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Clark Kent Outfit

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You could probably take this guy in a fight... or not.
"Sensei, the truth is, I actually look thinner wearing clothes!"
Takamatsu, Angel Beats!

So there's this character on TV, and he looks like a nebbish. He's rather nerdy, pretty scrawny, not too attractive, and likely to faint at the mere sight of blood. What a nerd, huh?

...Until he takes his shirt off, and — surprise — he's ripped! He's got abs of steel, his guns are fully loaded, and he can probably crush coal into diamonds with his massive pecs... Good Lord, he's a Genius Bruiser who's been hiding the "Bruiser" part all along!

A Clark Kent Outfit is, basically, any article of clothing that hides a character's well-toned physique from the audience, setting audiences for a surprise when it's used, especially for harmless-looking fellows. Can apply to women as well, often leading to a Beautiful All Along moment when Played for Drama or Hidden Buxom when Played for Laughs. Or both.

The most commonly used outfit for this purpose, the men's business suit (collared shirt, jacket, tie) was and is specifically designed to disguise a multitude of sins, and as such, also disguises a multitude of virtues (the three piece suit, which adds a vest, goes even further in both).

Note that while the actor has to be able to fit into the physique-concealing costume when this trope is used in live-action works, no such restriction applies to other media, and thus it's possible to have a character reveal muscles (or curves) that couldn't possibly have fit inside the outfit they were wearing beforehand. This can be Played for Laughs.

