Follow TV Tropes


Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit

Go To

He's six foot one way, two foot the other
And he weighs three hundred pounds
His coat's so big, he couldn't pay the tailor
And it won't go halfway round
— Description of a slaveowner from Kingdom Coming, Henry Clay Work

Like Dastardly Whiplash, this is an oddly specific character. Often a villain, or at the very least extremely shady, the Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit is where the Corrupt Hick intersects with the Villainous Glutton. They are always obese. They always speak with a strong Southern accent, normally an upper-class drawl. They are almost always dressed in a white suit, cane optional. If it's not truly white, it'll be pale enough to have the same effect. If it's someplace in the Deep South, like Mississippi or Louisiana, they will be extremely sweaty and constantly dabbing themselves with a handkerchief when not lazily fanning themselves. This is optional in places like Kentucky, but they will occasionally manage to be sweaty even in an Appalachian winter.

The root of the stereotype is in actual Southern fashions, combined with negative stereotypes of plantation owners. The white suit was an enduring Southern fashion down to the '70s, and can still be seen to this day because the South is hot, not to mention humid. The best such suits were made of linen, which is naturally moisture-wicking and highly thermally conductive; the next-best quality was seersucker, a cotton weave in which most of the cloth stays away from the skin. (Seersucker suits are fashionable to this day in Washington, D.C., which is very much a part of the South's subtropical climate zone.) Being white meant that the suit reflected light, and so didn't get hot as fast as other fabrics; it also allowed its wearer to show off that he didn't have to do anything that would get his clothing dirty.


Historical figures who sported the Southern white suit included Mark Twain and Colonel Harland Sanders, but neither of them was particularly fat or particularly villainous, unless in the latter's case you asked the chickens. Mark Twain's satires of Southern aristocracy might have been the Trope Codifier here.

The villainous version is a shameless glutton; the usual objects of his gluttony are mainstream Southern foods (sweet, fatty dishes which originated in the wet, cold, rainy Scottish Lowlands, and were definitely not adapted to suit the wet, hot, rainy Southern ones), but he's often found in association with gumbo, suggesting that he may have Cajun origins.

He occasionally has Jabba Table Manners and often has a careless, laid-back manner. He's probably Nouveau Riche and quite possibly a Corrupt Hick; he's almost certainly not an aristocratic, genteel, warlike Southern Gentleman.


He might be rich by anyone's standards, or he might just be better off than the rural poverty that surrounds him. One way or the other, he can afford very large quantities of very good food, and it's not at all unlikely that he gets the money from being part of, or the leader of, a corrupt local government.

One occasionally sees an uncorrupt or out-and-out heroic character of this sort. They sometimes sell food; at other times, they, like the Southern Gentleman, are lawyers.

For non-fat, non-sweaty, non-Southerners who may have a different set of villainous characteristics, see Villain in a White Suit. For Southerners too blue-blooded to sweat, see Southern Gentleman. For characters who are more powerful and even less genteel, see Corrupt Hick (remembering that there's a lot of overlap). For villains who eat a great deal, Southern or not, see Villainous Glutton. And for other stereotypes of the obese, compare and contrast Fat Bastard, Fat Idiot, and Fat Slob.


    open/close all folders 

  • A series of commercials for Roomaire (No Sweat!) air conditioners in the mid-1980s used a typical country song playing on midwestern and southern stereotypes this way. "The big fat sheriff was heard to mutter/ If it don't cool off, I'll turn to butter."

