Follow TV Tropes


Deliberately Painful Clothing

Go To
I thought helmets were supposed to protect you from damage...
Sizz-Lorr: Now put on this Happy Shloogor costume and fill the customers with joy!
Zim: But, it's full of white-hot grease...
Sizz-Lorr: Makes you dance better.

Some people are willing to suffer some pain or discomfort for the sake of fashion. And then there's these folks, who deliberately don clothing that hurts them for non-fashionable reasons. They might be trying to demonstrate their piety, or to atone for sin. Other times, the pain and injury inflicted by the outfit is suffered in exchange for supernatural powers. A Combat Sadomasochist or Sense Freak will likely dress this way simply because they enjoy it.

Western culture actually has a word for this - cilice. Traditionally, cilices were garments or undergarments worn close to the skin and made from coarse cloth or animal hair. They were deliberately designed to irritate the skin, and in some cases, they also included twigs and thin wires for added discomfort. In modern religious parlance, cilice is now an umbrella term for any item of clothing designed to cause discomfort.

Compare Keeping the Handicap, when this idea is applied to injuries and other impediments that could otherwise be recovered from. See also Malevolent Mutilation.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk, main character Guts wears the Berserker armor, which snaps his bones and tears his flesh in order to keep him fighting through otherwise crippling injuries even as it slowly eats away at his soul.
  • Much of the bondage equipment used in Nana & Kaoru is designed to uncomfortably restrict the submissive, forcing them to feel a constant awareness of their body and giving them a sensation of great relief when removed. 'Rope dresses' are tied to press tightly against the submissive's breasts and vulva, gags force their mouths open or their tongues to hang out, 'pet clothing' locks their arms and legs in a folded position, forcing them to sit and move only on their knees and elbows. Kaoru is extremely careful to ensure that Nana and Ryoko only wear such clothing for short periods at a time, and only under his constant and direct supervision.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, the original Confessor wears a cross on his costume, which leaves him in constant pain because he's a vampire. He does this because he's a fallen priest who is seeking penance.
  • Marshal Law: The title character has barbed wire wrapped around his arm as a symbol of his self-loathing, although his Super-Soldier augmentation makes it impossible for it to actually hurt.
  • After becoming the only active member of the New Warriors to survive the Stamford Incident, in which 612 people — many of them kids — died, Robbie Baldwin, formerly known as Speedball, started calling himself Penance and donned a new costume, the inside of which was lined with 612 spikes that constantly pierced his flesh, to remind him of all the people who died. This was also because his guilt over the mass death made him psychosomatically incapable of using his powers unless he was in pain. It is later revealed that he actually originally made the Penance suit for the villain who caused the explosion but started wearing it himself due to his depression. Eventually, he found the villain responsible (Nitro) and shoved him in the suit before making it impossible to take off, reaching some degree of closure (though he's still in therapy).

  • Under the Sun of Satan: Father Donissan, an excessively devout Catholic priest who seems to find himself inadequate to serve God, wears a hair shirt. His supervisor priest is not impressed when he finds this out. (Donissan also scourges himself.)