Compare with Badass Bookworm. Not to be confused with Clark Kenting, which has the opposite effect.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Takamatsu from Angel Beats! tears off his shirt dramatically in the middle of class and reveals a very muscular figure in Episode 5. No-one cares.
    Takamatsu: Sensei, the truth is, I actually look thinner wearing clothes!
    Teacher: I see that, sit down.
Then when he rejoins the group no one cares about his reveal and Yuri just chastises him for not thinking of a better distraction.
Takamatsu: I thought it would be surprising, that no-one would see it coming, I train in secret...
Hinata: Yes yes, put some clothes on.
  • Attack on Titan: Every character that's enlisted in the military actually undergoes heavy physical training so they are able to properly control the 3DMG. As a result, most soldiers have really sculpted physiques. This, however, is only shown in a few instances, and characters are most often shown wearing their uniforms.
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Soga's clothes were originally all loose and covered his full body, making him simply seem thin and lanky, but the eventual Beach Episode shows his muscles are remarkably well-toned. Later on, Soga switches to short-sleeve shirts that expose his physique as much as the female cast, but his ninja suit remains as concealing as before.
  • Black Clover: Asta's clothes hide his muscular physique despite how apparently thin they are.
  • Bleach: Captain Yamamoto wears robes almost all of the time and appears to be a stooped-over old man. When he removes his robes, he reveals that he's completely ripped.
  • Joujirou from Charlotte is actually fairly toned, which he explains as helping reduce the damage from his Super-Speed ability. Yuu hangs a lampshade on it when he sees Joujirou shirtless in Episode 5.
  • At the end of the second season of Darker than Black, this is done by Kirihara's new boss, who looks like Golgo 13 if he was a staid Japanese bureaucrat. He takes off his shirt and reveals he's really ripped and he wields a BFG.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the Demon Slayer Corps uniform is not very form fitting and many members of importance, like the Hashira and the main characters, also wear a Haori over their uniforms, which mostly hides the physique of all male slayers who don't have their bulging muscles in apparent view. It is only during training sessions when the guys are usually shirtless that it is shown that well defined muscles is pretty much the standard physique for all males worth their salt in the Corps, after growing in strength Tanjiro and Zenitsu become just as muscular as Inosuke, but as soon as they dress themselves fully in uniform, none of that muscle is apparent at first glance.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The original Dragon Ball has Master Roshi, a scrawny little hunchbacked pervert, almost doubles in height, shoulder width and muscle mass when he first takes off his shirt. Roshi can also expand his muscles at will.
    • For an in-universe example, Gohan's high-school outfit in Dragon Ball Z almost looks like it's a size too large, undoubtedly to help hide the fact that he's built like a... well, like a Saiyan. It works, too, at least enough to make Videl initially think he's harmless. This extends to Super up to a point, but by then, it's noted he has lost much of his power for not training instead of looking out after his family and work, and as a result he is rarely shown in anything that reveals his figure at least until the final arc.
    • Son Goku himself qualifies. His usual attire reveals how muscular he is but when he is in any other civilian outfit, he appears to be a relatively normal guy with an average physique.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist's Edward Elric is a short, intellectual teenager, but so incredibly buff under his jacket that he ends up shirtless, like, almost every other fight scene. It's also initially done to hide his automail arm and leg. By the way he runs around before it's revealed, you'd never guess he was a double amputee.
  • Lithuania from Hetalia: Axis Powers is cute, slender and feminine-looking and he's most often seen as a secretary or domestic housekeeper. However, as he was once a knight and still does martial arts, he's very muscular upon closer inspection.
  • Kamishiro Yuu from Holyland looks harmless under his school uniform, but, as his opponents quickly learn and a classmate who grabbed his arm once commented, his muscles are rock-hard from both the street fighting and physical exercise aimed to increase his strength.
  • How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?: Naruzo Machio can pass for an athletic but normally-proportioned man by wearing his signature blue-and-white tracksuits. Yet whenever he flexes his muscles he bursts his clothes apart, revealing a "macho gorilla" physique that looks totally incongruous and out of proportion with his "prince charming" face. Rule of Funny is in full effect, since he is shown to magically shrink in both bulk and height in order to put a normal-sized tracksuit on again.
  • Hajime from I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying is shown to be quite muscular due to working from home and having plenty of time to work out. Hilariously, his wife was unaware of his physique despite their active sex life (they always keep the lights off).
  • Jiji from Ichi the Killer is a tiny old man, but when he takes off his shirt he has a bodybuilder's physique, and neck snaps a Yakuza without breaking a sweat. It helps that he's really only 30-years-old, but got plastic surgery to make his face appear older.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
    • The protagonist himself, post-training. His fellow classmates don't realize how ripped he is until they all go on a beach trip. It's not intended on Kenichi's part. The training his masters have him on have made him densely muscled, and he only has people much stronger than himself to compare against. Because of this, he mostly still acts like the meek boy he always was, and his school uniform always hung loose on his small frame.
    • Natsu Tanimoto also plays this up intentionally, trying to keep at school his image of a meek, soft-spoken Pretty Boy, and wearing clothes that keep his muscular build well hidden (making excuses like "the sun is bad for my skin" to justify it). Because of this, almost nobody knew he was Hermit of the Eight Fists of Ragnarok.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Trowa Barton appears as thin as the rest of the G-boys. But when we see him in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz wearing a very revealing circus costume he's positively ripped! Its no wonder that he can beat a group of thugs to a pulp with his bare hands.
  • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Major Ulube, while a military man, is retired from actual combat and mostly seems to stick to politicking and administration. It comes as a shock in the late stages of the anime when he reveals he is still in extremely good physical condition, good enough to go toe-to-toe with some of the strongest Gundam Fighters on the planet.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Midoriya gets a lot of muscle after his training with All Might but it's concealed by whatever clothes he is wearing (including, for some reason, his form-fitting gym clothes).
