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Clothes Make the Maniac

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"Clothes make the people [and not the other way around]."
A German Proverb

The hero character gets some sort of apparel or accessory that seems to be great and useful, but it's really unstable, sentient, evil (or at least mischievous in the way Muggles would consider evil) or otherwise damaging to its user's heroic nature.

In the case of a sentient, evil item, it often seeks to turn the hero to its own ends. Toward this goal, it begins manipulating the hero's mind. He becomes less sunny and more grim. He becomes less playful and more violent. Eventually the suit and or its wearer begin referring to themselves as "we".

In the case of unstable or dangerous items, various effects from Applied Phlebotinum can cause the same problems to happen as if it were a truly evil thing affecting its wearer.

At that point, the hero may very well realize there's a problem. Or the damage is done, and the hero's tipped over, and will have to be forcibly separated from his new item. In any case, whether the hero's willing or unwilling, don't expect removing it to be easy.

It needn't always be an article of clothing. It could be a gem or jewelry. In fact, they are often the worst offenders; they are ensorceled to whisper seductively to a prospective wearer, the better to get into position to take over the victim.

This trope has a fine lineage, sharing relations to Mask of Power, Artifact of Doom, Enemy Without, Evil Costume Switch, Evil Feels Good, Clothes Make the Superman, The Hat Makes the Man, Evil Makeover, and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. The difference is that the person who ends up the maniac in question started out a good guy and had no idea that the article of clothing would drive them evil/insane. Super-Trope to Evil Mask. Compare Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind, Paint It Black (where the clothes the person was wearing transform because the person turns evil, rather than the person changing because the clothes were evil).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The title artefact in the Junji Ito Kyoufu Manga Collection story "The Reanimator's Sword" always possesses its owner and makes them carry out its will, including Keiji after he acquires it.
  • Kill la Kill's Junketsu zigzags this. It takes over the mind of anyone who wears it unless the wearer is sufficiently strong willed. Satsuki wears it for much of the series until it's captured and worn by Ragyo, whose mind and Junketsu's are fully aligned, and then used to turn Ryuko evil by forcing it on her. When it's finally returned to Satsuki, Iori repurposes the Kamui by infusing it with Senketsu's life fibers, which were altered by their father to make it compatible with humans.
  • The Millennium Ring in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • The mask that turns its wearer into a host of Darkness in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Who Magazine: In "The Blood of Azrael", Azrael's mask contains the memories and powers of the Omnicidal Maniac Azrael, waiting for a host of a suitable mindset to continue his work. Danny provides that host. It's unclear if he was already an Omnicidal Maniac at that point, although he was already a murderous and sadistic xenophobe.
  • In Femforce, Nightveil's powers are connected to her Cloak of Darkness, an inherently evil magical artifact. While this makes her arguably among the most powerful beings on earth, Laura must constantly struggle to keep the evil influence of her Cloak in check. She is at times insecure in her own ability to do so and is disturbed by the possibility that the Cloak may already be corrupting her in some way.
  • Iron Man occasionally lent his armor to James Rhodes or Kevin O'Brien, only to have them turn violent and unstable when it is worn too long because the armor's neural-interface controls were only calibrated for Tony Stark's brainwaves. Obviously, Stark has properly adjusted Rhodes' War Machine armor for him to wear safely.
  • The Mask removes all social inhibitions while granting huge power. In the comics, it is responsible for several murder sprees.
  • In Oz (Caliber), as part of the Nome King's takeover of Oz, the Wicked Witch Mombi gave magical necklaces to the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion that warped them into isolationist tyrants: each of them ruling their own land with an iron fist. When the necklaces are removed, they revert to their normal friendly and heroic selves, and are horrified by their acts.
  • Spider-Man: The black costume that Spider-Man wore for a while is a sentient and aggressive, if not outright evil, symbiote creature. It used to take his body walking and swinging around while he was unconscious, and its aggression in turn made Peter aggressive and darker. For that matter, this is true of most the spider-suit type symbiotes from the Marvel Universe. Venom is kind of an Anti-Hero (due to the host's morals), but the majority of symbiotes seem to generally bend toward what readers would consider evil. However, it was later revealed that the symbiotes are usually pretty nice originally, but they inherit the personality traits of their previous wielders, changing it into "Maniacs Make the Clothes, and then the Clothes Make More Maniacs" (Venom itself originally bonded with a genocidal alien and then later on Deadpool, the combination of which drove it insane by the time Spidey got it).