    Films — Animation 
  • Averted with "Big Daddy" Labouff from The Princess and the Frog. He's a Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit and a bit of a glutton, but a pretty Nice Guy: a Doting Parent, immensely Nice to the Waiter, and popular enough to be elected King of Mardi Gras five years in a row.
  • Played straight with another John Goodman one: Layton T. Montgomery, the attorney defending the honey industry from Barry's lawsuit in Bee Movie. John Goodman seems to like this role.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • An ancillary character in Psycho, a customer at the realty office Marion works for. He flirts outrageously with her and ostentatiously pays for his tens-of-thousands-of-dollars purchase in cash ("Never carry more than I can afford to lose!"), which sets off the plot.
  • Constantine (2005): The personification of Lucifer. Complete with Louisiana accent and white suit, which should be noted, is missing shoes, so you can see filth literally dripping off of his bare feet. Probably hot tar or pitch — which sort of makes sense.
  • One shows up in Angel Heart. He gets his head boiled in gumbo.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Governor Pappy O'Daniel. Corrupt, but in a self-interested, neutral way. Also, John Goodman plays a straighter, evil example, as a shady bible salesman/Klansman who beats the heroes senseless with a tree branch and steals their money. The Real Life Pappy O'Daniel is not an example, however.
  • The John Sayles movie Passion Fish kinda-sorta averts this, or maybe deconstructs it. A Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit shows up at one point, but he's the main character's gay cousin (who else wears a white suit nowadays?) and the two of them spend a delightful evening drinking heavily and trading family stories.
  • In JFK, John Candy portrays Real Life New Orleans defense attorney Dean Andrews this way.
  • The Waterboy: One of Bobby's professors — so much so that Bobby calls him Colonel Sanders. He isn't evil so much as a Butt-Monkey, and he quickly finds out the hard way that you don't make fun of Mama.
  • Life (1999) features at least three examples. Two are prison wardens, the first of whom fits the trope to a T. The second warden is identical in appearance but a much more decent human being. A minor but eventually important villain at the beginning of the film also shows that fat, sweaty, white-bedecked Southern bastards aren't exclusively white.
  • Senator Seabright "Sebe" Cooley of South Carolina in Advise & Consent, although he's more wily and shrewd than villainous.
  • Casablanca isn't set in the American South, and Signor Ferrari is a suave Italian, but he otherwise fits the description quite well.
  • Senator Raymond Clark in Seven Days in May is a non-villainous example of the trope.
  • Davido, the greedy building developer from (the live-action part of) Arthur and the Invisibles. What he's truly after is the treasure hidden by Arthur's grandfather in the world of the Minimoys.
  • South American variant in That Man from Rio. As Adrian is shining a shoeshine kid's shoes (not having any money for the kid doing his), a fat guy in white brushes the kid aside to get his own shoes done. Adrian polishes his white shoes black, and, of course, he can't see his own shoes.
  • Parodied in Doctor Detroit, in which Clifford pretends to be an example of this trope in order to curry favor with a judge who is an actual example.

  • Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces actually aspires to this.
  • A horror story "The Suit" by G.W. Thomas had the white suit be a Clingy Costume; its overweight Southern owner is promised wealth and power if he keeps feeding the suit with his own fat. Problem is the suit's hunger exceeds his intake of food.
  • Elemental Assassin: Captain Wayne Stephenson is a Dirty Cop who is constantly dabbing away sweat with a handkerchief. In Spider's Bite, he shows up at a formal fundraiser wearing a white suit.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The lead singer of the Serbian turbofolk metal band Pero Defformerocultivates this image, as a parody of the group of Balkan music genres turbofolk belongs to, in which male artists often exhibit a Southeastern European version of the trope.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Gary Hart (no relation to the Hart Family or Jimmy Hart), a prominent wrestling personality in the South during the territorial days, did the Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit routine.
  • Although Ernie Ladd wasn't fat, he did have some of the mannerisms. Southern accent, intensely classist and racist, and when doing interviews, he sometimes donned white or otherwise pastel suits.
  • Jim Cornette, who didn't like working people or women and (at the very least) was very unconscious or apathetic to the concerns of black people, and often wore a white suit. But he didn't get fat until a fall from a scaffold busted his knees.


    Video Games 
  • Hitman:
    • Skip Muldoon of Blood Money is the captain of a luxury Mississippi riverboat, drug smuggler, and Depraved Bisexual with an emphasis on the depraved. His half-brother, John "Pappy" Le Blanc, is the paranoid, senile, and dangerously rich head of the drug cartel that Skip worked for.
    • Subverted with Blake Dexter, the Big Bad of Absolution. He has the girth, suit, drawl and attitude down to a T, but he's actually a midwesterner from South Dakota. It's very obvious that Dexter and his cowboy hat-wearing cronies were originally meant to be Texan, but for whatever reason, this was changed sometime before release.
  • While he's not fat, Emile Dufraisne from Splinter Cell: Double Agent otherwise fits this trope.

    Web Original 
  • In reaction to Tariq Nasheed's controversial documentary Buck Breaking, right-wing memers began crafting memes featuring Pepe the Frog as a fat sweaty southerner in a white suit to make fun of it. This is a relatively inoffensive example, most of them are much worse.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): The Boss Hogg