  • Aeon 14: A wounded Sera dons one of Rebecca's skinsuits, but it was designed to kill whoever is not the owner, leading to Sera getting tortured nearly to death by it as it tightened itself around her and subjected her to the agonizing pain of it trying to eat her skin from beneath her neck. Helen saved her by reprogramming the suit to bond with her instead, leading to it bonding to what was left of her skin and eventually, with the help of nanobots programmed by Bob, the polymer of the suit became her new morphable artificial skin.
  • In A Christmas Carol, Marley's ghost wears heavy chains as penance for his sins in life.
  • In The Da Vinci Code, the numerary Silas wears a spiked chain around his right thigh as part of his religiously motivated self-torture.
  • In The Divine Comedy, Hypocrites are punished in Inferno by wearing robes of gilded lead.
  • In The Edge Chronicles, Vilnix Pompolius wears painful clothing while torturing, so that the pain robs him of any kindness and mercy.
  • In the Legend of Sigmar trilogy, the Thurinigans are berserkers who like to cut themselves to build into a frenzy before battle, and often wear clothes and ornaments designed to help them with that. Their king's crown has spikes facing inwards, while their warriors often chain themselves to their weapons using shackles with spikes on.
  • In The Master and Margarita, Margarita wears metal undies at Satan's ball. They keep cutting her skin, but she never complains, because all the other ladies at the ball are stark naked.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, the Necromancers wear robes that completely fail to keep them warm in their freezing cold temples during winter, claiming that "To suffer is to live". Subverted when it's revealed that at least a few of these necromancers are deeply wrapped in thermals beneath their robes.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Warrior's Sons and the Poor Fellows, the militant wings of the Faith of the Seven, wear hair shirts.
  • Downplayed example: in one of the X-Wing Series books, a character notes that the Jedi used to wear shirts made of rough, itchy cloth, forcing them to learn how to ignore material distractions and keep their mind on the spiritual.
  • In the Dresden Files novel Storm Front, Harry is given an amulet that belongs to the man he's been hired to locate. It's made from a dead scorpion, and Harry muses about how nasty it would be to wear against bare skin, where its pincers could catch in a man's chest hairs or scratch the top of a woman's breasts; unfortunately, wearing a shirt in between would spoil whatever magical benefit it might confer.
  • The Wouldbegoods: When the titular group of children try to reenact the pilgrimage from The Canterbury Tales, Denny secretly puts dry peas in his boots as a Holier Than Thou show of penitence. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and he quickly injures his feet, putting an end to their hike.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Leonard forgot to return a VHS tape that Sheldon rented, and as punishment has to wear a very itchy Homemade Sweater from Hell with nothing underneath until he can return it.
    Penny: (upon seeing Leonard's chest) Oh, my God! Is that sweater made of bees?
  • Father Brown: Prominent in "The Upcott Fraternity", which takes place at the eponymous Upcott seminary school. The murderer wears a cilice around his leg, leaving a trail of blood.
  • In HEX, Raphael briefly persuades Ella to wear a spiked bracelet as punishment for her sexual attraction to Malachi.
  • In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall wears a leather bracelet because it makes him look "tough" to Lily and it turns him on, but throughout the episode, his hand gets more and more swollen because he's allergic to the leather, and by the end, it's like a balloon.
  • In El internado: Las Cumbres, Pelayo, a Stern Teacher at the Las Cumbres boarding school, wears a chain cilice around his upper leg, drawing blood.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: A lot of Old Testament Prophets would wear hair shirts. John the Baptist wore one, made of camel hair. Often people would wear them while doing penance for sins, or as part of mourning rituals. It's also translated as "sackcloth". i.e. burlap-like material.
  • Some Catholics practice self-mortification. Probably the best known are the children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. Hearing her request them to make "sacrifices "to save sinners from hell," they wore rough twine under their clothing, put thorns in their shoes and inflicted pain and suffering on themselves in a variety of ways. They were ten, nine, and seven years old at the time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The demons assaulting Ashardalon's lair in the Positive Energy Plane wear jewellery that's enchanted to gouge into their flesh. The overwhelming latent Life Energy of the Plane instantly heals the wounds, without which they'd explode from Phlebotinum Overload.
  • In Pathfinder the worshipers of Zun'Kuthon, god of pain, often wear extreme versions of this kind of clothing, which is sometimes embedded in their flesh so extensively that it can't be removed without killing them. Giving and receiving pain are both considered religious experiences among them.
  • Followers of Slaanesh wears these in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, though it's less repentance and more getting a kick from the sensations, as well as powering their god.
    • The Pain Glove, despite its name, covers the entire body. It's used to cause pain without damaging the body and is extensively used by the (good guy) Imperial Fists chapter to continuously strengthen themselves or for spiritual reasons.
    • Among the dark eldar, the suits of armor worn by kabalite warriors are held in place by barbs and hooks that dig into the wearer's flesh, intended to sharpen the wearer's senses through constant pain.
    • Imperial flagellants in Warhammer Fantasy are based (loosely) on the previously mentioned Christian practice of self-mortification. Their main gimmick is, unsurprisingly, self-flagellation, but they also have a habit of wearing spiky clothes, crowns of thorns, and various other types of painful clothing.