    • Extends to other heroes and heroes-in-training: most of the 1-A boys are built like brickhouses, but their school uniforms tend to obscure this fact. The uniforms also do this with the girls as well, though less for brickhouse appearance and more for how buxom they are.
  • Naruto, quite a few characters invoke this trope.
    • Naruto the titular protagonist has an average build with his baggy clothes on, and wasn't considered attractive by most girls in Konohagakure... pity they never saw him with his shirt off.
    • Jiraiya, a 50 year old ninja wears an outfit that makes him look flabby and yet underneath he's rocking a six pack and biceps.
    • Hinata Hyuga's uniform is more about her shyness than a secret identity, but her bulky jacket and loose pants are definitely designed to hide her physique.
  • Chapter 45 of Ojojojo revealed that Gramps is actually incredibly muscular under his suit when he gets into a fight with Tsurezure.
  • One Piece: Thanks to the Noodle People art style this trope happens a lot.
  • One-Punch Man: Both Saitama and Silver Fang have impressive physiques that are usually hidden by their clothing. Even Saitama's superhero outfit is too baggy for his muscles to show (except on rare occasions during a dramatic Art Shift.)
  • If Pokémon Adventures is to be believed, Raihan has an extremely muscular physique underneath his baggy, dragon-themed hoodie, as shown in his selfie featuring himself waking up shirtless in bed.
  • Enishi and Hiko Seijūrō XIII of Rurouni Kenshin wear cloaks most of the time, and pretty much look like slim Bishōnen. When both take off those cloaks, they are extremely muscular. This is sort of plot important because Kenshin's lithe frame puts him at a disadvantage when fighting either of them, since his body isn't really meant to be performing those strenuous sword-fighting maneuvers.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei:
    • The teacher Jinroku is a friendly and unassuming guy who is balding and wears glasses. Under his shirt though, he's fairly muscular (certainly compared to 90 pound weakling Nozomu) and has a large Yakuza tattoo.
    • Ditto with Abiru's father who has a similar "weakling salaryman" kind of look. While the rumors he abuses Abiru aren't true (he's a great guy; she gets her injuries from pulling animals' tails), it is true that he belonged to a black ops squad that knew how to kill people with moe manga.
  • Dr. Stein from Soul Eater is surprisingly ripped for a creepy Mad Scientist, as his Shirtless Scene in the anime reveals. The same goes for Ox Ford, one of the DWMA's students, which the manga shows in a Shower Scene.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Meliodas usually wears baggy clothes that make him appear as nothing more than an ordinary child, maybe 12 or 13 years old. But anytime those clothes become torn, they reveal that he's actually fucking ripped. As befits the leader of the titular group of Holy Knights.
  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi from Tiger & Bunny appears to have normal, even lanky, physique... until the shirt comes off and it becomes apparent he's, well, a superhero.
  • Vash the Stampede from Trigun is built like a scarecrow but his Shirtless Scene shows he’s very muscular... albeit covered in horrific scars. Vash explains his scarred body is the reason why he’s a Celibate Hero being afraid girls will get scared off by his body, Meryl Strife his Love Interest quietly disagrees.
  • YuYu Hakusho has Yusuke Urameshi, Hiei (and a shirtless Hiei for comparison) and Shinobu Sensui.
  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead: Compared to his even beefier friend Kencho, Akira tends to wear loose-fitting clothes that hide his surprisingly toned physique. This is reflective of Akira's insecurities over his Plain Jane appearance and inability to score a date, especially when he watches Kencho get girl after girl.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Kid Paddle, where one strip has Kid's dad be completely ripped when he takes his clothes off at the pool before reminiscing about his time as a mercenary in Siberia... then the Imagine Spot ends with his scrawny dad shrieking at how cold the water is.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker is a less emphasized example, but few would guess that his regular clothes hide a sinewy physique.
    • Back when Steve Ditko was still drawing Amazing Spider-Man, his costume did the same thing.
    • A fan asked Stan Lee why none of Peter's classmates could see his muscles, Lee answered by stating if they felt his muscles they would see that Puny Parker is actually very buff.
      • In an early issue of Amazing Spider-Man, one of Peter's classmates grabs him by the upper arm, and remarks to the group that "[Parker's] got muscles like a weightlifter's". They still think he's a coward, though.
    • There was an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man where a private detective has deduced who Spider-Man is, and suggests that Spidey (who he remarked was built very lean, but "like a Ferrari") would most likely utilize baggy clothes to hide his physique. Unfortunately for him, he deduces that Jameson is Spider-Man. Jameson is most likely not amused.
    • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Gwen notes that Peter's "all muscle" when she, Peter and Eddie Brock are crammed into the same car. He claims to be into pilates.
  • Supergirl:
    • Pre-Crisis Supergirl wore very plain clothes, long-sleeved blouses, and long skirts to hide her muscles.
    • Subverted in Supergirl Vol 1, in where she wears tight clothes which make nothing to hide her figure or her muscles. However, she doesn’t stand out because most of the people she meets are well-built. In Volume 2 she wore long dresses again.
    • Post-Crisis "Linda Lang" wears long shirts and trousers to cover her athletic, fit body.
    • In Supergirl (Rebirth), Kara's Secret Identity wears loose clothes and baggy trousers to hide her super-strong physique.
  • Superman:
    • Superman is the Trope Namer, as his alter ego, Clark Kent, is modeled specifically for this purpose; namely, a spineless man (with glasses, of course) to hide his superhuman strength. All-Star Superman has him wearing multiple layers of clothing to appear flabby rather than skinny. In some depictions, his glasses are also used to hide eyes so incredibly blue and bright they clearly aren't human.
    • In Superman: Birthright his mother Martha specifically ordered him to never wear T-shirts in public ever, since X-ray vision isn't needed to see his six-pack.
    • Somewhat averted in the '86 reboot. As Clark, he kept weights in his apartment to make it appear that he simply works out in order to obtain his muscular physique and prominently displays football trophies from high school to make him appear to be an ex-jock.

    Fan Works 
  • John's cloak in With Strings Attached makes him look like his normal, skinny Earth self. Take it off, however, and he's a winged demigod. Played for laughs in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, because practically every time John takes his cloak off in front of someone, they gasp or squeal or otherwise express... considerable admiration.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Shinji wears shirts, baggy pants and multiple layers of clothing to hide his super-human muscles. The only time he wears — reluctantly — a skintight plug suit, Misato and Ritsuko note that he's shockingly brawny and muscular.
    Maya: Wow.
    Misato: Yeah, puberty hit that kid like a freight train, didn't it?
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka uses her regular school uniform and loose clothes to hide her muscular, sinewy physique.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has a minor example with Recurring Character Jeanette Fisher, who usually wears a kimono attire. Her traveling companion, A.J, gets the chance to see her without it and his thoughts imply she has a nice figure.
  • Izuku's hidden six-pack abs are a Running Gag in My Huntsman Academia. Yang hoots and hollers when he works up the bravery to walk around in a t-shirt and shorts before going to bed and asks where he was hiding his muscles. After Initiation, Weiss derides Izuku as "green and skinny", only to swallow her words when Nora tricks him into running out of the shower with nothing but a towel on.
    • Coco deconstructs this while giving Izuku fashion advice. His choice of baggy, loose clothing hides his hard-earned muscles and makes him look weaker and stand out less. He could easily up his intimidation factor and divert attention away from civilians onto himself while fighting in a populated area simply by wearing more form-fitting clothing.
  • In Avenger of Steel, featuring Clark Kent as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while Clark uses his traditional disguise,he is further aided by a subtle computer virus Kelex added to Earth’s computers that prevents any facial recognition software from being able to accurately compare Clark Kent and Superman’s faces.
    • Steve and Thor attempt this when accompanying Clark and his neighbour, Jessica Jones, out for a drink, although Jessica insists that the idea is stupid.
  • Avenger Goddess — introducing Wonder Woman to the MCU in a similar manner — Diana adopts glasses as part of a disguise while in London in 1944.
  • In Fate/Reach Out, similar to canon, Shirou's clothing hides the fact that he's rather well-built for his age. Something the rest of the Investigation Team at the time find out when they go swimming in a river.
  • Izuku again in Young Midoriya is absolutely ripped, even more so than canon as he's had two extra years of training, but it's hardly obvious unless he's shirtless or in his hero costume.
  • In Unlimited, Izuku looks fit but a bit scrawny in normal clothing. Upon seeing him shirtless, even the incredibly ripped Mirio admits to feeling "chubby" by comparison.
  • The titular character of Ask Kagamine Len; he looks like an older version of his usual self most of the time, but one Beach Episode reveals that this is what he looks like without a shirt on. This was alluded to a few times beforehand — one concept art page mentioned that Len was "fit but embarrassed to show it".
  • Since the head writer of The Owl House mentioned that Willow works out regularly but avoids making a big deal about it, a number of fanartists and a few fanfic writers have run with the idea that she actively selects her wardrobe for the sake of looking 'Vaguely Chubby' rather than 'Swole'.
  • Anyone: One of Izuku's new classmates is worried that their classmate "Akatani" will miss the school's mandatory medical check-up. Another one thinks back to that time he saw him change clothes before gym class and his Heroic Build under them that completely classes with Izuku's baby face, and think to himself that he'll be fine.
  • Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse): Discussed in A Game of Cat and Cat; on the scale of physical strength, Soma falls at some place over "maybe he's ripped under that shirt" (and under "I'm willing to believe vampires are real if it can explain this.")

    Films — Animation 
  • Helga Sinclair from Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a female example. When she wears clothing that fully covers her upper body, she doesn't look particularly muscular. Later in the film, she wears a tank top, which highlights her broad shoulders and prominent muscles.
  • Tack from The Thief and the Cobbler looks pale and gangly at the start of the film, but by the end he's not only gained a nice tan, but once his extremely baggy outfit gets ripped to shreds and he actually stands up straight for once he's surprisingly tall and athletic.
    • Earlier in the film, the Thief tries to steal some bananas from an old woman slowly walking through the city, only to discover she has arms like tree trunks and can handily slam him around and fold him into a pretzel.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ichi the Killer: Jiji, the little old chessmaster, wears baggy clothing throughout the film. At the very end, he strips to his underwear to reveal a ridiculously muscled body.
  • Referenced in Julia Misbehaves, in which Julia meets Fred, an acrobat, on a boat trip to France. Julia flirts with Fred, complimenting his physique (despite Fred wearing a baggy suit and turtleneck), but she probably fell for this trope as much as the audience, since she is pleasantly surprised when she feels Fred's muscly bicep, and practically squees on the spot.
  • Standard in any Bruce Lee movie. Since he tends to play Nice Guys who are pushed too far he would almost always begin his movies in slightly baggy clothing to hide the fact that he looks like he was twisted out of steel cable.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe does this trope well.
  • One of the best examples comes from the 1985 Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung action comedy My Lucky Stars. Michiko Nishiwaki, in her first film role, is seen in the first part of the film wearing a kimono and acting in a very stereotypically demure Japanese lady-like way. And then she takes off the kimono. To understand the significance of this, Michiko Nishiwaki was Japan's first female powerlifting champion and the nation's first female bodybuilding champion.
  • Early in The Prestige, the protagonists have to work out how a weak old magician can hide a full fish tank. Turns out he's actually strong enough to grip it between his legs, pretending to be weak every minute of every day of his life.
  • The John Ritter comedy Skin Deep had Ritter's character pick up an attractive blonde at a bar. When they get back to the bedroom, she takes off the dress and is revealed to be quite muscular. She was played by Raye Hollitt, later one of the first American Gladiators.
  • Secretly, Greatly: Dong-gu looks like a twig while wearing his tracksuit. Underneath it, Ryu-hwan is totally jacked.
  • In Peter David's novelization of Spider-Man 2, Jameson taps Peter Parker on the chest and is momentarily taken aback to discover "the seemingly scrawny Parker had pecs that felt like metal slabs".
  • Superman: The Movie: Possibly the greatest success of the Christopher Reeve movies was that he could pull off both meek Clark Kent and Superman and still fool people on the set into thinking that he was two different actors. Sure, the Clark Kenting jokes still won't stop, but people generally agree that Reeve made it believable.
  • Warcraft: A villainous example in Gul'dan when he's challenged to Mak'gorah by Durotan. The hunched, hobbling warlock sheds his robe and stands to his full height to reveal he's absolutely shredded, and manages to match the (still considerably larger) Durotan in hand-to-hand combat, only falling back on the fel when the portal is primed to open and he needs to end the fight quickly.