    Films — Animation 
  • The evil hat, Doris, from Meet the Robinsons could take over its wearers and produce similar effects.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Clown: A Father puts on a cursed Clown costume that he cannot take off, and slowly turns him into a murderous Monster Clown.
  • The House That Dripped Blood: In "The Cloak", whenever Paul Henderson dons the eponymous cloak, he turns into a vampire.
  • The title artifact in The Mask and Son of the Mask playes with the trope. It is an item of Loki, god of mischief. So when it takes over the gentle dreamer Stanley Ipkiss, it boosts his confidence and turns him into a mostly-harmless cartoon maniac, who indulges in one act of strongly implied horrifying violence. Dorian, however, is bitter and violent, and the Mask only magnifies those bad traits to worse.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • In Spider-Man 2, Otto Octavius becomes Doctor Octopus as a direct result of the failsafe burning out that was supposed to protect him from the influence of his sentient waldoes.
    • In Spider-Man 3, the black suit issue rears its ugly head again, compelling Peter to uninhibited aggression. It's not quite revealed just how much it affects Eddie Brock's mind when it later bonds with him as well, as the theme of mutual revenge is retained.

  • Creature Court has Poet's pocket watch, inherited from Saturn. Turns out it works as a conduit for the sky to manipulate him into attempting to trap Velody. Poet manages to shake it off, but the person who had the watch before him was Garnet, which ended...badly.
  • The Archchancellor's Hat in the Discworld book Sourcery. Played with in that the wizards weren't really on the bad side, just one of two sides wreaking havoc equally, and that the person who got the hat was already a scheming Evil Chancellor and probably couldn't have gotten worse. But still, the hat has a mind of its own, and not a nice one.
  • Most of the rings in The Lord of the Rings, The One Ring being the most focused on, but most pronounced in the Nine; they turned their owners, once proud kings, into evil ghostly death knights.
    • The Seven Rings were meant to do the same to the Dwarves. Unfortunately for Sauron, while the Rings did magnify their greed and some other negative emotions, they did not prolong the lives of the Dwarves, nor did they turn the Dwarves into wraiths as the Nine Rings did to the humans. So Sauron sought to take the Seven Rings back; he managed to get three, while the other four were destroyed by dragons.
    • Averted with the Three Rings of the Elves; these Rings were never touched by Sauron, and were wielded by immortal beings who were not subject to the "unduly prolonged life" effect that the Great Rings all had. The Three, however, were made with the advice of Sauron (whom the elves at the time didn't realize was Sauron) and were still subject to The One Ring if a sufficiently powerful being gained possession of it. The Elves were immediately aware of this fact when Sauron first donned the One, and responded by promptly taking their rings off. The Three were not worn or used again until Sauron lost the One at the end of the Second Age. Gandalf states that if Sauron were to regain the One, one of the more dire consequences would be that everything that had been done with the Three would fall under his control. He is unsure whether the destruction of the One would cause the Three to be free of its shadow or if it would cause the Three to lose their powers, though he believes it is likely the latter. He turns out to be correct.
  • In Peter Pan in Scarlet it's established that wearing someone else's clothes makes you more like them. The former Lost Boys exploit this by wearing their children's clothes so they can be young enough again to get to Neverland. The Big Bad of the story also exploits this by manipulating Peter Pan into wearing Hook's jacket as a trophy. This slowly corrupts him over the course of the book into acting more callous and pirate-like.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Amazing Stories: "The Wedding Ring" turns any woman into an Ax-Crazy Psycho Knife Nut as well as an irresistible seductress. Its last known owner was "The Black Widow". Makes you wonder if her evil tainted the ring, or if she was another victim of the ring.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Keeper of Traken", Kassia is turned evil by the necklace the Melkur gives her, though in this case it's a mind control device.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids the Series had the Thinky-Ring, which turned the wearer into a psychic vampire that grows smarter by draining the intelligence of other people, not to mention addictingly evil. Wayne's wife went so far as to call the ring her "precious," a reference to The Lord of the Rings (the novel; This was years before the movie version), and when his son wore it he dressed up in a black robe and used a growth ray to enlarge his cranium.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider 555: The Delta Driver Super Prototype doesn't come with the life-draining costs of its successors, but it makes the user addicted to using its power for violent ends.
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto: In one episode, the Zecters are revealed to have a system that will turn the Riders into berserkers if they don't fight Worms. However, like most plot points in Kabuto, it's never mentioned again.
    • Kamen Rider OOO: The purple Core Medals make OOO far more powerful, both granting him new ice powers and enabling him to kill the show's otherwise immortal main villains. However, they also gradually corrupt him towards becoming an Omnicidal Maniac. The other user of the purple Cores, Dr. Maki, is completely on board with this goal from the beginning and so they don't change his personality at all.
    • Kamen Rider Build: The Hazard Trigger, an upgrade for the Build Driver that serves as the show's Sword of Plot Advancement, makes Build much more powerful when he uses it, but using it for more than a minute overloads his mind with stimulation that causes him to shut down, then reawaken as a silent, brutally efficient killing machine. Two full story arcs are devoted to Build's attempts to master it and dealing with the trauma that he suffers when he commits murder under the Trigger's influence. Eventually he finds a way to build a secondary upgrade that makes the Trigger's power safe to use.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Averted with the Ark Driver when Aruto picks it up near the end of the show and becomes a Fallen Hero. Despite what the audience and the other characters initially think, the Driver isn't responsible for his villainous actions in the slightest.
    • Kamen Rider Saber: The Sword of Darkness, one of ten holy swords, has a habit in recent years of causing anyone who picks it up to turn into a villain. It takes the third wielder to admit that this is because it grants the power of foresight, and seeing that every possible future ends in the world evaporating into dust in the next few months does a number on the user's sanity.
  • Round the Twist: In "Copy Cat", Bronson finds an ancient Mongolian copy cat hat that compels whoever is wearing it to copy what they see. Linda wears it during the `Birdman’ competition and she copies a seagull soaring through the sky. But Dad and Gribble aren’t quite so lucky when they wear the copy cat hat.
  • Clark has stumbled upon jewelry made of red kryptonite at least three times on Smallville, usually to the detriment of his personality.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Dead Woman's Shoes", a shy woman tries on a pair of high heels at a thrift store that make her assertive, self-confident-—and send her on a murderous mission.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Some artifacts in Dungeons & Dragons have a tendency to do this. But then again, what were you expecting from an artifact that requires you to gouge out your own eye (or chop off your own hand) in order to use it?
    • This can be true of any intelligent magic item (and pretty much any item can be intelligent). Each such item has a Character Alignment of its own as well as an "Ego Score" measuring how strong its personality is. An evil item with a high Ego Score is this trope waiting to happen; if wielded by someone it disagrees with it can refuse to work, or attempt to control the user. Of course, it can also be reversed; a good-aligned item might attempt to control an evil user as well.
  • Exalted has a sort of demon called a Perronelle, an amorphous creature that can be worn as a suit of flexible, lightweight, durable armor...if you don't mind it whispering incitements to blasphemy and Yozi-worship in your ear while you sleep.
  • Rifts: Mercenaries features the Angrar Mark 1 suit, which, like the Mark 2, will slowly corrupt its wearer, causing demonic features to appear on them and leading to violence if anyone is caught near their armour; until eventually the person is absorbed by the suit as the suit itself is actually a demon.
  • Warhammer 40,000 brings us suits of armor corrupted or even possessed by daemons, with... predictable... results for anyone who dons them.