  • In Tartuffe, the titular character wears a hair shirt... but in a sign that his supposed piety is all an act, he wears the shirt inside out, so that he doesn't actually feel any discomfort.

    Video Games 
  • Beyond the Edge of Owlsgard: Finn can find a hedgehog costume in the pub, which has spikes that hurt when he puts them on. He needs to wear it to enter the wolves' territory without being kidnapped, though he'll happily discard it afterwards.
  • In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, the player can purchase a ThornRing as part of the hidden Weird Route. The item is explicitly stated to be painful to wear and lowers the wearer's maximum HP to a third of its normal capacity in exchange for cutting the TP cost of ice spells by 50%, as well as a huge boost to the wearer's Attack and Magic stats. Noelle is required to wear the ring in order to use SnowGrave as part of the route.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, flavor text for healers say they wear barbed clothing as self-inflicted punishment for being healers.
  • In the Dragon Age universe, Qunari mages, called saarebas, all wear heavy chains and masks to make it hard for them to move freely. It causes them a considerable amount of pain, but being Qunari, they willingly submit to such treatment.
  • Fear & Hunger has the Penance Armor, which was constructed for use by criminals sent on missions for the church they weren’t expected to survive. One set of it can be found and worn if you either help Trotur or steal the key off of him. While it does give a rather high amount of defense and protects you from losing limbs as well as forced penetration, and some coin flip attacks automatically fail if you have it, once you put it on it never comes off thanks to the spikes holding it in place piercing your body all over. You also constantly take Damage Over Time from the blood seeping out from the spike wounds, and you also become unable to partake in Marriage.
  • With RimWorld's Ideology expansion, you can construct "torture crowns" for your colonists to wear, headgear with inward-pointing spikes that keep their wearers in a constant state of pain. This is normally a bad idea, but if a colonist has the Masochist trait, or belongs to an ideology that idealizes pain, the wearer will instead get a mood bonus from the discomfort.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Angry Beavers episode "You Promised!", Dag makes Norb take a Super Solemn Beaver Promise which, if broken, means the perpetrator would be banished to the top of the highest mountain and made to wear an itchy sweater for the rest of their life.

    Real Life 
  • The Sateré-Mawé people of the Amazon Basin have a Rite of Passage for boys involving wearing gloves with dozens of bullet ants woven into them. Bullet ants have one of the most painful stings of any insect on Earth note , the pain from which can last over 24 hours. The boys are required to wear the gloves for at least 10 minutes and perform a dance while doing so; only after this is done can they call themselves "men". The Sateré-Mawé claim that this is meant to teach that "a life lived without pain or suffering is no life at all".
  • There are three major spins on the real-life version of the Of Corset Hurts trope. Take one is "Yes, they hurt!" Take two is "They don't hurt if they're properly fitted!" Take three is "Yes, they hurt, and we like that!" (In short: some — though by no means all — corset-wearers enjoy the feeling of tight-lacing, ability to breathe be damned.)


Video Example(s):


Chariots of Fur

After being slingshotted into a cactus by a stubborn bow, Wile E. gets the idea to disguise himself as a cactus. As he tries to put the costume on, he can be seen wincing in pain in the process and ends up in more pain after a mistimed attempt to grab the Road Runner lead the Coyote into wrapping his arms around himself with very painful results. Wile E. then promptly decides that the costume isn't worth the trouble and kicks the box in which the item came in away.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / CactusCushion

Media sources: