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Outfit Decoy

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A character uses a decoy with their outfit or armor, or simply their hat, to distract enemies or to gauge how dangerous a situation is. Very likely to lead to Hat Damage for the latter.

Some situations requires the hat to be placed on a stick or held in a certain way to further the facade. For whole outfits, a mannequin or even a log may be used. Particularly skilled characters can execute the so-called "cicada husk" maneuvernote  and simply Flash Step out of their clothes.

While a hat may be easily replaceable or fixed if damaged, if a character needs to use the clothes on their person, it may be problematic if damaged and needs to be worn again immediately.

In cases of Artificial Limbs or Powered Armor, Fake Arm Disarm or Animated Armor may be invoked alongside those tropes respectively.

Decoys used by a Cold Sniper in combat will often have a flashlight or similar lightsource that replicates the Sniper Scope Glint of their Sniper Rifle, often accompanied by a real or dummy weapon. These decoys are usually used to lure out enemy snipers or combatants by giving away their position and/or leaving them open to be sniped by the sniper in question or ambushed by one of the sniper's allies.

Compare Disguised Hostage Gambit and Decoy Getaway, where an actual person is used. Compare Giving Them the Strip, where a character discards clothing to escape an opponent's grip. Contrast Stripping the Scarecrow. Sister Trope to Paper-Thin Disguise. Sometimes used to set up a Sleeping Dummy. See also Jettison Jetpack Attack for when jetpacks or fuel tanks are used in a similar manner.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: In volume 11, when Guts is fighting the Apostle Wyald who has taken the form of a giant ape, Wyald has just hit Guts into the air so hard that he can't figure out where he landed, giving Guts an opportunity to prepare a desperate trick: He props up a dead member of the Black Dog Knights behind a tree as a decoy for himself, and hides in the forest canopy above, waiting for the time to strike. Wyald senses the presence of his foe behind the tree, but a falling leaf makes him realize that Guts is actually hiding above him, so he chops the tree in half expecting Guts to come diving from the treetops and quickly turns to intercept him with a mighty punch. He thinks he's outsmarted Guts, but realizes a second too late that what he just punched is actually another decoy consisting of a tree branch dressed up in Guts' armor. Guts himself, coming down directly behind it, slips through the resulting opening in Wyald's defense and stabs him through the neck with his sword.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Edward Elric has been know to make decoys by throwing his iconic red coat (or whatever else he happens to be wearing at the time) over a dummy he's created. Notably, since the dummies are created through alchemy, they tend to be far more elaborate than the norm. They frequently include details such as his braid, Idiot Hair, and even a caricature of his face, sticking its tongue out at the opponent.
    • The manga and Brotherhood crosses this trope with with Fake Arm Disarm and Life-or-Limb Decision at one point. Ed, who had been fighting a losing battle against Lan Fan, lured her into a trap by detaching his damaged automail arm and placing it atop a pile of rubble so that it looked as though he had been buried. Lan Fan would later put this trick to use with her own (flesh-and-blood) arm after she was injured while trying to escape Wrath.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Io, piloting the Full Armor Gundam, manages to flank Daryl by distracting him with detaching and launching his Gundam's backpack towards Daryl.
  • My Hero Academia: Midoriya throws various articles of his costume out of a smokescreen while fighting against Lady Nagant. When she shoots each decoy, Midoriya is able to determine her exact position and launches himself at her from inside a nearby building.

    Comic Books 
  • This is a favored tactic of Batman's from time to time, using his cape as a disguise. For instance, in Knightfall, Bruce Wayne launches his cape and cowl at Zombie, who stabs it in confusion as he thought it was the real Batman, leading to Bruce taking him out by sweeping him off his feet. Jean-Paul Valley does something similar in his fight with the Tally Man during Knightquest by disguising a barrel with his cloak and chest gear.
  • While edging along a very narrow ledge atop a skyscraper in The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #9, Indy takes off his tuxedo jacket and holds it round the corner of the building to see it it attracts any bullets, bites or Blow Gun darts.
  • In Jon Sable, Freelance #9, Sable is being pursued by Right Wing Militia Fanatics with tracker dogs. He throws them off his trail by wrapping his jacket around a rock and rolling it down the hill: giving them both sound and a scent to follow.
  • Kid Colt (2009): Kid Colt and his sidekick Hawk put their hats and jackets on corpses to set up a convincing decoy for Bounty Hunter Sherman Wilks and his gunmen. By the time they realise they're attacking the dead, they've been outflanked.
  • In the Marvel vs. DC crossover event, Robin (Tim Drake) uses this method to defeat Jubilee (specifically, he hangs his cape in a shadowed corner so she'll look the other way as he ties her up), showing his experience and skills over her raw mutant power.
  • Subverted in one Lucky Luke book where he holds his hat on a stick so it's visible from a window. There's no reaction from Joe Dalton inside, confirming that Joe really is amnesiac (he very quickly gets better though).