    Video Games 
  • In Fate/Grand Order, due to the baseless rumors that he murdered Mozart in a jealous rage, Antonio Salieri has been warped into an Avenger. As part of this transformation, he's given a twisted costume named the Wailing Facade, which grants him considerable power and even a Noble Phantasm at the cost of turning him into a Mozart-hating psychopath. He's aware that he's not the real Salieri, who was in life a good friend and peer of Mozart, but he's not strong enough to sustain the existence of a Heroic Spirit without the costume.
  • Luxaren Allure: The Armor of Ellicide, which turns Aurelie into Evil Overlord Darkloft.
  • In Warcraft III, the cursed sword that Arthas finds in Northrend, Frostmourne, is what destroys the last straw of his sanity, leading him to become a Death Knight and eventually the Lich King.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the Ring of Hircine has a few different effects based on the wearer, and Hircine's mood at the time. The one that most fits the trope is when the wearer is a werewolf and does not have Hircine's favour, becoming cursed to transform at erratic times and act more violently, and it doesn't like being removed even when worn by someone it won't affect. Inverted when Hircine is pleased with the wearer, as they will either gain a controlled werewolf transformation (if not one already) or total control over their existing ones (if they are).

    Web Animation 

  • Dolly Malestrom in the Ciem Webcomic Series, upon stealing the Earwig prototype suit, immediately goes from the not-so-humble housewife to a crazed and psychotic slayer of street thugs. So crazy, she's able to take on an anti-villain who should be several weight classes beyond her.
  • Darken's Komiyan seems to be heading in this direction. His sword is certainly trying to push him down that road, and is capable of taking over his body.
  • A modest example with Walter from Dubious Company, who varies between dressing like a nerd and A Pirate 400 Years Too Late depending on his clothes. He almost freaks after a spell sends the cast appropriately dressed to a beach.
    Walter: What do I look like? A mage? I have no clue. Hell, I'm not even a pirate right now!

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The Ice King's Crown. Centuries prior, Simon Petrikov, an collector of ancient artifacts, purchased the crown for his collection, and put it on momentarily as a joke when showing it to his fiancée. However, the crown's power never left him; although it granted him immortality and amazing power over ice and snow, it slowly drove him insane, transforming him into the Ice King.
    • In "Little Dude", Finn's hat gets brought to life to by a spell that infuses it with an evil spirit. It then starts forcing itself onto people's heads and turning them evil.
  • In Aladdin: The Series episode "Armored and Dangerous", The Sultan dons some magic armor of an old ruler of Agrabah named Kileem. It makes the Sultan much faster and stronger but unfortunately it also makes him act evil and plans on taking over other kingdoms.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The invisibility suit used by an already slightly unbalanced man in "See No Evil" becomes toxic when it is activated and apparently drives him completely over the edge into complete psychopathy.
  • Cash on Ben 10: Alien Force ended up with one, in the form of a cybernetic robot glove that could build itself a new body and compel its wearer to mindless violence.
  • Camp Lakebottom: In "Remember Fort Sunny Bottom", the stone hat from the statue of General Butt falls on Buttsquat's head; causing him to be possessed by the ghost of the general and declare war on Camp Lakebottom.
  • In Danny Phantom, there was a cursed necklace that turned its wearer into a raging dragon —literally—when the wearer became upset.
  • Fang of Dave the Barbarian once acquired some lederhosen that gave her super-strength, but turned her evil. From this, and her rescue from them, she learned the valuable lesson that Dave has really tender eyebrows.
  • Gargoyles features the Eye of Odin, a necklace that turns its wearer into a living embodiment of their darkest impulses. Even in human form, they are incredibly reluctant to relinquish it.
  • Inverted, sort of, in the Invader Zim Christmas episode, where the already-evil Zim makes a robotic Santa suit that takes him over to make him jolly and Santa-ish. Played Straight later when the suit goes crazy and turns into a psychotic monster; it flies off into space and apparently terrorizes the Earth every Christmas one million years in the future.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, the Living Laser and Madame Masque both slowly went insane and became terminally ill as a result of the unstable ore in the Howard Stark inventions they used to give them powers.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: In "Kung Shoes", Po buys a pair of magic shoes that enhance his kung fu prowess. However, if the wearer wears the shoes for more than two hours at a time, the shoes start to take over and demand that the wearer do more and more kung fu until they have destroyed everyone and everything around them.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Bugs' Bonnets", in setting up its The Hat Makes the Man premise, invokes this by putting a meek suit-wearing everyman in a pirate outfit, with this result:
    Man: (waving sword and flintlock) Batten down the keelhaul! Kill the women and children first! Blood!! Gore!! Hang 'em from the mizzenmast!!! (stands there panting with a crazed grin until costume is removed)
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "Rebel Without a Glove", Daffy accidentally shrinks Bugs' regular White Gloves in the wash, forcing Bugs to find a replacement pair. Bugs settles on a pair of leather fingerless gloves that cause him to act more and more like a belligerent outlaw biker.
  • The Mask:
    • Downplayed when Stanley Ipkiss puts on the mask he becomes the eponymous eccentric, mischievous, but ultimately good-hearted vigilante.
    • The same with Evelyn as when she accidentally puts on the mask she becomes a man hungry, Southern American girl named Eve but like The Mask she is sweet, kind, polite and loves Stanley very much even calling him screwball rabbit as a way of showing her love for him.
    • Dr Neuman wears the mask when been given it by Stanley who then puts it on and becomes a insane and psychotic madman who thinks there is a disorder called Ipkissa Maskosis which he must get rid of no matter what even teaming up with Pretorius to do it because his plan might be the only way to do even though he thinks that Pretorius is insane.
    • Peggy Brandt decides to put on the mask for once to see what it will be like and after putting it on becomes a vapid vain and egotistical, british green faced woman who believes she is the main story and must keep her appearance all perfect but like The Mask and Eve she cares very much about Stanley as she tells him that he's the only one who understands him unlike everyone else.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: Jenny's "human skin" in "Return of the Raggedy Android" was fixated on being normal and beautiful and refused to let Jenny use her robot powers to save people when the situation warranted.
  • In The New Adventures of Superman episode "The Wisp Of Wickedness", a possessed hat causes anyone who dons it to commit evil acts.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Team Homer", the elementary school institutes a uniform policy, and the drab clothes causes the kids to regress in personality so much that that they blink in unison. Then it turns out that the uniforms aren't colorfast, and during a rainstorm during recess, the clothes become tie-dye, setting off a riot.
    • Used in one segment of "Treehouse of Horror IX". Homer receives a toupee made from the hair of executed criminal Snake, and it forces him to seek revenge on those who helped put in him jail, including Bart.
  • See the Spider-Man entry under Comic Books. Every version of a Spidey Animated Series after the 80s has done a variation on the black suit saga.
  • A police officer on Superman: The Animated Series is a milder example. He was given a combat suit to use that ended up addicting him. He shaved his head, the better to interface with it, began referring to himself as "we" and got violent when separated from the suit or thwarted from using it. It also made him territorial to the point of being willing to beat up on Superman.
  • The mother of Manny Rivera, the protagonist of El Tigre, is recovering from an addiction to a pair of gloves she wore as the superheroine Plata Peligrosa, that turned her into an action junkie.
  • In an episode of TMNT: Back to the Sewers, an antiques store owner hastily gives Casey Jones the evil Ring of Yin to keep it out of the hands of the Purple Dragons. Not knowing what it is, Casey gives it to April as an engagement ring. It rather quickly possesses her and turns her into a powerful, monster-summoning demon. Casey, being the one who put it on her, is magically bound to be the only one capable of removing it. No small task, as by the time he is told this April had grown to epic size and was flying over the city.
  • Total DramaRama: In "Glove Glove Me Do", Owen takes a pair of gloves from the lost-and-found box that make him perfect at everything, but compel him to commit evil acts.


Video Example(s):


Bingo goes feral

A downplayed example. Bingo has a thing whenever she puts on a animal-theme onesie, that cause her to be come whatever animal it is. As shown when she turns into a cheetah shortly after putting on her gift from Brandy.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / BecomingTheCostume

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