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Angels In Overcoats

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If angels appear on Earth, they\'re wearing overcoats.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
wazroth on Dec 31st 2013 at 7:22:56 PM
Last Edited By:
jormis29 on Apr 27th 2018 at 2:13:53 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

If angels appear on Earth, they're wearing overcoats. Usually winter-weight, wool, 3/4 length overcoats. Sometimes trenchcoats. The trope frequently appears in movies where angels walk among humans, serving as a kind of Uniform Trope to communicate the wearer's angelic nature.

As far as this troper can tell, it originated with Wings of Desire (1987). Due to overcoat-wearing badass angels in such sources as The Prophecy and Dogma, there is often some overlap with Badass Longcoat.

Subtrope of Our Angels are Different.



  • Wings of Desire, likely Trope Maker. All angel characters, in particular Damiel and Cassiel, but also the secondaries, are all wearing smart wool overcoats during their Earthly tenure. Damiel gets to keep his overcoat even after becoming human.
  • Faraway So Close, sequel to Wings of Desire, focuses on Cassiel and Raphaela, once again in their woolen coats.
  • City of Angels, a remake of Wings of Desire, sees angel Nicolas Cage in a wool overcoat.
  • The Prophecy. Eric Stoltz's Simon, in particular, wears the standard issue heavy-wool version. Evil angel Gabriel (Christopher, ehm... Walken) wears a lighter coat, though it still fits the trope.
  • Dogma has its nogoodnik angels Bartleby and and Loki (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) in wool overcoats, worn over hooded sweatshirts. Alan Rickman's creation-weary but non-evil Metatron also wears a hoodie, but under a shorter jacket. (Creator Kevin Smith identifies Wings of Desire's use of overcoat-as-angel-uniform as the inspiration for having his angels wear a unifying article — in this case, the hoodie. The overcoat look for Bartleby and Loki undoubtedly originates from the same source.)
  • Guardian angel Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life wears an overcoat, but it's winter in Bedford Falls, and everyone's wearing an overcoat, so it's not clear that this counts as an example.
  • Although it's autumn in Iowa and everyone's wearing overcoats, the titular angel in Michael wears a trenchcoat most of the time, indoors and out, specifically to hide his wings.
  • Angels in the film Gabriel are depicted wearing various longcoats. Gabriel spends most of the movie in a brown trenchcoat. Fallen angel Sammael highlights his evilness by wearing a black leather trenchcoat.

Live-Action TV

  • Supernatural's angel-in-residence Castiel sports a trenchcoat. Wings of Desire and John Constantine from the Hellblazer comic are acknowledged as inspirations for his look.

Feedback: 33 replies

Dec 31st 2013 at 7:38:30 PM

Dec 31st 2013 at 7:56:37 PM

Maybe you'd like to explain why angels are depicted with overcoats, and when the first example exist (i.e what's the Trope Maker)? More analysis needed.

And examples should be more contextual.

Dec 31st 2013 at 7:59:52 PM

Absolutely, just making a stub for now...

Dec 31st 2013 at 8:42:28 PM

I'm guessing it's to hide their wings or something.

Dec 31st 2013 at 8:45:25 PM

Could be, though that doesn't really fit the depiction of angels in WoD. I can't remember how they handle wings in Dogma. They just kind of show up as necessary, if I remember correctly. Not super familiar with the other examples.

Dec 31st 2013 at 10:26:00 PM

I was thinking that before angels go in overcoats, they often went in togas. Question is, would a toga count as a coat?

Jan 1st 2014 at 4:04:43 AM

Capitalized title, formatted Examples section, sorted examples by media, corrected "spolier" to "spoiler", Blue Linked two mentions of Wings Of Desire, deleted "awful" from City Of Angels example as per How To Write An Example - Make A Point, Don't Complain.

Jan 1st 2014 at 6:26:27 AM

I knew it would happen eventually.

Jan 1st 2014 at 6:30:37 AM

I think Trenchcoat Brigade and Badass Longcoat both definitely bleed over a bit sometimes — largely due to inspiration from John Constantine — but Constantine isn't an angel and I'm not sure how intrinsic either idea is to the angels in overcoats concept. My sense is that the allusion to Badass Longcoat that's there now is about the right level of significance but I'm not sure if it's expressed as elegantly as possible.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:02:03 AM

Some questions to help determine how tropable this is.

  1. Do these angels have anything else in common (call this X) beside being angels in overcoats?
  2. How common are overcoats among non-angels in the works with overcoated angels?
  3. Are there angels in fiction that have X in common, but not wearing overcoats?
  4. How common are the angels in overcoats compared to non-overcoated angels, during the time period?
  5. Any earlier overcoated angels? Do they share X?

Question 2 is one clincher. If overcoats are common in general among both the angelic and the non-angelic population, then it's just a case of As Below, So Above.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:15:58 AM

For most of the cited examples, I think number 2 definitely holds. Although there are undoubtedly mortals in WoD who sport overcoats, there is a particular "look" centering on the overcoat that the angels are shown to have. I found an interview with the film's DP that basically said, "instead of wings, overcoats". Of course, there are other aspects in common that the angels have (ponytails, cashmere scarves), but the overcoats are the most notable, and seems like the aspect that has spread the most.

Even in cases like Dogma, where the concept is played with, the angles are all wearing distinctive outerwear in addition to the hoodie.