    Comic Strips 
  • Several times in Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin has used this ploy to distract Hobbes from attacking him:
    • Knowing that Hobbes would pounce on him when he opened the front door, he puts his clothes onto a pile of leaves, using a paper bag with a smiley face written on it for the head.
    • He does the same trick using a broom. This time Hobbes isn't fooled, and pretends the fake is Calvin, bringing it inside and leaving the real one locked out.
    • Twice he dresses up a snowman in his weather gear as a decoy in snowball fights. Both times Hobbes catches on immediately and Calvin gets soaked.
    • Calvin also builds a snowman on the doorstep with his hat and coat on it as pounce bait. Hobbes simply opens the door, notes the presence of a tiny snowman and asks why Calvin is hiding there with no overclothes. Calvin reclaims his coat, angrily demolishes the snowman, opens the door and then Hobbes pounces.
    • Calvin does this with his shoe at least twice; once by tossing it around a corner (causing Hobbes to pounce), and once by lowering the shoe to the floor while sitting in an armchair (Hobbes is under the chair and forcefully nabs the shoe).

    Fan Works 
  • In the Judge Dredd short fan film Judge Minty, Minty kills two overexcited gang members in the Cursed Earth by using his gear as a decoy.
  • Vow of the King: In her fight against Momo, Orihime strips out of her borrowed uniform and throws it in the opposite direction, distracting the lieutenant long enough to choke her out.

  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, when cornered on the construction site, Batman tricks the police into shooting at his cape and cowl that he draped over a sawhorse that he attaches to a police helicopter.
  • On Cinderella, Jaq has to lure Lucifer away so the other mice can get breakfast. He does it by sticking his hat on the end of his tail and waving it through a knothole in the wall.

    Film —Live Action 
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Scott props the gigantic-ified Ant-Man costume against a building, distracting the FBI for long enough so he can get back into his home and not be caught out of house arrest.
  • In "Crocodile" Dundee II, Mick has Sue take her bra off and hangs it in a tree as bait in a Booby Trap for their pursuers.
  • Death Rides a Horse: During the final shootout, Bill puts his hat on the end of a stick and pokes it round the corner of the hacienda to trick Pedro into firing at it.
  • In Draw!, one of the Banditos who ambush Sam and Wally pokes his sombrero on a stick over the top of the ridge. Sam shoots it off the stick and then shoots it five more times while it is still in the air. The banditos turn tail and run.
  • The climactic shootout in For a Few Dollars More has one of El Indio's henchmen barge into a house and encounters what he thinks is Manco, his hat poking out behind some furniture. After the henchman shoots the hat, Manco quickly turns around in a swivel chair and kills the henchman.
  • Both used and subverted by Hannibal Rising where Hannibal tricks the hitman (and his own intended victim) with additional lab coat and two hands, sawn-off from the corpse (as he's a medical student).
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983), Holmes drapes his hat and cloak over a table and some boxes in the hut where the dog is kept to create a silhouette of himself that he tricks Stapleton into shooting.
  • Combined with Vehicle Vanish in The Living Daylights. A KGB agent is watching Kara from across the street as she enters a phone booth. A trolley car rumbles past, blocking his view of the booth. As it passes, he sees a black Aston-Martin driving away, and Kara still in the booth. After watching the booth for a while longer, he gets suspicious and goes and opens the booth. Inside is Kara's hat and coat hanging over her cello case, with her having pulled the switch and jumped into Bond's car while the trolley was passing.
  • In the film version of Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Nick gets some dirt on his jacket, making it partially visible. When Jenkins corners him, he can see Nick's jacket, but can't see that Nick isn't wearing it.
  • In The Mountie, Grayling leaves his hat hanging on a bush as a decoy for Nikolai. When Nikolai stops to examine it, Grayling sneak attacks him and knocks him out. And then puts the hat back on.
  • Project A: During Winnie's attempted kidnapping scene, Dragon Ma managed to trick the kidnappers by carrying a mannequin wearing Winnie's blouse, hat and a wig.
  • Sin City: When Marv goes after Kevin, he suspends his Badass Longcoat from a tree and blitzes Kevin from behind when he attacks it.
  • In Tiger House, Kelly escapes from Callum in the attic by draping her hoodie over a mannequin as a decoy.
  • The Tournament: During the fight in the slaughterhouse, Joshua hangs his jacket over a cow carcass to trick Gene Walker into shooting it.
  • Wild West Days: Mike puts his cowboy hat on a rock. Two Indians dismount, creep up, and discover that Mike isn't hiding behind the rock—and in the meantime Mike has circled around and made off with their horses.

