Follow TV Tropes


Blatant Burglar

Go To
"Just then, a bank robber ran by. Sparky knew he was a bank robber because he was wearing what bank robbers always wear: a mask, a striped shirt, and shoes that were good for running."
Tom Tomorrow, The Very Silly Mayor

A burglar so committed to his job that his clothes scream "ARREST ME NOW."

The type of clothing a Blatant Burglar wears varies by work and sometimes by region:

  • In the UK, Europe, and certain older works, the mandatory dress code is a Domino Mask, a black and white striped shirt, a flat cap, and a Thief Bag (often marked "Swag" for extra honesty) slung over the shoulder. Note that the black and white stripes are trademark old prisoner dress, implying one is dressing like one has already been caught and jailed. An even older variation is to give them a prison uniform covered in arrows (which is still popular with certain children's comics).
  • In North America, expect to see black clothes and either a ski mask, a flat cap (sometimes called a newsboy cap in the US) or a tuque/beanie. Gloves, a heavy coat, and a crowbar are optional, but there's always a ski mask or a beanie. This is perceived as being more "realistic", since it actually covers the face. Pantyhose is also common.
  • Bandits of old Westerns tend to tie a kerchief so it covers their face from the bridge of the nose down, kind of a homemade balaclava. Of course, this didn't look particularly burglar-ish in Real Life — in areas with a lot of dust and wind, everybody wore their kerchiefs like that on especially bad days.
  • Japan has Stealth Clothes, where people trying to be stealthy tie handkerchiefs under their nose. They also have ninjas who dress like ninjas, so others will know they are, indeed, ninjas.

According to The Other Wiki, the striped-shirt burglar originated in the 1977 book Burglar Bill. Another theory is that the disruptive striped pattern enabled the wearer to hide themselves in the tall grasses of the savannah.

Subtrope of Malevolent Masked Men, Stock Costume Traits and all too often, Obviously Evil. A Rascally Raccoon may be this due to how a raccoon looks. Highly-Visible Ninja, Institutional Apparel, Conspicuous Trenchcoat, and Highly-Conspicuous Uniform are related tropes. Mostly a Dead Horse Trope, if it was ever taken seriously.


    open/close all folders 

  • The Hamburglar from McDonaldland wears a domino mask and a costume with black-and-white horizontal stripes. One commercial claimed he wore an all-black costume when he first came to McDonaldland until one of his hijinks turned it striped. His frequent mutterings of "robble robble robble" don't exactly help to hide his intentions, either.
  • A commercial from Canada involves a man coming out of a store and putting on his ski mask because it's so cold, then being promptly arrested by cops who confused him for an actual thief. (Harsher in Hindsight given what happened to Afro-American musician Elijah McClain; someone called 911 seeing him dancing to music on his iPod while wearing a ski mask. He was killed by responding officers.)
    • A Volkswagen commercial for the New Beetle convertible has a variation: A man wearing a black ski mask walks into a convenience store, takes an armful of snacks, pays for them, leaves, to be told by his friends - also wearing ski masks - in their (top down) New Beetle convertible that he left his mask on. He tells his friends they should probably go.
  • The Cookie Crook and Chip, previous mascots for Cookie Crisp cereal.
  • A Travelers Insurance commercial shows a dog reading a newspaper headline "CAT BURGLAR STRIKES AGAIN", and imagining a cat in a domino mask sneaking into his doghouse.
  • A Vonage ad shows a couple complaining about how their phone company's fees are robbing them blind, while a bunch of black-clad and domino-masked thieves carry off their possessions.
  • A series of Simplisafe security system ads feature "Robbert Larson", burglar and satisfied Simplisafe customer, who never, ever removes his ski mask. Not even in the bath.
  • Old Nesquik commercials (at least in Europe) had a pair of crooks in striped clothing trying to steal the powdered chocolate.

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Beagle Boys from Disney wear their prison numbers all the time. There is also a running joke about how they never take off their Domino Masks. The Beagle Boys don't even have actual names, they're only known by their prison numbers. They wear red shirts, though, not the typical white and black striped prison uniform, and while they wear "flat caps" they're actually more like kepi than the usual "motorist's hat" / "newsboy hat" that goes with the trope.
  • The Dead Boy Detectives: Invoked, Crystal's performance artist mother has her family wear domino masks and black and white striped shirts for the opening heist to steal a Van Gogh painting.
  • Both Marvel Comics and DC Comics have similar characters: Black Cat and Catwoman. Both characters are cat-based burglars or were at some point. While they wear dark colors, they also stand out in that they are dressed in cat-costumes. The Black Cat, as well as older versions of Catwoman, actually wear domino masks, standard Blatant Burglar gear.
  • Asterix in Britain features an unnamed thief wearing a domino mask. In a setting supposed to be ancient Celtic England.
  • Manitas in "Zipi y Zape" wears always his Domino Mask and Thief Bag.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: "The Golden Age", a story set in 1948, has a trio of bank robbers dressed in stereotypical bank robber getup of domino masks, black and white striped shirts, and a flat cap on one of them.

    Films — Animated 
  • The movie Fantastic Mr. Fox has a Running Gag of Mr. Fox and his companions infiltrating the farms in "bandit hats". (He bought them for 40% off from a newspaper ad at the beginning of the movie.)
  • Discussed in The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible and Frozone are accidentally caught by police in a jewelry store while wearing ski masks.
    Frozone: We look like bad guys! Incompetent bad guys!
  • In Incredibles 2, Jack-Jack stays up watching a movie showing a classically dressed burglar who's robbing a bank, and then he spots a raccoon outside snooping into their trash can. As the animal looks similar to the burglar, the baby immediately heads out to fight it off and Hilarity Ensues.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Capannelle in Big Deal on Madonna Street; the gang leader Peppe bluntly tells him he's too conspicuous, wearing "a thief's uniform" (he's dressed like a jockey, which stands out).
  • In Half Baked, Scarface was caught in one of these...and tried to pass himself off as a mime. If it wasn't for the fact he was caught red handed, it might have worked. Scarface was wearing all black with a black stocking cap and white face makeup with black around his eye.
  • In one of Ralphie's daydream sequences in A Christmas Story, he uses a BB gun to defend his backyard from a group of burglars dressed in striped shirts, masks, and fingerless gloves, while dressed in a ridiculous singing cowboy outfit.
  • In the original Sleuth, as the two men plan a staged burglary, one proposes an archetypal outfit, complete with a bag marked "Swag". The other shoots down the idea.

  • Why do burglars wear striped shirts? They don't want to be spotted.

  • As mentioned in the description, the classic kids' book Burglar Bill, in which both Burglar Bill and Burglar Betty dress as per the UK standard issue Blatant Burglar. So does their eventual Burglar Baby.
  • The burglar in children's book Crictor that breaks into Madame Bodot's apartment wears a Domino Mask, a striped shirt, and a flat cap.
  • Justified in Discworld:
    • Official burglars are obliged by Thieves' Guild regulations to wear the full UK outfit, but official burglary is legal, due to the peculiar status of the Guild. So if someone breaks into your house and isn't dressed as a burglar, you can assume they're unlicenced, and therefore criminals.
    • Assassins have the same deal with the Assassins Guild. They have to wear all black (like a stereotypical ninja outfit), even when it makes them easier to see. Though, in their case, it's a matter of style rather than it actually being illegal for them to wear something other than black.note 
    • Moist von Lipwig is careful to avoid this trope. Of course, he is pretty much the best confidence trickster ever.
      Being caught in a bank vault at three o'clock in the morning wearing a suit with lots of little pockets and a sack marked 'swag' could be considered suspicious, so why do it? With the right suit, the right papers, the right preparations, and above all the right attitude, you could walk in at midday and the manager would hold the door open for you when you left.
  • Referenced in a children's book involving a kid with a crystal that lets him read minds. He 'overhears' someone planning to rob a friend's house, but has no idea how to present the information. He tries leaving her an anonymous warning, but she sees through it, phones him, and sarcastically asks if the burglar-to-be was dressed like this trope when he tries to explain how he knows.

    Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Trigger Happy TV featured a man dressed in full-burglar-get-up asking people on the street for a boost over a wall, since, he claimed, he'd locked himself outside.
    • Or making casual conversation with people on the street of a wealthy residential neighborhood, asking about property values, back yards, alarms, and who might currently be on vacation.
    • The best variation of that sketch was when he called out to someone from the second-floor window to please hold the ladder for him as he climbed down. Of course, as he exits, the person can suddenly see that he is dressed as a burglar and carrying a bag marked "swag". To top it all off, he then ran off down the street shouting about how he and "that guy" just burgled the house.
  • When Stuart and Paul from Spin City were ordered to break into Mike's ex-girlfriend's apartment to recover the semen she held hostage (long story), Stuart wore his usual clothes, while Paul dressed in the closest to a black jumpsuit he could find.
    Paul: Which one of us do you think the police are gonna notice, huh?
    Stuart: My money is on the guy looking like Catwoman on steroids.
  • The Goodies
    • Tim's ancestors in "Alternative Roots" are a clan of sheep rustlers who all dress like this. A striped shirt and Domino Mask are on the Brooke-Taylor coat of arms, along with a dead sheep and a noose.
    • Subverted in the first episode when the thief trying to steal the Crown Jewels is wearing a shirt with the Royal coat of arms and the words BY APPOINTMENT. Turns out the Jewels were Replaced with Replica so the Royal Family could pawn them off, and are now being put back.
  • Discussed in the Target Women segment 'Broadview Security': "Your assailants aren't just Joe Burglar from Look-like-a-Caucasian-Burglar University." Cue shots from the commercials of various black hoodie/tuque-wearing men scowling at the camera.
  • Monty Python uses the standard UK burglar costume on occasion, like the man holding up a lingerie shop, or the burglar on a Druidic sacrificial altar where the police employ magic.
  • At Last the 1948 Show, one of the "parent series" of Monty Python's Flying Circus, routinely dresses burglars in flat caps, Domino Masks, striped jerseys, and Thief Bags (which may or may not be labelled "SWAG"). The best example is the "Burglar Hides in the Library" sketch - not that the other library patrons take much notice of the burglar's attire until a police sergeant shows up looking for him - while "Uncooperative Burglars" features burglars who are more understated in their clothes (flat caps, neckerchiefs, and a swag bag but no masks or striped jerseys) but more open in their defiance of the law.
  • On Justified Dewey Crowe plans to rob some criminals who stole a large amount of drugs from the mob. He is missing a ski mask for his disguise so he goes shopping for one. It's summer so none of the stores have any in stock and Dewey loudly complains about the fact to the manager. The manager is about to call the police about this suspicious customer when Dewey has an uncharacteristic bright idea and instead buys a cowboy hat and cheap suit. This way he can commit the robbery disguised as a US Marshall.
  • Burn Notice, Michael outlines the problems with this in an episode when he has to break into someone's home. He states it's better to wear jeans and pretend that you just entered the wrong house if you are going to rob it because that way you can just play dumb if you get caught. If you look like a burglar you're screwed.
    Michael: I never run around in the bushes in a ski-mask when I'm breaking in someplace. If somebody catches you, whaddya gonna say? You want to look like a legitimate visitor until the very last minute. If you can't look legit, confused works almost as well. Maybe get a soda from the fridge or a yogurt. If you're caught, you just act confused and apologize like crazy for takin' the yogurt and nothing could be more innocent.
  • James May's Man Lab: James harnesses the power of the UK version of the trope, complete with stripey shirt, to sneak around town and test out the experimental cat-cams. He actually wants to be obvious, so people don't mistake him for a real burglar and "beat him to death with pick-axe handles."
  • In an episode of NewsRadio where Dave is explaining how the new security door works with a series of visual aids, Matthew points to the drawing of a cartoon burglar and says "I've seen that guy around!"
    • There's a callback to this in the episode where everyone has a different story for why Catherine left. Instead of explaining why she left, Matthew explains how the coffee pot broke, which involves a sneaky man dressed as a cartoon burglar.
  • Invoked in Kamen Rider Build, where one of the lead characters is revealed rather early as a traitor (well, before he's fully outed as the Big Bad), and steals the MacGuffin and this season's collectibles by wrapping them all up in a cloth with a white-swirls-on-green pattern that is literally a hallmark of burglars in Japan.
  • Chespirito: The segment "Los Caquitos" starred El Chómpiras and El Peterete (later El Botija), both of whom dress up this way, barring the domino masks. El Chómpiras even wears a black and white striped shirt under his jacket, for good measure. Not that they were particularly good as burglars, anyway.

    Music Video 
  • In the video for "Shut up" by British group Madness there is a multitude of striped shirts, domino masks, bowler hats, and gloves. Also a terrifying checked car-dealer suit that looks truly dishonest. The lyrics are generally about criminal enterprises and actually start "I tell you I didn't do it 'Cause I wasn't there!".
  • Phil Collins plays one in the Genesis video for "Robbery, Assault and Battery".

