  • The climax of Equilibrium plays with this trope with Christian Bale's character. Although he doesn't die, he does get some blood on himself during the sword fight at the end.
  • Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
  • The ending of Ashes and Diamonds uses a white bedsheet to similar effect.
  • Heroic Bloodshed movies do this a lot, and the deaths of people who wear white get quite bloody. Usually, it's the villain wearing white, but at least one heroic example happens with Ah Jong/Jeffrey Chow and Inspector Li Ying from The Killer during the church shootout. Though then again, Ah Jong, the tragic hero in question, is one of the three main characters to be killed off. And Inspector Li is the one who survives at the end to kill Wong Hoi, which in turn results in his arrest by his fellow officers at the end.
  • Shaun in Shaun of the Dead never changes his white office shirt throughout the Zombie Apocalypse. "You've got red on you" becomes a Running Gag because of it.
  • The Consultant in The International. Also, the protagonist's white shirt gets a lot of blood splattered on it from those who get shot around him in that scene.
  • In Bound, a character is shot to death wearing a white shirt and standing in a room-wide puddle of pure white paint.
  • The Big Bad in Gladiator wears a full white suit before his climactic duel with Maximus. Makes his blood readily apparent when Maximus shows that he is completely outclassed.
  • The duel at the end of Dangerous Liaisons.
  • Several characters from Reservoir Dogs, with the special honor going to Mr Orange, whose shirt, it would seem, does not have a single white spot on it by the end of the movie.
  • The final battle in Ultraviolet.
  • In the original Get Carter, Jack Carter stabs Albert Swift, who is wearing a white shirt. The scene was considered pretty shocking for its time.
  • In Kill Bill, the Bride faces and messily defeats O-Ren Ishii while the latter is clothed in a white kimono and standing in snow.
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, Jet Li's character enters the final showdown dressed entirely in a white version of the black suit he's been wearing for the rest of the movie. They couldn't have made it more clear what was going to happen to him.
  • Aptly enough, "Man in White Shirt" from Tampopo.
  • In the Hindi film Dil Se the song and dance "Satrangi Re" foreshadows the fate of Amar by showing him in a black outfit for most of the song then in all white at the end. Usually the dancers in Hindi song and dance numbers have multiple costume changes in one song. Limiting Amar to the 2 outfits accentuated the symbolism. (his dance partner wore at least 7 different outfits in the same song.)
  • Bruce Willis wears a white T in Pulp Fiction that gets a broad swath of blood down the front, particularly from the gash across his nose.
  • Played for full horrific effect in The Wolfman (2010) when Lawrence wakes up after his first transformation. The white shirt he was wearing is quite messy.

    Literature 
  • The Thrawn Trilogy - Grand Admiral Thrawn. Crimson blossom of blood; spotless white uniform. Even his murder was stylish. Famous Last Words:
    "But...it was so artistically done..."
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Sleep of Reason, Fitz makes the questionable fashion choice of wearing white trousers. As a Genre Savvy character like himself should have expected, he ends up with a leg injury. It's not fatal and not even that bad, but it sure seems to bleed a lot:
    His trousers were blossoming from white to red.
  • In the book Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Santiago Nasar decides to wear an unstarched white linen shirt, and is murdered in a very bloody way that day.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter slices Draco Malfoy up like a Christmas ham in the bathroom and Draco nearly dies, but he gets better. His white shirt was covered in his blood.

    Live Action TV 
  • Samantha Roth on 24. Also, later on in the same season, Erica. Although he doesn't die for obvious reasons, after getting stabbed a couple times in the first episode of the sixth season Jack Bauer's white shirt is left completely blood-stained until he changes it in the following episode.
  • Variation: when Tara gets shot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we can tell because it splatters onto Willow's white shirt. For added effect, she doesn't realize she was shot; her last words are a confused "Your shirt?" before she falls.
    • And in the opening episode of that season, Willow wears a white dress when she kills a fawn for its Blood Magic.
  • The White Sheet of Death occurs in Angel when a monster rampages through a skyscraper full of lawyers, killing everyone in sight. Whenever we see a corpse afterwards, they all seem to be clutching bloody paperwork.
  • The X-Files has a couple:
    • There's the episode where the ghosts make Scully and Mulder think they shot each other, only for the blood to disappear as soon as they leave the haunted mansion. Both wear white t-shirts.
    • Mr. X, although, in an unusual variation, it's a white shirt with pinstripes.
    • Scully is shot in "Tithonus" and bleeds on her white top.
    • Scully wears a snow-white blouse when a psycho writer and serial killer who's in love with her tries to rip her heart out with his bare hands.
  • The promotional images and DVD boxsets of Dexter often depict Dexter in white, blood splattered clothes standing in front of a white background.
  • The lawnmower incident on Mad Men.
  • Jonathan on Smallville.
  • Subverted on the first episode of True Blood. As revealed in the commentary, during the filming of the teaser, they deliberately dressed the female redneck in a bright, white shirt to make Genre Savvy viewers look forward to her being splattered with blood when vampires are revealed. She isn't.
  • On Degrassi, JT is wearing a white shirt when he dies.
  • As shown in a flashback during the finale of Being Human, Hal was wearing a white shirt when turned into a vampire.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • In "The Even Chance", when Clayton and Simpson duel to the death with pistols, they both take off their uniforms and both wear white shirts. The place is also covered in snow. Both are wounded, one of them fatally.
    • In "Retribution", Archie Kennedy hides his wound under his uniform. Horatio rips it open and sees the blood all over his belly.
  • Rome. The assassination of Julius Caesar on the Senate floor, thanks to the white togas everyone is wearing. Marc Antony later uses this to advantage (offscreen) by displaying Caesar's bloodstained cloak to incite public furor against his killers.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), the woman in white's blouse has more blood stains each time she appears until her garments are soaked in blood.

    Music 
  • Uhm, does "White Shirt" by The Charlatans (as in "She laughed and then she died") possibly refer to this trope?

    Theater 
  • In an extension, after each character dies in the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, they're outfitted with a red-streaked white shirt for the rest of the show (since they still need to be on-stage as the chorus or to play instruments or whatever, depending on staging). In one production, the dead characters put white makeup on and powdered their hair white/grey and spent the rest of the show as ghosts.
  • Subverted in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, in which Mad Padraic wears a wife-beater when he gets down to torturing, and it gets covered with other people's blood. Until he gets killed, messily, and this trope is Double-Subverted.

    Video Games 
  • Hitman 2 makes good use of this, cutting to a white screen whenever you die that really highlights your character's blood pooling around his body. In addition, there's the funeral shootout at the very end of Hitman Blood Money.
  • Every standard headcrab zombie in Half-Life 2 wears a very blood-covered white shirt. This was lampshaded in the parody comic Concerned: Frohman becomes a zombie and laments that "He had to be wearing white" at the time (referncing both the zombies' bloody white shirts and the fact that he had started to adjust to life in Ravenholm).
  • Vladimir Lem in Max Payne 2.
  • Kaede Smith in Killer7 always wears a white dress with a big red blood splat on it. Especially fitting, given that the bloodstains match the bullet wounds that ended her previous life.

    Whenever you die in Killer7, you get a shot of your character's severed head on a completely white background exploding into a smear of blood. There's a lot of blood in Killer7. The blood smear when you die in Killer7 is shaped like a screaming skull.
  • Ghost Trick: Partially subverted. Cabanela does die (though you fix it), but his coat remains unstained. He just falls over.
  • In Metal Gear Solid you fight against Sniper Wolf two times. The second time is in the middle of a snow storm, so she's obviously wearing a white camouflage anorak.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3, the most dramatic battle takes place in a field of white flowers against a blonde opponent in a white battle suit.
  • All six of the Handmaidens in Knights Of The Old Republic 2 wear white jumpsuits or grey robes. Every appearance of the five who stick with their white jumpsuits fighting ends with them getting their asses handed to them.
  • Played straight and averted in Ōkami, where heroine Amaterasu and her past self, Shiranui, are white wolves. At one point, one of them is fatally injured and shown bleeding profusely, while the other never shows a scratch no matter how much damage she takes.
  • The final battle of Stranglehold has Mr. James Wong, like most of John Woo's villains, wearing white. Though he gets shot up plenty, he is finally brought down by Teko, who sends him off a balcony as he's preparing to finish off her father.
  • It's not your death in Sleeping Dogs, but you get to keep the all white suit covered in blood from the hit at Winston's wedding.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend three of the cast members are white doves. During BBL, one is stabbed. Character's images don't really change in this dating game unless the characters are clothed, but an exception is made here.

    Webcomics 

    Real Life 
  • Briefly mentioned in the Seppuku article: the Samurai would wear a white kimono for ritual suicide.
  • Junior officers in the French Army in 1914 thought it chic to die in white gloves, perhaps so they could press their hand to the fatal wound and remove it dramatically. The French Army was...slightly crazy at this point in time, with a very Napoleonic and romantic attitude to the way modern war should be waged, and it paid accordingly.
  • The Flag of Austria has been said to symbolize the duke of Babenberg's white surcoat getting soaked in blood in a battle. Only the portion of the surcoat which was tucked under his belt, remained white.
    • The Austrian army during the Musketry Era wore white. Historians are divided as to whether this trope caused any handicap. The pragmatically-minded British, on the other hand, wore red for precisely this reason.
      • Other armies of that era also wore white, e. g. those of pre-Revolutionary France, Saxony, and Spain.
    • Which is a fun myth, but sadly, only a myth - even a cursory experience would cause one to realise blood still darkens and dyes red cloth of that hue. In truth, red dye from madder was just cheaper for the British to produce, and officers enjoyed the scarcity, expense, and thus prestige of brighter cochineal.

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