  • In the Discworld book Men at Arms, Vimes is under fire from the gonne, a gun Super Prototype, and hides behind a wall. He puts his helmet on a stick and, after a moment's thought, stands beside a window while pulling the helmet into view from below. A shot clears the wall where he'd have been standing if he'd raised the helmet up. Vimes grimly reflects that it's good to have an assailant who is slightly less intelligent than himself.
  • In On a Pale Horse, Zane uses his cloak to distract a giant praying mantis so that he can jump it.
  • In Venus Prime 5, as Sparta runs from Nemo's attempt to kill her in an underwater labyrinth, she strips off her spacesuit and leaves it floating in the corridor behind her; it's bulky and buoyant enough that Nemo is unable to tell that it's empty until he gets in close.
  • In The Way Of Kings, Szeth (unnecessarily) created a decoy by grabbing a large wooden bowl, draping his cloak over it, Lashing it sideways and letting it go at chest height, so that it looked like a crouching cloaked man running.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Avengers (1960s): In "Death's Door", Steed gets trapped behind a fence by an enemy agent with a carbine. He puts his bowler on top of his umbrella and lifts it above the fence twice for the agent to shoot: to gauge the man's position and lure him into position for Steed's counterattack.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth: In "Captain Cook", Blackadder tosses George's battle helmet above ground level, resulting in it immediately being shredded by German gunfire and bouncing back riddled with holes. In response, George suggests "some clever hat camouflage".
  • In Criminal Minds "100": Hotch is hunting The Reaper and sees his shoes reflected in a mirror. He slowly advances on that position...and then spins around and empties his gun into The Reaper's actual hiding place: the curtain.
  • Dad's Army: Employed by a rather humiliated and annoyed Pike in "Things That Go Bump In The Night". Because aniseed on his clothes is attracting a pack of attack dogs, he is forced into removing his uniform to distract them. This allows the platoon to slip away, albeit with Pike now naked.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Ark in Space", the Doctor tests an automated defense system by extending his hat on the end of a telescoping rod. The hat gets shot by a laser beam.
    • In "The Deadly Assassin", the Doctor stuffs his coat, scarf and hat with pillows and puts it on a chair, and adds a hookah to create the illusion that he's sat in the corner, quietly smoking. Later played with - he puts his coat and scarf on a display that used to show the clothes of the highly important Gold Usher, to indicate to the guards that he's stolen it (which he then immediately swaps with someone else's ordinary orange robes, while the guards apprehend the hapless man dressed in gold).
    • In "The Face of Evil", Leela uses the Doctor's hat held up behind a corner to bait the Tesh into shooting at her.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "The Endangered", Mac makes an assault using a decoy using rope, matches and a coat on a vine to set a time-delayed simulated "approach". When the hunters start shooting at the decoy, Mac shoots one of them using a slingshot made of a flashlight barrel and elastic cords from the jacket to shoot yet another tranquilizer dart.
  • The New Avengers: In "Emily", Steed tapes his bowler hat to the roof of a car to protect a palm print (It Makes Sense in Context). Later the police are after them and Steed manages to temporarily lose them by taping his hat to the roof of a different brown car (and stealing that driver's hat to tape to the roof of Emily).

    Video Games 
  • In Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse, Nico uses a helmet on a stick to distract a sniper at Castell del Sants.
  • Call of Duty:
    • Call of Duty 2: During "Comrade Sniper", Pavel Semenov, one of your squadmates, waves his helmet on his rifle to spot a German sniper on the other side of the Stalingrad city square.
    • Call of Duty: World at War: In "Vendetta", the first level of the Soviet campaign which is set in the battle of Stalingrad, player character Dimitri Petrenko engages in a Sniper Duel with a German sharpshooter in which each is trying to figure out where the other is shooting from. At one point he tries to trick you by seeming to expose himself—though he's actually just presenting a helmet on a stick—and if you fall for the trap by shooting his decoy, he will spring up and shoot you dead before you have a chance to chamber your next round or duck behind cover.
  • One of the loading screens for Hearts of Iron 4 is an image of sniper team of two Soviet women using a helmet to lure out enemy fire. One is behind a ditch holding it with a stick, and the second is behind a tree, ready to fire.

  • In Girl Genius, one of Gil's defense techniques is to Flash Step out of the way of the attack, leaving only his coat in the enemy's grip.
  • The current trope image from Project 0 Ciro uses his jacket on a stick to distract some guards before taking them out from behind.

    Web Animation 
  • Wash uses this tactic in Red vs. Blue, namely his helmet on the end of his rifle, to allow his squad mates to track the vapor trail of a cloaked sniper.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Scarecrow puts his hat and trench coat on a roof antenna to trick Batgirl. It ends very poorly for her.
  • In the Classic Disney Shorts Moving Day, Goofy deals with a seemingly sentient piano that won't stay on his truck. Everytime he peeks through the window, the piano backs up inside, then tries to roll out again when he goes back inside. So Goofy props up his hat by the window so that the piano will think he's being watched and stay put. Unfortunately, Goofy then blows his own cover by going to the front door and sticking his tongue out at the piano. The piano then runs him over when his back is turned.
  • In an early episode of Gargoyles, Elisa hangs her jacket from a tree branch to distract some hired thugs that have been chasing her and Goliath.
  • Looney Tunes: In one Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bugs sticks a dummy rabbit head out his burrow to see if Elmer is still there. When he pulls it back in, it has been smashed with a club.
  • Samurai Jack:
    • In "Episode VII: Jack and the Three Blind Archers", Jack figures out that the eponymous archers are blind by waving his straw hat from the safety of the forest, which didn't get shot. When he drops it, he sees the hat immediately hit by arrows as soon it hits the snow.
    • In "Samurai Vs Ninja": After changing his outfit to hide in the light, Jack leaves behind his sandals to fool the ninja robot in black attacking him.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars. On the ice planet, Padme gets attacked by some battle droids with cloaking fields. She takes cover, then throws her fur-trimmed cape into the open to trick the droids into firing and revealing their position.
  • Tintin. In "The Crab with the Golden Claws", as a distraction to draw enemy fire, the Thompsons put their bowler hats on their canes and hold them above the rocks they are hiding behind.

    Real Life 
  • A common story of Real Life ninjas is that they use a wooden log (or a bunch of straw) with pieces of clothing attached as decoy. Then they put them in strategic places so that the enemy will target them, and when they inspect the body they'll only see a cloth-covered log, creating the impression of Ninja Log.
  • It is common for guerrilla mercenaries (and some regular armies) in Real Life to put their helmets on a stick while placing it in a certain way that will fool the enemy snipers to shoot at them. Call of Duty 2 uses that tactic to kick-off a counter-sniping segment.
    • Soldiers in World War I honed this tactic to a high art, creating lifelike papier-mâché busts in appropriate uniforms to fool enemy snipers. Some even had rubber tubing inside them so they could appear to puff on cigarettes. Once they'd been shot, the user could locate which direction the enemy sniper was in by following the line of the entry and exit "wounds", requiring less guesswork than the helmet-on-a-stick method.
  • This article has an example in the form of a group of Syrian rebels taunting a sniper with a puppet made out of a shovel.
  • An example comes from this early newspaper article. Capt. Benjamin Burton, an early Maine settler, hid behind a rock outcropping and raised his hat on a stick to discover the hidden location of a nearby native sniper. The native fired at the hat, giving away his location.


Video Example(s):


Kara Milovy

A KGB agent is watching Kara from across the street as she enters a phone booth. A trolley car rumbles past, blocking his view of the booth. As it passes, he sees a black Aston-Martin driving away, and Kara still in the booth. After watching the booth for a while longer, he gets suspicious and goes and opens the booth. Inside is Kara's hat and coat hanging over her cello case, with her having pulled the switch and jumped into Bond's car while the trolley was passing.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / OutfitDecoy

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