I think what clinches it is that in the noted cases, the angels are always depicted as wearing the overcoats, and seldom if ever remove them. Whether they're indoors, outdoors, summer, winter, on a rooftop, underground, kicking the crap out of each other, etc.

I'm not sure how to interpret question 4. Are you asking whether angels are also depicted not wearing overcoats alongside overcoated ones?

I'm looking for any evidence pre-Wings of Desire overcoated angels. So far nothing that really seems to clinch it. The only thing I've found is the example from Wonderful Life, which I've added to the list for amusement but which fails your test on #2 for sure.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:19:04 AM

I think the way to boil down your question number 2, and what I'm thinking of in the context of this proposed trope, is, "Is the overcoat being used as an identity marker for angelic beings?" I think that's definitely the case in the cited examples.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:27:20 AM

^ The question number 4 is actually a pretty relevant one what it comes to Supernatural; There are several angels in the series, but Castiel is the only one who wears a trench coat. Since this look is a Shout Out to the works mentioned in the example and not a sign of angelic nature, it probably isn't this trope?

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:35:58 AM

I'm not super familar with Supernatural, to tell the truth. I'd buy that it's in Shout Out territory — certainly on the basis of comments that I found regarding Castiel's costuming inspiration — but I think it could also be a marker for his angelic nature, if he's pretty much the only person wearing a trenchcoat all the time.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:36:27 AM

^^^, ^ #4 is really about if there are lots of angels around in other works during this time period, that are not wearing longcoats. This is especially true if the angels have X in common (either via the entire works, or just the angels).

If, say, we have 40 identified badass angels identified before the overcoat trend started, and 40 identified badass angels afterwards, of which 10 wear longcoats, then I'm not sure the overcoated angel can be said to be a trope.

Though Paradisesnake's check on doing this within a work is certainly needful too. Then one can ask what Castiel has in common with the other overcoated angels, that the other angels in Supernatural lacks.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:40:38 AM

The Supernatural question is an interesting one. I think that in that context we primarily have trenchcoat = Castiel. Does that mean that it's part of this trope? It's a bit squishy in this case, but Castiel is the most present and prominent angel in the show, and the trenchcoat is definitely used as a character marker. Does that mean that it extends to serving as an angelic marker? This would be a simpler question if he weren't one of the main characters.

Jan 1st 2014 at 12:20:01 PM

See also Conspicuous Trenchcoat. Overcoats are frequently a fictional shorthand for "this character is in disguise", so we need to make sure there's actually an association between angels and overcoats, not just an indirect association by way of being in disguise.

Jan 1st 2014 at 1:41:04 PM

I'd argue that disguise doesn't factor into it. In particular, if WoD is truly the trope maker, the angels in that film aren't even visible to people (for the most part). In the other examples, as far as I can reckon, the angels hardly go out of their way to blend in: for instance, in The Prophecy, most of the angels are introduced while perching on an edge in a bird-like and rather impossible-seeming way — hardly subtle.

Jan 1st 2014 at 7:52:43 PM

I don't really think this is spectacular enough for a trope...

Jan 2nd 2014 at 12:30:10 AM

^ No trope is too spectacular, my friend.

Jan 2nd 2014 at 4:55:13 AM

The reason I started this YKTTW was that I rewatched The Prophecy for the first time in forever, and I was immediately struck by a sensation of "Oh gee, angels in overcoats. Where have I seen that before?" I spent a while scouring through IMDB's movies tagged "angel" and, although it's not a huge number, the ones listed above represent a significant majority of reasonably popular angel-centric movies (where angels are supernatural beings, not earthbound souls) since WoD came out. The main exception that I could find was Legion, where the angels are mostly wearing their traditional armor. There might be other films that I'm less familiar with that I missed. But it's definitely a strong pattern, though the subgenre itself is small.

May 18th 2014 at 10:52:57 AM

Dunno if this counts.

  • In Mega Man Zero, the hero of the previous series, X, now appears as a Cyber-Elf with a decidedly angelic, yet humble, way: with a light halo and a blue long robe.

Mar 10th 2018 at 5:22:03 PM

Sammael in the tv show Millennium was an angel with an overcoat as well.

Mar 10th 2018 at 6:33:21 PM

Maybe Angels Hiding In Overcoats, for specifically hiding wings, which would be a trope, instead of this appearance pattern...

Mar 11th 2018 at 8:50:47 AM

  • Lucifer2016: Amenadiel initially wore a long robe or overcoat, though, after his fall and his wings rotting off he started wearing a grey hoodie or biker's coat instead. While Lucifer, who cut his wings off when he moved to Earth, prefers a snazzy suit.

Mar 12th 2018 at 6:05:11 PM

Anime and Manga:

  • Dark Mousy, the angelic alter-ego of Daisuke Niwa from DN Angel, usually is seen with various type of black clothes, various of them are overcoats and trenchcoats. Also Krad, Dark Mousy's Evil Counterpart is also seen with a white trenchcoat, usually more seen in official artworks and the manga than the anime.

Mar 13th 2018 at 6:30:29 PM

The coats may have started as an attempt to hide the angels' wings, but the trend may have stuck even in settings where angels don't have wings.

Apr 22nd 2018 at 4:19:22 AM

Afaik, angels tend to wear white robes...