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Sweaters? Jinkies!

A character who wants to look dangerous has several choices in outerwear — long swishy coats if you want to look dashing and mysterious, leather jackets appeal to the James Dean wannabe in all of us, stylish dark suits look aloof and professional — but not sweaters.

Whether because of their fuzzy texture or sweaters' association with gifts from one's grandmother, sweaters do not look intimidating. In fiction, a character who wears sweaters frequently is often some variety of nerd, otherwise cute, or at least approachable and non-threatening. Sweater vests, in particular, are normally a sign of extreme nerdiness, and the look is often paired with Opaque Nerd Glasses for the same reason.

Keep in mind, however, that while Dorks In Sweaters don't look dangerous, that does not mean they are necessarily harmless. The various Hidden Badass tropes may apply. A character may look like this when he's (or she's) obligated to wear the Homemade Sweater from Hell. This trope can overlap with Sexy Sweater Girl if the lady in question is more of a Hot Librarian than a conventional bombshell, and Cute Oversized Sleeves if the character is adorably dorky. Also The Smart Guy of a group usually could dress this.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sarada from Naruto is of the "nerdy" variant. She's a studious and Book Smart girl. Her casual clothes during her days at the Ninja Academy were a tie and sweater vest (combined with her glasses). This attire however hasn't been shown outside the Distant Epilogue of the manga (which takes place a few years before Naruto Gaiden). The Boruto anime retconned her clothes to be something more similar to her ninja attire.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, Haruhi wears an ugly sweater and Nerd Glasses upon her first introduction, strongly contrasting the refined and expensive interiors of the Ouran school.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker often wore sweaters before being bitten by the spider. He rarely does after.
  • Runaways: During Terry Moore's run, Klara was frequently seen in sweaters, symbolizing just how out of place she was in 21st century Malibu.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner, sometimes becomes a fashion victim, and a few of those occasions have involved sweaters.

    Fan Works 
  • In several fanfics and fanarts, human versions of Twilight Sparkle and Dusk Shine are usually shown wearing sweaters which signifies their intelligence. These notably did not carry over to canon, as both Princess Twilight and her human counterpart are never shown wearing sweaters in Equestria Girls.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Inside Out, two of the Anthropomorphic Personifications of emotions, both decidedly dorky, wear sweaters. The first, Sadness, has an oversized white turtleneck that comes across as the kind of thing someone would wear on a gray, gloomy day. The second, Fear, has an argyle sweater vest paired with a bow tie. Both Sadness and Fear are among the smarter members of the emotion team: Sadness studies operation manuals and knows the most about inner workings of the brain, while Fear's duty involves him being Crazy-Prepared and thus researching as much about danger as he can.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Forgotten Friendship: Wallflower Blush, whose main traits are being unremarkable and socially invisible. The drab, brown striped sweater certainly doesn't help, especially in comparison to the colorful clothes worn by many CHS students. She's the main villain of the special, using a magic Laser-Guided Amnesia device to nearly ruin Sunset Shimmer's life.
  • In Turning Red, Mei often wears a red sweater which emphasizes her dorky nerdy nature.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Hitman with a Heart protagonist of Russian cult neo-noir Brother wears a cable knit sweater that makes him look less threatening and more relatable. Out in the real world, the film single-handedly made this article of clothing seem manly and badass.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Neville wears a pretty goofy jumper, probably as a way to remind the viewer of the dork that he used to be because in this film, he acts like a badass more often than not.
  • In Jurassic World, head scientist Henry Wu has swapped out his lab coat from the first film for a black turtleneck sweater, evoking Steve Jobs. The color swap from white to black also foreshadows that he's become The Evil Genius.
  • The Santa Clause: Neil wears goofy sweaters, one of which Bernard thinks was made at the North Pole.
  • Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class is definitely a dork of the Hidden Badass variety. The Fandom loves to affectionately mock his "old man cardigans," but this endearingly geeky man can melt people's brains.