  • One of the Little Britain radio shows dealt with a burglar getting criticized by his retired burglar-father for NOT looking like a Blatant Burglar (example: "Burglars do not wear tracksuits! And where's your big bag marked 'Swag'?").

  • The TomTom GPS displays a silhouette of a burglar with his bag of swag when shutting down, as a warning to the user not to leave it where it might be a target for thieves.

  • LEGO are known for using this trope to identify criminal minifigures, especially in their City line. Even when they are trying to disguise themselves as ordinary people, they always wear a striped shirt beneath their disguises.

    Video Games 
  • The burglars in The Sims have striped shirts. And if your Sim chooses the "crime" career track, they will change into the burglar outfit before going to work!
    • To specify: a black ski-cap, though not one pulled down over the face, a black mask covering their eyes, a black-and-white striped shirt, and black pants. In The Sims 2, Sims whose homes are robbed will automatically "meet" the burglar, meaning they can call them up on the phone and eventually befriend or date them (although given that they are burglar, most players might do the obvious. In The Sims 3, this is still possible with the added chance of running into someone around town dressed like this, say, reading a book in the park.
  • The thief class from the later Disgaea games wear this, but brightly coloured and converted into a catgirl costume (swag bag, striped thigh high socks, comically large cat gloves, and goggles, instead of a mask, on the forehead).
  • Sly Cooper: The titular character wears a dark blue variation on the flat cap-and-prison-shirt motif, with a black domino mask, in spite of the fact that he's a raccoon character whose markings look like that anyway. The outfit is basically just another way of saying, "I'm so good at what I do, I can advertise what I am and still get away with it."
  • Lampshaded in Katamari Damacy's sequel, We Love Katamari. The description for "Burglar" in the collection of items you have rolled up is "He wants to be stealthy, but he looks so obvious."
  • The Burglar trainers in Pokémon Red and Blue, Pokémon Gold and Silver and remakes.
  • The spy's balaclava in Team Fortress 2, though in this case a stealth character in general vs a burglar, unless you're stealing the intel of course.
  • The Robber smiley in Everybody Edits comes with a mask and a ski cap.
  • In LEGO Island and its sequels, resident Big Bad The Brickster fits this trope down to the ground thanks to his domino mask and stripy shirt with prisoner number.
  • Haunt the House: Terrortown: The Thief character wears a domino mask and striped shirt, and is standing on a dinosaur skeleton, where certainly nobody should be allowed, in broad daylight, as if plotting to steal some of the bones. He retains his mask even as a ghost.
  • The bank robbers from "Lethal Enforcers" all wear long-sleeved black shirts, black gloves, black pants and shoes and of course a black ski mask. It's funny in a way how many people wearing the same clothes decided to rob the same bank, otherwise it's not really clear why there are dozens of robbers using the same get-up.
  • Grand Theft Auto has had a few appearances of the usual robber outfit:
    • In many of the franchise's entries you can get a balaclava after doing a mission involving some sort of burglary (such is the case in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), while in others you receive this outfit for a mission involving something bigger like robbing an actual place (you get a suit and a balaclava in Grand Theft Auto IV during the "Three Leaf Clover" mission where you rob the Bank of Liberty and a few outfits with a balaclava and dark clothes in Grand Thef Auto V, where the whole premise revolves around planning and carrying out heists.
  • In Postal 2, when the Postal Dude goes to the bank to cash-in his check, a bunch of robbers wearing black suits and balaclavas enter the place guns blazing. It's up to the player to decide if they want to haul ass or take them out.
  • Thieves in Streets of Rogue wear black-and-white striped shirts and a black hat. Their bio lampshades how this makes them terrible thieves since everyone knows what they are.
  • You play as one in Robbery Bob. However, he subverts many personality types associated with this trope (Aside from being somewhat dimwitted,) being fairly sweet, usually stealing easily-replaced objects, being generally competent at what he does, and having a surprisingly strong sense of justice, shown when he becomes a Karmic Thief to most of the villains at the end of every chapter.
  • All burglars in Roombo: First Blood wear dark clothing and balaclavas, making it impossible to mistake them for friendly.
  • Psychonauts: The Rainbow Squirts in "The Milkman Conspiracy", once they learn you're looking for the Milkman, will get suspicious of Raz. If you use Clairvoyance on them, they'll see him as a sneaky burglar in a toque and black jumpsuit holding a milk bottle.