  • The Belgariad: The ancient sorcerer Belgarath is apparently ripped. He tends to wear loose, scruffy robes (they're much more comfortable, you see) and drink a lot, so not obvious when other characters see him, but it becomes noticed when he disrobes for a swim.
  • The Daevabad Trilogy: Prince Ali has trained all his life to become his elder brother's advisor, so he's known for being a serious bookworm. However, the position doubles as head of the Royal Guard, so he's also trained all his life as a swordsman, and is pure lean muscle underneath his conservative robes. Nahri finds this very distracting when they're on the run together.
  • In Deltora Quest Lief and Jasmine are actually more toned and strong than their figure and clothes would suggest as revealed in the Rithmere Games.
  • Weird example with Sazed in Mistborn. Sazed always wears robes and is usually genuinely very skinny. However, he can become physically strong and very muscular by using his feruchemic powers to tap stored up strength and muscle-tone. Since Sazed tends to fight shirtless, the effect is that he is a skinny guy when clothed, and a muscular guy whenever the text describes him taking off his robes.
  • In The Odyssey, Odysseus's beggar rags hide his fit physique. When he discards said rags to fight a lout named Irus, the witnesses are shocked at the powerful muscles that were hidden by the rags.
  • In Proven Guilty, Charity gets a moment like this. While everyone's gearing up to storm a faerie stronghold, Harry tells Charity that, being a housewife and not a trained fighter like himself, Thomas, or Murphy, she should stay behind. Then she takes off her baggy sweater to start armoring up, and Harry notes that she "won some kind of genetic lottery," and that she's also ripped and muscled up. She then explains that not only does she make her husband's steel plate mail armor, but she's the one he spars and practices against.
  • Invoked in Rainbow Six, in order to maintain the secrecy of their counter-terrorist group. The commandos of Rainbow travel by civilian airlines, dressed as businessmen wearing suits deliberately tailored to hide their physiques which would be a giveaway to their real identities as elite special forces.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Early on in Arrow, Roy Harper tells Thea that he considers Oliver to be "a bit of a wimp". Nobody would accuse Stephen Amell of looking overweight or unfit, but his 'civilian' attire at this point seems to consist entirely of suits, which, as discussed in the Real Life section below, can conceal the finer details of a man's physique pretty well.
  • Batwoman (2019). Luke Fox wears suit and tie to go with his MIT-graduate look, but the Crisis on Infinite Earths showed an Alternate Self lounging around Bruce Wayne's manor with his shirt open. Supergirl was quite impressed with the physique revealed.
  • Jack Hodgins on Bones is all geek, but in the first season Christmas episode he takes off his shirt and is very buff indeed.
  • A possibly unintentional example; Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is fairly ripped for a supposedly unattractive geek. Up until the Season 2 episode "Go Fish" Xander's outfits were scruffy oversized Hawaiian shirts. Then he joins the swim team. Even Cordelia looks interested.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Third Doctor is first example of this, John Pertwee looks like just a regular old dude with his kit on, but the Shower Scene in his first episode shows (along with his tattoo) that he’s actually "quite spry for [his] age." No wonder the Third Doctor could kick alien’s asses with his bare hands.
    • The Fourth Doctor too although he's less buff than solid and sinewy, there's no way you'd know underneath sixteen feet of garter stitch and layers and layers of Regency clothing. This is why "The Deadly Assassin" gives him a scene where he's dressed only in slim-cut trousers and a Mr. Darcy shirt and has him get soaking wet during a fight scene.
    • The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors are more visibly built in their near-nude scenes than their normal eccentric clothes suggested.
  • In one episode of Family Matters, Carl and Steve get into an arm wrestling match. Carl wins (barely), and notes that Steve is a lot stronger than he looks. note  Steve chalked it up to years of people making him carry their books for them.
  • Dr Simon Tam in Firefly is useless in a fight and often in rather smart duds — until the final episode where an intruder on the titular ship holds him at gunpoint while he's getting ready for bed. Joss Whedon even stops the DVD commentary for a moment's appreciation of Sean Maher's shirtless physique.
  • Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He may be short, but he could still make a fair amount of men feel pretty inferior about their bodies.
  • In one episode of Friends, Phoebe is dating two men at the same time, one of whom is very sensitive while the other is very buff. Deciding to choose brains over brawns, she tries to dump the buff guy... until he also turns out to be very sensitive. That means he has more advantages than the sensitive guy, right? Well, when Phoebe goes to his house to dump him instead, she sees him shirtless for the first time, and, well... this trope happens.
  • Crispin Glover as he infamously appeared on Late Night with David Letterman looked especially scrawny, and he was just wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt... until he tried to challenge Letterman to arm wrestling, at which point Glover pulled up his sleeve and showed off his ridiculously muscled biceps to the audience.
  • The Good Place: Chidi is a nerdy professor and dresses like one most of the time, but Eleanor mentions that he is "surprisingly jacked". This is confirmed in Season 3 when he rips off his shirt during a breakdown and is shown to be quite well-built, more than characters of his archetype in fiction usually are anyways.
  • Dr Martin Dear in Green Wing, as we see when he poses for a life drawing class.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys:
    • In-universe, Atalanta in "Let the Games Begin". She is wearing a dress until she challenges her nephew to arm-wrestling. Her nephew is in shock when he sees how buff she is.
    • Another in-universe example in "If I Had a Hammer...". Atalanta is again in a dress, until she gets involved in a fight. After the fight (where her dress is torn off), her boyfriend left her as he had no idea how buff she was.
  • In the first episode of Lois & Clark, Lois accidentally walks in on Clark shirtless in the bathroom at his apartment. Needless to say, she was surprised at what she saw. Even more so when she goes to get a drink out of his fridge and finds it's filled to the brim with junk food. She later asks him how he's able to eat like an eight-year-old and still look like "Mr. Hard-Body".
  • Oddly, Jenny's fiancé from the first season of The L Word is like this. Any scene where he takes his shirt off is hard to pay attention to while trying to figure out where he'd been hiding those incredibly well-developed arms.
  • Nerdy Billy Cranston from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is often seen wearing baggy overalls and shirts that are a size or two too big. This is to hide the fact that his actor, David Yost, is a professional gymnast and built like a plow horse. As time went and Billy became more skilled at fighting he gradually wore clothing that showed off his physique more.
  • Jimmy Palmer from NCIS is revealed in Season 9 to have a great set of abs. To Abby, and even Gibbs comments.
  • In Night Court, Mac is usually depicted wearing rather colorful looking sweaters, so when he posed for an underwear ad in one episode, all the women on staff were taken aback to find out that under his clothes, he's actually pretty ripped.
    Roz: How did Mac's head get on that body?!
  • Solonius from Spartacus: Blood and Sand looks like a typical spoiled, scrawny aristocrat. In his final episode, he's sentenced to fight in the Gladiator Games, and he's revealed to be incredibly ripped.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson wears baggy shirts for the first few seasons of the series and fit the stereotypical nerd profile, but later on he Took a Level in Badass and gets to show off some impressive biceps.
  • Played for Laughs on The Umbrella Academy. Luther wears an overcoat at all times to hide the fact that he was turned into a human-gorilla hybrid following a failed mission that nearly resulted in his death, except he's positively massive, even with the coat on, so it's a Paper-Thin Disguise at best. Lampshaded by one of his brothers, who asks him if he thinks that the coat is actually fooling anyone.

    Professional Wrestler 
  • Carmella was introduced as a hairdresser coming in off the streets to learn to wrestle. At her first practice session, Enzo Amore expects her to be dainty and weak. Then she gets into her training gear — revealing how ripped she is. Of course Leah Van Dale was previously a Laker's dancer and cheerleader, and had been training with WWE for over a year.

    Video Games 
  • Dr. Casper Darling of Control ends up being pretty buff under his lab coat and sweater vest, as seen when he devolves into a Naked Nutter by the end of the game. Then again, an Artifact Collection Agency like the FBC probably would require all employees including the scientists to be fit enough to defend themselves from a paranormal threat if needed (at least long enough for security to shoot it). Then there's the fact that he's been exposed to so much Hedron resonance that he's about to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. It's not unreasonable to assume that it also beefed him up at some point along the way. Finally, Darling only appears in live-action videos, not as an in-game model, and it would have been unreasonable to make Matthew Porretta lose any muscles he might have had for a role in a video game.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes: This is Innes. This is Innes in a swimsuit.
  • Felix from Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks like a fairly short and slim young man in his outfits, but during one support Leonie notes that he is much heavier than she expected, implying that he's deceptively muscular under his clothes. His strength stat is absolutely ridiculous, as he has one of the very highest caps out of all characters in the game, even moreso than characters like Raphael, who are much taller and heavily built and visibly bulging with muscle. In fact, only two characters can have a higher potential strength, Dimitri and Edelgard, who are the leaders of two of the titular houses and both have magical causes for their strength. Dimitri inherited a Crest that grants him superhuman strength, to the degree that routinely has great difficulty handling things in his everyday life without breaking them, and Edelgard gained her physical strength thanks to cruel human experiments done with magic with the purpose of making her a Super-Soldier who could kill off the last of the ancient dragons and overthrow their secret grip on the world.
  • Mass Effect 2 gives the male Shepard a drastically different physique depending on what he's wearing. Just compare his arms in the default attire to the "Roughneck" version.
  • Kounosuke in Morenatsu superficially looks more boyish when fully-clothed (just chubbier than other characters), but he displays very much a bara body type when the shirt comes off.
  • In Persona 5, while Joker usually conceals it with his school uniform or Phantom Thief garb, Kawakami's massages show that his antics in the Metaverse have made him pretty ripped. That said, this is an Informed Attribute, when Joker is shown shirtless he's shown to have a slender build.
  • Resident Evil: Leon doesn’t appear to be a muscular powerhouse like Chris, but Form-Fitting Wardrobe reveals his physique. Wesker is of similar mold, his build doesn’t make him physically imposing, but his Shirtless Scene shows he’s quite buff.
  • Soul Series: When not busy eviscerating anyone on the planet who's come into contact with a particular sword, Ivy Valentine wears a Tudor gown and passes for a noblewoman.
  • Spider-Man (PS4): Peter Parker looks so utterly average in civilian clothes, you'd never guess how superhero shredded he really is.
  • In Tales from the Borderlands, Vaughn is a corporate accountant and has the scrawny physique to match... or at least, that's how he looks with his shirt on. When he takes it off, he turns out to be surprisingly jacked underneath it.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Yuri is often mistaken as a girl due to his long hair and lithe figure. However, his Mitsurugi costume shows, his figure is more akin to a swimmer.
  • The Wonderful 101: Wonderful-Red, or Will Wedgewood appears to be anything but a hero. He panics, he stutters, and he's got really thick Nerd Glasses. However, as soon as the children are out of sight, The Glasses Come Off, and Mr. Wedgewood is suddenly acting far more heroic and confident, even before donning his CENTINEL suit.
  • In the Yakuza series, characters of seemingly average builds often wear suits that hide incredibly muscular physiques that they only reveal when they rip it all off for boss battles.