    Literature 
  • In Bridget Jones the Love Interest is introduced wearing a cheesy Christmas jumper with a reindeer's head on it.
  • Lady Margolotta, Überwald's regional political Chessmistress in the Discworld series, wears a pink sweater with little embroidered bats to make herself look like an unassuming middle-aged mom.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Ron is afraid that the sweaters his mum knits him for Christmas will make him look like one of these but Harry, Fred, and George can pull them off because they have a sense of humour about it.
    • Dolores Umbridge, who wears a pink cardigan as part of her Sickeningly Sweet persona, manages to be both far less harmless than she initially appears, and actively evil.
  • Both Sticky and Reynie from The Mysterious Benedict Society are depicted wearing sweaters in official artwork. They're both Adorably Precocious Children and Child Prodigies who have Friendless Backgrounds.
  • In the non-fiction book Stitch and Bitch, Debbie Stoller invokes this in her explanation for the superstition that knitting your boyfriend or girlfriend a sweater dooms the relationship: if you put all that work into a sweater but your special someone never wears it because it looks wrong, you could end up resenting each other.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The guys in The Big Bang Theory, all of whom are dorks. Raj and Howard occasionally wear sweater vests more than the others. This also extends to Bernadette, whose usual ensemble pairs a dress with a cardigan sweater, and who has a doctorate in microbiology.
  • Annie Edison from Community is a cute and nerdy overachiever. She often wears dresses with cardigans.
  • Dr. Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds often wears sweaters or sweater vests; he is nerdy and sometimes awkward (mainly because he just blurts out everything he knows) but definitely a Badass Bookworm.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Friends:
    • Chandler Bing is a geeky guy who usually wears a sweater.
    • Ross is a dinosaur nerd — he's a paleontologist who works in a museum and later becomes a professor at university. He often wears turtleneck sweaters.
  • Cute and nerdy Artie in Glee. He wears sweater vests even.
  • Poked fun at in a MADtv (1995) sketch making fun at Freedom Writers and the Save Our Students trope. The "Nice White Lady" wears a non-threatening sweater and floral blouse, which gets mentioned by a student during a rant.
    Look at you in that sweater vest you're wearing and that adorable patterned blouse! What you think is gonna happen here? You think you gonna inspire me? You think you're gonna break through my "tough girl" act and teach me the beauty that's inside? You think you gonna make me do and feel things that I've never had before? All because you're a non-threatening, kindhearted, beautiful white lady?
  • In Men Behaving Badly, the characters discuss how wearing a cardigan makes one seem tame and old.
  • An episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks had everyone mocking Simon Amstell for wearing a cardigan, even though it was an expensive, bright pink one.
  • Jerry Gergitz is the Butt-Monkey of the parks department on Parks and Recreation. He also frequently wears a sweater vest.
  • Sherlock: John Watson isn't exactly a nerd, but he has a few dorky qualities and under ordinary circumstances, he's rather less intimidating than his six-foot-tall Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette best friend. Under extraordinary circumstances, however, he's a BAMF.
  • That '70s Show: Eric Forman is usually seen as a dork, especially since he wears sweaters in like the half of the series. Another example is his friend Steven Hyde, who usually mocks Eric for his look, in which had dressed one with his name made by Kitty Forman on his 18th birthday, obligated by Red Forman (as well assisting to his own birthday).
  • James May of Top Gear (UK), considered The Smart Guy of the three presenters, is also the only one of them seen on the show in brightly-colored sweaters and cardigans.

    Music 
  • At the end of wrestler Freddie Blassie's "Pencil Neck Geek", Freddie wonders why the recording engineer is in the booth wearing a turtleneck sweater in the middle of summer. He enters the booth and rips the sweater open to show the RE has a pencil neck. Freddie proceeds to demolish the studio with him.
  • Weezer song "Come Undone", also known as "The Sweater Song", in which The Narrator seems to be a dork in a sweater who goes first to a concert and later to a party.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Monster Prom has all dorky characters wearing sweaters:
    • The Tsundere hipster Liam has a peach-colored sweater as one of his casual outfits.
    • The Genki Girl Vicky/Blue wears a blue sweater and is shown as very sweet and upbeat (like the most among the playable characters)
    • The shy and sweet Oz/Yellow wears a yellow cardigan over his shirt.

    Webcomics 
  • In Dumbing of Age, most of Joyce's outfits involve sweater vests. This fashion-backward look fits her status as the sheltered fundie.
  • While Kankri from Homestuck tries to paint himself as a social activist and intellectual, his adorable red sweater undermines this image, especially when he throws a tantrum whenever anyone offers to clean it for him.
  • Lackadaisy: Viktor is given a sweater (along with other Christmas gifts) that turns him into a walking Christmas tree.
  • Rebusquest: Carson. It's not so much because Carson is a nerd, but rather because the comics are a throwback to The '70s when turtlenecks sweaters were very fashionable.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks:
    • Simon is The Smart Guy of the main trio, and in addition to using glasses, he also wears a blue sweater with a turtleneck.
    • Being the Distaff Counterpart of the Chipmunks, Jeanette of the Chipettes (the foil of Simon) wears sweaters.
  • Beetlejuice:
    • A couple episodes introduce Donny, BJ's annoying brother. Donny is a colossal dork who works on almost everyone's nerves eventually because he's so nice, and this is accentuated by his sweater ensemble and bow tie.
    • Also, in one episode Beetlejuice himself dons a sweater specifically to invoke this trope. He enters a contest in which the participants have to dress like living people, and his costume includes a letterman sweater and glasses. The contest announcer lampshades it, observing that BJ has opted for "a traditional 1950s dork look."
  • Big City Greens: Cricket’s nerdy friend Remy is usually seen wearing a sweater-vest.
  • The Critic: Jay Sherman, the eponymous Critic, usually wears an argyle sweater vest.
  • Darkwing Duck: In his civilian identity, the "terror that flaps in the night" wears a pink and green dorky sweater, which makes for amusing dissonance when he acts like his superhero identity around his family and friends. Also, he (and all his evil counterparts) all wear a turtleneck sweater underneath their suit jacket costume.
  • DC Super Hero Girls (2019): Karen Beecher a.k.a. Bumblebee is a shy, unassuming character in a black-and-yellow striped sweater.
  • Doug: The title character wears a green sweater vest as part of his main outfit.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy's genius friend A.J. wears a sweater vest. In Season 4 "Who's Your Daddy", Timmy and Cosmo call the sweater vest a "girl magnet" and when Jorgen poofs himself a sweater vest it attracts the attention of the Tooth Fairy.
    Jorgen: You would think that without the sleeves it would be less of a sweater, but it's actually more!
  • One of the key items of the Author from Gravity Falls is a dark red turtleneck sweater. Considering that he wrote the Great Big Book of Everything that doubles as a Tome of Eldritch Lore describing all of the weird stuff going on in the titular town and that he was the bookish, nerdy twin contrasting his boisterous brother Stanley, he's an example.
  • The Loud House: Lisa, the nerdiest Loud sister, wears a green turtleneck.
  • Milo Murphy's Law: Milo himself. He wears a sweater vest and the theme song makes it clear that he thinks it's cool.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "Amending Fences" introduces Moondancer, who took to wearing a black turtleneck sweater around the same time she got depressed and became a complete recluse.
  • Phantom Investigators: Casey, The Smart Guy of the team, always wears a blue turtleneck sweater with a red stripe on it.
  • Scooby-Doo: Velma Dinkley's most iconic outfit consists of a pleated red skirt, orange knee-socks, red Mary Jane-shoes, Nerd Glasses, and a bulky orange sweater. She's also the most intelligent member of the gang (being the one who typically figures out almost all of their mysteries) and is arguably the most fearless member of the group as well.
  • The Simpsons: Ned Flanders, the Simpson family's overly-cheery neighbor, always wears a bright green sweater with a pink collar.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Irma, April's dorky best friend, usually wears a light blue sweater with a turtleneck. To further drive home the dork factor, she wears glasses that are almost too big for her face, pairs the sweater with a long gray skirt and tennis shoes, and spends most of her screen time moping about her unsuccessful love life.
  • Total Drama:
  • The Venture Brothers: Dean Venture, being an expy of a young Peter Parker, typically wears a sweater vest. He can be a formidable character even though he's easily terrified.

    Real Life 
  • Steve Jobs was famously associated with this look, but thanks to his success running Apple and turning it into one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, he turned it into a subversion. He may have looked the part and had a background in a stereotypically nerdy industry, but at the height of his fame, his Iconic Outfit of a black turtleneck sweater and glasses was seen as less "dorky" than "techno-wizard CEO".

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