    Web Original 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Even when you ignore Robber Eel's name, he still has that loot sack, twiddly mustache, and bowler hat.

    Western Animation 
  • The Beagle Boys from DuckTales (1987). In addition to wearing Domino Masks every day, they also are dressed in prisoner's caps and wear plates with prison inmate numbers across their chests.
    • In the computer game Quest for Gold, even their hot air balloons have the same masks.
  • Swiper the Fox of Dora the Explorer is clearly a burglar because of his name and the fact that he always wears a mask.
  • One Family Guy episode sees Peter sneaking into James Woods High School at night to replace Meg's submission for the student newspaper with a story he thinks is more interesting. Even though the school has no security whatsoever, he not only wears a stocking cap and black clothing, but punctuates his movements by humming dramatic music.
  • When the title characters' clothes and sword were stolen in the Samurai Jack episode "Jack is Naked", he gave chase and ended up in a peculiar land. He ran into one of these types of crooks and had to borrow his clothes (mask included... seriously, Jack, this didn't tip you off to anything?). Only later does he find out his mistake, as he'd usurped clothes from a cat burglar.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rainbow Dash was discharged from a hospital before being able to finish reading a very good book, so the obvious solution appeared to be breaking into the hospital and stealing it back. But what sort of attire would be appropriate for this hair-raising heist? Apparently Rainbow Dash thought a full-body stealth suit, complete with hood, was the best option.
    • Repeated by Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie later when they try to break into the Canterlot Archives. Twilight is suffering Sanity Slippage so forgets she is completely authorized to be there anyway, and Pinkie Pie is just along for the ride. Perhaps justified, as both instances happened at night so the black would be suitable and covered their brightly coloured coats and manes (though still leaving their tails out).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has quite a few of these:
    • In the episode "Bubble Buddy," Mr. Krabs says that everybody's money is good in his restaurant. Cut to a shot of a bank robber in a domino mask and striped clothes eating a Krabby Patty.
    • Parodied in "Doing Time," in which one of SpongeBob and Patrick's unsuccessful attempts to get arrested involves the two trying to rob a bank while wearing socks on their heads. Not only did they forget to cut eyeholes into the socks ("You're facing the wrong way, sir,") but their whole purpose of concealing the duo's identities was rendered moot by SpongeBob handing over his ID to the teller who didn't even know the two were trying to rob him.
    • In "Secret Box," SpongeBob sneaks into Patrick's house to steal the titular box, wearing thick gloves and putting a nylon stocking on his head (which squeezes into the shape of a leg for a second when he puts it on.)
    • In "The Great Snail Race," Patrick mistakes a referee for a burglar due to his striped shirt.
    • In "No Free Rides," Mrs. Puff dons a black balaclava and thick gloves while stealing SpongeBob's new boat. SpongeBob puts a lampshade on it when he catches her in the act.
      SpongeBob: Who are you and what are you doing in my boat? And why are you wearing that ski mask? Because you're not skiing!
    • In "Krabby Land," SpongeBob puts on a domino mask while playing the character of a "Krabby Patty Burglar."
    • In "The Card," a bank robber is shown waiting in line while SpongeBob makes a withdrawal.
  • The Trolls in Gummi Bears are like the fantasy version of the Beagle Boys: they wear bandit masks and use road bandit cloth all the time. Disregarding the fact that they ARE trolls (small green humanoids) and can easily be recognized.
  • The Simpsons Christmas Episode "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" has Bart accidentally destroy his family's Christmas presents and Christmas tree. He tries to cover up his mistake by claiming that they were robbed by a burglar. At one point, the Springfield Police ask Bart what the burglar looked like, and he mentions the burglar wearing a striped convict shirt and holding a big sack with a dollar sign on it. Lou scoffs "Classic burglar".

    Real Life 
  • The one time it actually makes sense for a burglar to be dressed this way is if he just escaped from prison: he doesn't have a lot of wardrobe options until he burgles some different clothing... though in some cases it might be easier to explain away nudity than whatever the local distinctive "this man is a prisoner" outfit (stripes, arrows, orange jumpsuit) is.

Alternative Title(s): Burglar Wear, Blatant Bandit