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Bumi, the King of Omashu looks like a harmless, hunched-over old man wearing an obnoxiously ornate outfit. But when Aang chooses to challenge him to save his friends, he throws off his robes and reveals a frighteningly ripped old man.
    • Iroh, when put into prison, wore a ragged cape covering his body at all times and acted like he had lost his marbles to confuse the warden. In reality, he had been training and preparing for his escape on the day of the black sun, and below his clothes, he was hiding his impressively ripped abs.
  • Futurama:
    • A variation on this: in the episode "Raging Bender", Bender constantly annoys a taller, lankier robot with an innocent-sounding voice during a showing at the movie theater, causing him to start a fight with him. Trouble is, the robot proceeds to sport several pounds of metal on his body, turning him into his alter-ego: famous robot wrestler "The Masked Unit".
    • In "Parasites Lost", Fry is infested with alien worms that make him both smarter and more physically fit. When called to defend Leela's honor, he rips off his shirt to reveal a nonsensically muscular physique. However, before and after the infestation he looks more like you would expect.
  • The lawyer from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack who takes up Flapjack as an apprentice. Captain K'nuckles challenges him to a boxing fight in order to get Flapjack back, but when he takes off his business suit, not only does he show lots of muscle, but he grows in height as well! (He also puts on a fake mustache to look more like an old-fashioned bodybuilder.)
  • Metalocalypse — childlike Toki is seen to be quite fit, in spite of the dissipated lifestyle he and his bandmates live.
  • Mighty Mouse: In the Bakshi series, Mighty Mouse's alter ego of Mike Mouse has all the hero's physical features, all under the guise of a factory worker's uniform and hat. His superhero uniform's sleeves are still visible, so it's a wonder that Pearl hadn't caught on by then.
    • Scrappy had a hunch and asked Mike about it in "All You Need is Glove." Mike revealed to Scrappy he was Mighty Mouse...sworn to secrecy, of course.
  • Marquess from Mike Tyson Mysteries is a foppish ghost who looks like he'd be scrawny, but is totally ripped under his 19th-century clothes. Appropriate for the ghost of the man who developed Queensberry boxing.
  • Adora of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a female example. She often wears an orange jacket that makes her look like a slender girl with an average build. Without the jacket, though, she's shown to be more muscular than even her own She-Ra persona.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Ned Flanders, Homer's fundamentally religious Christian neighbor and do-gooder, wears a sweater that hides his comically well-developed body, much to Homer's envy. Although "Envy" may not be quite the name of the deadly sin you're looking for here.
    • Groundskeeper Willie's physique looks a bit like Popeye's, with large forearms and an otherwise unexceptional upper body, but whenever he removes his shirt, he's muscled like a He-Man doll.
    • When the Comic Book Guy starts vandalizing a competing comic book store in a fit of rage, Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman and Dan Clowes proceed to rip off their shirts and reveal that they have the physiques of superheroes.
  • Parodied in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, where SpongeBob and Patrick compete against each other in the Fry Cook Olympics, and they both rip off their shirts to reveal Herculean bodies for a wrestling competition. Patrick had to do this twice because he was somehow wearing a business suit underneath. This is just for a one-time joke, of course; Patrick is otherwise always shirtless and overweight, while SpongeBob himself has trouble lifting even a barbell made out of teddy bears.
  • Incredibly zig-zagged in the Daffy Duck vehicle Stupor Duck. His Cluck Trent is Daffy in a suit and hat; his Stupor Duck is Daffy in a Superman outfit with the simple embellishment of shoulder brace that makes him look broad and powerful.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Along with the Trope Namer, the show's iteration of Lois Lane is a female example. She usually wears a big, bulky purple, or sometimes red, blouse, but when she wears clothes that show off more of her body, we find she has a very toned, athletic physique underneith.
  • Ava Ayala, AKA, White Tiger, from Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) is a female example. Her civilian outfit makes her looks like a slender teenage girl of average build. But whenever she's in her White Tiger outfit, or when she wears a bikini in one episode, we see just how ripped she is.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Chase Young's arms look pretty thin underneath his black shirt. When he appears shirtless in the Bad Future in the series finale, his arms are revealed to be more muscular.

    Real Life 
  • All of the male leads on The Big Bang Theory wear layers and/or loose clothes, but if you look closely, they've got some fairly impressive physiques to be portraying characters whose exercise regimen mostly involves walking up and down stairs and the occasional Wii game.
  • Craig Walsh-Wrightson, the guy who played Solonius in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, surprised everybody in the studio when he removed his shirt and revealed his well-chiseled physique.
  • Bishop Barron generated some surprise in a Facebook photo in which his shirt showed his muscular arms.
  • Anderson Cooper is ridiculously muscular. However, this is more of a downplayed example given that his huge biceps and triceps are usually visible through his T-shirts, but not through his suits.
  • Fran Kranz is actually in pretty good shape but tends to play the Butt-Monkey a lot. Notably in The Cabin in the Woods, he wears a baggy t-shirt when everyone else is swimming in the lake — Word of God saying they didn't want audiences getting distracted by Marty being so ripped.
  • Thomas Quill was cast several months after he had been working out in the gym. One scene required him to be in nothing but a swimsuit and when he stripped off everyone could only stare at the impressive shape he was in for two minutes. Director Rebecca Rose Flynn then sneakily ensured he'd be shirtless in the next scene as well.
  • The athletic figure note  of Japanese actor Sou Okuno had to be covered for the role of an Ordinary High-School Student Sougo Tokiwa. The bizarre oversized clothes used also highlight his baby face and are fitting ridiculous for the Cloudcuckoolander that Sougo is.
  • Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu (and many of his colleagues) often wear costumes that emphasize his small proportions (especially his waist, even when standing next to fellow Pretty Boy Roman Sadovsky) and gracefulness. Beneath them, he's actually ripped, as befitting a figure skater on top of his form in a sport/art where muscle size isn't relative to strength. His coach, Brian Orser, used to have a six-pack back when he was skating.
  • Welsh scrum-half Gareth Davies looks short and scrawny, but actually has an incredible physique. Recently, he seems to have bulked up even further.
  • Rhydian Roberts was initially portrayed as nerdy and inept, he never looked back once he revealed to the world he actually looks like this.


Video Example(s):


Julia Misbehaves

Julia may have been flirting with Fred the acrobat, but she wasn't convinced about the muscles under his suit until she felt a bicep.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / ClarkKentOutfit

Media sources: