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Paper-Thin Disguise

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"But grandma, what a horrible disguise you have!"
Image by Scott Gustafson.
"Mr. Burns, it was naïve of you to think I'd mistake this town's most prominent 104-year-old man for one of my elementary school students."
Principal Skinner, The Simpsons

A disguise that is so "thin" that the audience can immediately recognize who the person behind the "mask" actually is. Note that this doesn't require an actual mask; the character may have merely styled their hair differently, added glasses, or changed into a different outfit. Regardless of exactly what was used for the disguise, the identity of the character is completely clear, usually before they remove it, and sometimes other characters can see through it as well. Any character who is fooled is likely a Horrible Judge of Character; the egregiousness of their misjudgment depends on the disguise.

Several external factors influence this trope. If the big-name Special Guest is going to spend most of the episode or film wearing a disguise, then you'd want it to be "thin" enough for audiences to identify the actor before The Reveal. If the character frequently wears disguises, then it may be a stylistic choice to reassure the audience as to the identity of the character. This is more common in media aimed at younger audiences, but is also common enough for Master of Disguise characters so that the audience isn't constantly guessing as to which character is "really" in disguise. The trope is still an important dramatic convention in live theatre and opera productions — where a really good disguise would render the character unidentifiable from the cheap seats, and be beyond the scope of the prop budget to boot — but is usually employed along with some kind of nod to the audience acknowledging the absurdity.

Internal story factors also apply. If the disguised character is supposed to be foolish, wearing a bad disguise provides plenty of opportunity for comedy, particularly if other characters aren't fooled any more than the audience. A character who can't identify someone just because they added sunglasses to their ensemble is another way to mock disguises as well as genre conventions.

Classic examples of "bad disguises" are the following (tropes are linked based on their overlap, not subtrope status):

  • Wearing a face-obscuring cloak or hat over the character's standard outfit.
  • Wearing a Groucho Marx glasses-and-mustache prop.
  • Putting on or taking off glasses/sunglasses.
  • Changing out of a Limited Wardrobe, especially into a uniformed service, such as police officers or package delivery employees.

If the disguise is improved (such as by combining two or more "thin" details and changing your voice), you get an example of Wig, Dress, Accent, where the inability of the other characters to identify the disguised character becomes much more reasonable. In order to qualify as a Paper-Thin Disguise, there must be at least one obviously clear element of the character underneath. However, the probability that other characters are fooled by this disguise is just as fluid as with other disguise tropes.

It's becoming a bit common nowadays to subvert this trope by fooling the viewers instead, showing what seems to be a terrible disguise, but then it's revealed that it isn't, you thought that Bob was badly disguised as an old man, but then Bob in regular clothes appears next to that old man that looks like him.

Compare with Clark Kenting (a subtrope where the disguise is used over a long period of time and remains effective despite that) and Newspaper-Thin Disguise (where a book, magazine, or similar is used to hide a character's face). Supertrope to Easy Impersonation, and a subtrope of Blatant Lies. May lead to a Captain Obvious Reveal.

Contrast with the vast majority of other Disguise Tropes.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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  • BoBoiBoy: Throughout the series, Adu Du and Probe (respectively a green-skinned cube-headed alien and a purple robot) have tried to pass themselves as regular humans multiple times just by wearing human accessories. It's usually averted as the heroes easily recognize them, but there are times when it is played straight:
    • In the 5th episode, Gopal and Tok Aba mistake them for their rice-selling friend and her son, even buying the "prosthetic" excuse for Probe's robot arm. Yaya, on the other hand, immediately recognized them from behind.
    • When Adu Du tried to enter BoBoiBoy's class as part of one of his schemes, Papa Zola only recognized him after BoBoiBoy took off his glasses.
  • In Boonie Bears, the bears often wear disguises so that Logger Vick won't be able to recognize them, and they tend to work despite the fact that those are very obviously just bears in snazzy or flimsy outfits.

  • The late Linda Smith had a routine complaining about the use of this trope in opera: "Someone puts on a big hat and suddenly no-one can recognize them, even people who they've been talking to for half an hour. If that worked in real life, the witness protection program would consist of a selection of headgear."
  • There are plenty of Russian jokes about that, some of them dealing with Stierlitz, the main character of the Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring:
    • Stierlitz was indistinguishable from the locals, but there was something subtly different about him compared to the Germans: maybe it was his military bearing, or the Hero of the Soviet Union star on his chest, or the parachute dragging behind him...
    • ...No one had a clue that Stierlitz was lying motionless on the window sill, disguised as a cigarette butt.
    • "Comrade Captain, I made use of the special disguise technique you've developed. I disguised myself as a tree stump. I was sitting there and wondering what sort of an idiot would buy this trick. Then a young couple sits down on me. I bore it. They were chatting. I bore that too. Kissing. I bore even that! Then they started... you know. I bore that as well like a true soldier. But when that bastard started carving the word "love" on my butt, I couldn't bear any longer!

    Comic Strips 
  • Spoofed in Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!, where the dumber than bricks main character Brewster mistakes an alien that looks like Mr. Potato Head wearing just a wig for Lieutenant Pamela.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin assumes (probably from seeing too many TV shows where this trope is in effect) that he'll be unrecognizable in his "Stupendous Man" costume, and is thoroughly confused and frustrated when it fools nobody. Especially funny is that his mom, one of the people he expects will be fooled, made the costume for him in the first place.
    • Calvin attempts to do this trope with Hobbes (wearing a trenchcoat with Hobbes on top) in order to sneak into an X-rated movie. Going by the ticket seller's remark in the final panel ("This is a new one."), she evidently did not fall for it.
    • Calvin once donned some Groucho Marx glasses when Mom came to ask him about a broken lamp. His response to her: "Who ees thees Kahlveen?"
  • Dilbert: Alice is clearly not fooled by the PHB's disguise (which is just a fake moustache) here, nor is his secretary fooled in a following strip.
  • Happens a few times in The Far Side. The most notable example is a polar bear with a penguin mask that doesn't even cover his whole face. And yet the penguins wonder why their numbers are diminishing.
  • In this Garfield strip, Liz may not be fooled by Garfield in a chef uniform, but as the next day's strip showed, Jon sure is.
  • Parodied and averted in a Heathcliff strip where Heathcliff goes trick or treating on Halloween wearing a devil costume:
    Fish store owner: Heathcliff! I recognized you right away!
  • In one series of Peanuts strips, Peppermint Patty enlisted Snoopy's help to find out who took her teacher's box of golden stars. Snoopy disguised himself as Patty and took her place in class; however, it was little more than a wig resembling Patty's hair. Still, it fooled her teacher and Marcie, although Marcie was a little suspicious. ("What kind of illness makes your nose grow but the rest of you shrink?" she mused.) Meanwhile, Patty's disguise while she looked for the box of stars was just as absurd; she put on a fake mustache and work clothes and posed as a janitor named "Hans Hanson". She didn't fool Marcie, but she did fool the teacher. (And she did manage to find the box of stars, which had fallen into a wastebasket. Ironically, Snoopy did so well in class, he got one on his test.)
  • The crocs do this often in Pearls Before Swine. They never fool anyone.
  • Poncho in Pooch Café wore a big red mustache and told police that he had seen where a salami thief went. He then wondered how they knew it was him.
  • Prickly City: How to disguise a coyote as the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse: bunny ears.
  • Scary Gary: At one point Leopold fools a cop into thinking he is a potential witness to a murder (committed by Leopold) by wearing nothing but a hat and mustache.
  • Sherman's Lagoon:
    • One strip, part of a storyline in which a larger shark showed up in the lagoon (therefore intruding on Sherman's turf), had Fillmore commenting that it's a good thing the shark won't bother him because he's a sea turtle. Sherman, in response to this, leaves... and comes back wearing a turtle shell.
      Sherman: Hey, check out the tush on that turtle babe.
      Fillmore: It's a guy.
    • This strip has Sergeant Hardcase of the Internet Fish Police come after Ernest for downloading unauthorized music. Ernest then pulls the Look Behind You trick and puts on a mustache while Hardcase's back is turned. It actually works - Hardcase complains that "the kid got away" and leaves.
      Ernest: What a knucklehead.
      Sherman: And who might you be, good sir?
    • While at a resort, Hawthorne is turned down by every female crab there. The solution? According to him, it's to put on a disguise and try again. He decides on a mustache — even though he's apparently wanted in three states when he wears it. Alas, all the women still recognize him.

    Fan Works 
  • The AU Harry Potter series Adam Winters series features 'Adam Winters', a fake identity created when Pettigrew abducted Harry after Voldemort's death and placed him under various disguise charms. As a result, when 'Adam' goes to Hogwarts, he is basically Harry with a different hair and eye-colour, spared recognition for so long because nobody was actually looking for any similarity between him and the Potters as it was assumed all three died in Voldemort's attack, although after the disguise charms are broken, Dumbledore also provides Adam with different glasses to wear as 'Harry' in order to better distinguish the two.
  • The Boys: Real Justice: While investigating the NYC of Earth-7, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman go undercover to learn more about this dimension. Superman goes as Clark Kent, Wonder Woman as Diana Prince, and Batman as Matches Malone (because he doesn't want Bruce Wayne making his Earth-7 debut yet). It works because a) superheroes in Earth-7 don't have secret identities, and b) no one on that world is familiar enough with the Justice League to recognize their faces.
  • Whenever the All Guardsmen Party tries to use disguises.
    • Mostly because when they wear civilian clothes, they just look like guardsmen wearing civilian clothes. It doesn't help that they hide their lasguns under their disguises. This produces a rather obvious rifle-shaped bulge, which gets them in trouble with security when they try to get into a bank. On top of that, they have to contend with Nubby trying to steal pretty much everything in sight.
    • They even pass this on to their students when asked to train up new Interrogators.
      "We watched, tears in our eyes, as they practically marched onto the scene, looking exactly like a bunch of guardsmen trying unsuccessfully to look like civvies."
    • Bane Johns disguises himself as a deserting Guardsmen by throwing on a greatcloak, impressive false mustache, and impressively insulting fake accent. However he fails to hide his Inquisition-issue armor or pistols and leaves his Inquisitorial Rosette in plain view. Sarge tries to fix the disguise only for Bane to pull the rosette out again.
    • After a visit to the Tau Empire border, the party acquires some xeno plasma guns which Tink tries to disguise as lasguns. Tries being the operative word as apparently the only reason they aren't killed for tech heresy is Jim and Hannah running interference with the senior Tech Priests.
    • Also from the Tau visit they pick up Spot the Wonder Drone. Tink tries to disguise it as a servitor skull by covering it with grox skins and a few spare skulls. The accompanying illustration depicts this as the obviously Tau drone with a skull duct-taped to the top, a jawbone hanging from wires on the bottom, and holding scrolls reading "PLEASE IGNORE" and "COMPLETELY NORMAL SERVITOR SKULL".
  • Discussed in Chapter 2 of BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant. Makoto notes that Blake's attempt at hiding her Faunus heritage is actually very flimsy and easy to see through, but she also brings up that most people won't notice something they aren't looking for anyway, so it isn't that big an issue.
  • The Rizzoli & Isles Western AU fic Calamity Jane Meets Doctor Isles sees Jane disguising herself as male outlaw Jake Wyatt in the latter half of the 1800s, but once characters get past the masculine clothing, ‘Jake Wyatt’ is just Jane with a fake moustache and wrappings around her chest, as well as socks down the front of her trousers.
  • In the Calvin at Camp episode "The New Kid," Larry Koopa infiltrates the camp while wearing nothing but a Mickey Mouse hat.
  • Par for the course in Common Sense where Meowth can oftentimes pass for human by putting on a disguise since he can talk and walk upright, despite the fact that he's around two feet tall on his hindlegs. At the very least, he makes sure to cover his feline attributes anytime he does so, though his methods leave something to be desired.
  • Zigzagged in most works by Coeur Al'Aran. Blake's disguise of wearing a bow over her cat ears, but otherwise keeping the exact same appearance and name never fools anyone for long.
    • On the other hand, Jaune dressed as Blake in A Rabbit among Wolves fools Ruby even though he's roughly half a foot taller than Blake.
    • Similarly in Relic Of The Future, Ozpin decides it's probably coincidence that Jaune Ashari is almost identical to Nicholas Arc, figuring the two are probably distantly related at best.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic/Digimon Adventure 02 crossover Digital Harmony has the Digidestined trying to pass the Mane Five off on Earth by saying that they're Digimon. Of course, in the wake of MaloMyotismon's defeat in the 02 finale, the human world is becoming more and more aware of Digimon, so their families tend to buy it.
  • In Doctor in the Underworld, when the Doctor infiltrates Ordghaz Manor to learn more about the vampire/lycan war, Selene gives him a coat belonging to one of her deceased Death Dealer allies so that he can accompany her to the library, but acknowledges that he will only pass for a Death Dealer under casual inspection.
  • Used a lot in A Dream. Apparently, putting on sunglasses makes you completely invisible.
    Ponies are generally bad at seeing through disguises.
  • A very minor example in the Animorphs fic The Escape; after the Animorphs free Tom and fake his death on their first trip to the Yeerk pool, Tom lets his hair grow out while living in the basement. The reasoning is that, if anyone sees him through a window while he's upstairs brushing his teeth or generally anything that would require him to leave the basement, the distance and new haircut will make him look just enough like Jake that nobody will realise he's someone else.
  • In Fate Genesis, when forced to confront Eggman in public, Saber takes a Kamen Rider mask from the high school's drama club and wears along with her normal battle dress to protect her identity. Notably, this only fools those who don't already know Saber is a Servant.
  • Justified in Fist of the Moon. Usually the senshi have disguise fields protecting their identities that are so powerful you cannot remember their faces while staring straight at them. but people with high levels of Silver Energy are somewhat immune, so Ranma and Akane see through them without even realizing it's supposed to be a disguise.
  • For the Glory of Irk:
    • Averted for once with Zim's disguise after Skoodge upgrades it to a hologram like his own, so they actually pass for human.
    • Played straight and for laughs when Skoodge "proves" that he and Zim were simply on Earth on vacation by just having the two of them wear Hawaiian shirts when they attend the Syndicate trial. To Dib's utter shock, this works.
    • Played straight when the Tallest come to Earth and use disguises much like Zim's original one.
  • The Forever Captain series: Steve wears glasses with plain lenses and parts his hair on the opposite side in his identity as Grant Carter. Peggy teases him by saying he might as well, seeing as he's basically "pretending he's not Superman."
  • In Friendship is Witchcraft, Sweetie Belle is a robot who looks indistinguishable from a normal pony... but speaks stilted words in a heavily synthesized voice. No one suspects her true nature, least of all Sweetie Belle herself.
  • Discussed in Harry Potter and the Ice Princess, when Harry wonders how Elsa can get around using public transport when she's royalty. As Elsa explains, few countries know the names of every member of their royal families, and in Elsa's case she's further aided by the benefit that she hasn't been officially introduced to her people yet and so few people outside of her family know who she is.
  • In the one-shot Hiding in Plain Sight, Harry Potter gets Lasik eye surgery and becomes completely unrecognizable to the pureblood wizards at Hogwarts without his trademark glasses. Then the Aurors try to recreate 21 Jump Street at Hogwarts. The Muggleborn have absolutely no trouble recognizing the incredibly out-of-place "first-year students".
  • The Hannah Montana fic Higher Power has Lilly make it clear to 'Hannah' when they meet backstage that she can see through the Hannah disguise when her best friend is right in front of her, even if it's easier to buy the deception when watching Hannah on TV or at a distance at a concert.
  • Hivefled: in one of the less grimdark scenes, the four trolls with the smallest and thus most easily-concealed horns dress up as humans to go food shopping. Not only are they wearing hats and gloves in June and concealing their grey skin only with face-paint, but John only just manages to stop them talking about eating babies in public.
  • In I Against I, Me Against You, Church and the Blues try to pass Twilight Sparkle off as a dog when passing through a military checkpoint. Surprisingly, it works, but the UNSC doesn't let front line personnel keep pets and confiscates Twilight. Wyoming, however, is not fooled.
  • Infinity Crisis:
    • Several times in the various sequels, when characters from other Earths wind up on Earth-38, they're shocked that Supergirl is able to hide her Secret Identity with just glasses and a different hairdo. When Captain Marvel ends up visiting, she's equally shocked that no one recognizes her outside her uniform, despite lacking a mask of any kind.
    • When Squirrel Girl is introduced, she's surprised that the Defenders are able to track her down in her civilian identity. As an exasperated Jessica Jones points out, she makes no effort to hide her face when in costume, or the fact that she has a giant squirrel tail even when out of costume.
    • In Women of Wonder, the Earth-1992 Wonder Woman sees the Earth-76 Diana Prince do her "spin transformation" into Wonder Woman and openly notes "I am never mocking Clark for the glasses again."
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends: As in canon, Zim is fond of these in the form of simple things like contacts, fake beards, wigs and hats, which somehow always fools everyone except Dib and Gaz. He forces his new Irken minions to wear similarly bad ones as well, with a particularly bad case for the Announcer, who gets nothing more than a pair of Groucho glasses, which somehow still works.
  • A large degree of Kirby fanfiction gives Kirby the ability to become completely indistinguishable from whoever he's taken the power/costume of, despite the obvious size differences.
  • Kyon manages to call Tsuruya and make her think he was his uncle Kintaro in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, even though he sounded identical to normal. He was sleeping in the same room as her at that point, though.
  • According to Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami, a naked woman can pass for a man merely by having a tattoo that reads "IM A DUDE".
  • Zigzagged throughout Like One Sundered Star, where superhero identities are Paper Thin Disguises when they have any efficacy at all. Karkat and John are the only ones who DON'T immediately ID each other as Heir and Hemogoblin out of costume. Dave and Bro barely even give lip service to the trope, removing their shades while "on duty" but making no other effort to conceal their faces. Kanaya has to drastically redesign Rose's Seer of Light costume into a real disguise after her Superpowered Evil Side rampages through New York unmasked.
  • Averted in Make a Plan. Ron and Draco's attempt to obtain liquor in the Hogshead by wearing funny hats and fake beards and claiming to be dwarves fooled no one. What makes it even funnier is that their fathers tried exactly the same thing.
  • Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has Wily's "Mr. X" outfit; possibly even worse is ProtoMan's alias, "Pro T. Mann."
  • In Memento Vivere, a Final Fantasy X fanfiction, Rikku's "goggles will do it" theory in Luca.
  • The MLP Loops: One Loop has Starlight Glimmer travelling back in time to around "Applebuck Season" and trying to pass herself off as Applejack. Twilight sees through it in an instant, but that's not difficult when Starlight's not bothered to hide her horn, or her different eye-color, her Cutie Mark, and the paint on her coat is running (also, her attempt at imitating Applejack's accent is eye-wateringly awful). It turns out Applejack hasn't even been incapacitated, and had actually told Starlight not to even bother trying.
  • My Choices: Twisted Tales Through Time: Twilight's disguise consists of an illusion spell to make herself blue instead of purple, dying her mane, and calling herself Blue Star. Celestia sees through it quickly due to sensing the spell and noticing her slight hesitation when answering to her name, but chooses not to pry. This serves well enough at first due to her being stuck a thousand years before her own birth, but in the future Celestia eventually has a moment of panic when she realizes that her new student is identical to her old, fallen friend except purple instead of blue.
  • My Immortal: The incredibly useless Invisibility Cloak. People can see the cloak when it is in use, so basically the users are walking around with a regular cloak over their heads.
  • Just like in canon, we see a lot of this in The New Adventures of Invader Zim. Not only does Zim continue to get by with just a wig and contacts, but Skoodge has the same setup, while Norlock does the same but with Groucho glasses in place of the contacts. When Nyx joins in Season 2, she wears another variant on the wig/contact combo; by this point, Dib is wondering why he even bothers to expose the lousy disguises.
    • Ruby Pair, by the same author, likewise continues Zim's canonical use of this trope. He even forces Tenn to abandon a perfect holographic human disguise in favor of a wig and contacts like his, to her anger.
  • In Nobody Dies, in order to pacify a rampaging A.I. based on Fallout 3, Gendo tricks it into thinking he's Abraham Lincoln simply by wearing a top hat. It probably helped that he already had the beard.
  • Invoked in the Charmed (1998) fanfic Once and Future Witches, when the Charmed Ones of 2007 go back to 1999. At one point, 2007 Piper is spotted by her 1999 boyfriend Dan Gordon; stuck for any better ideas to explain how she looks older, she claims that she's just wearing her hair differently.
  • In the Descendants series Package Deal, at one point Ben, Mal and Evie visit a carnival in "disguises" that are basically just dyed hair and Ben wearing something other than his usual suits, but the kingdom is so used to seeing Ben in his usual attire that they genuinely don't recognise him.
  • Palpatine is the Worst: When Darth Sidious checks in on the clones after issuing Order 66, he discovers that they've used Loophole Abuse to avoid following his orders. All of their Jedi generals are standing right next to them in plain sight, while only making minimal efforts to disguise themselves (or none at all) as the clones snarkily insist that he’s mistaking innocent bystanders for Jedi and that they did execute Order 66. Sidious isn’t fooled in the least, and the clones aren't putting much effort into fooling him, while several of the Jedi can't keep from laughing.
    "Of course this isn't General Secura, my Lord," Commander Bly said, gesturing to his side. "General Secura doesn't have a mustache." Sidious glanced incredulously between the clone and the twi'lek beside him, whose ridiculous set of spectacles, peach nose that stuck out from her natural blue tone, and yes, dark mustache – did nothing to hide her identity. "Twi'leks do not have mustaches!” he snarled back. "She has a condition," Bly said, unperturbed.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Luna Lovegood thinks that wearing a pillowcase (and nothing else) and speaking in broken English is all it takes for House-Elves to confuse her for one of their own. A mortified Hermione quickly talks her out of it. Later on, Sirius, while Faking the Dead, creates the alias of "Jester White", for which he wears glasses and a false beard. AND IT WORKS. Also, apparently, Dracula was one of Hogwarts's many evil Defence Professors a few years before the story begins. His alias? Professor Vladimir Alucard, who chalked up his sunlight-intolerance to a "rare skin condition".
  • Penny Saves Paldea: Discussed in Penny's book, which has a chapter about people who are unable to recognize that the Masked Royal from Pokémon Sun and Moon is just Professor Kukui in a mask and without his jacket. In the games in question, it's incredibly obvious that the two are only treated as different people to preserve kayfabe, to the point that the eleven-year-old protagonist has the option to outright ask "Professor Kukui?" when they first meet the Masked Royal.
  • Subverted in Queen of Diamonds, as Genie explicitly confirms that 'Prince Ali' includes a subtle spell to stop anyone recognising Aladdin if they already knew him, to the extent that Jasmine only recognises 'Prince Ali' when he explicitly chooses to let her recognise him, although Jafar realises the truth when he sees the lamp.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: The story "An Early Reunion" has a scene with several Celestia imposters. Some of them aren't even the right tribe, the right build (admittedly, a difficult prospect for most ponies), and in one particular case is the wrong gender. While some of them do have the justification of being insane or misled, there's the fact that the non-insane and stupid are trying to claim to be Luna's sister to Luna herself. And oh, boy is she pissed at this. Meanwhile, everypony Cadence meets thinks she's pulling this, since she thinks she's Celestia reborn, but isn't going around threatening to burn everything that annoys her.
  • In The Road to be a Pokemon Master, Ash, Gary and Serena steal some Team Rocket uniforms to infiltrate Silph Co. And the Rockets see right through their disguises since they don't conceal the fact that they're still children, while every other Rocket is an adult.
  • Sailor Moon Abridged pokes fun at the fact that the title character never wears a mask but is never recognized in her superhero form. For example, in one episode, when Tuxedo Mask (actually Nephirite) sends letters to find Sailor Moon and the title character gets one, Luna questions how he found her and offers an idea.
    Luna: It's probably because your hair is pretty... unique and you don't wear a mask.
  • In Sora's Adventure in Rogueport Remake:
    • Princess Peach disguises herself as Thunderbolt (a brainwashed Lightning) for the adventure in Twilight Town and despite being thinner, daintier and still wearing her perfume manages to fool everybody, though Beldum does question her appearance and Mario realizes who it was after the Shadow Sirens are beaten.
    • When Lord Crump and Lightning disguise themselves as Four-Eyes and Storm Cloud, Sora, Bea and Aerith aren't fooled and during the Ember attack in Chapter 23, when Storm Cloud tells Sora to "Keep focused", Sora responds with "Yeah, you got it...Thunderbolt". The latter fakes surprise.
  • Tealove's Steamy Adventure exaggerates it for laughs. Big Tiny Little tries to impersonate Colt Skylark in order to gain Tealove and Snowcatcher's confidence. He looks and acts nothing like Skylark, he doesn't wear any disguise, and he doesn't get that Skylark was never a friend of Tealove or Snowcatcher in the first place. He doesn't fool anyone—the others just get tired of arguing with him.
    Snowcatcher trailed off as a short, fat unicorn waddled up to the group. "Who are you?"
    "Who, me?" he said. "Don'tcha remembers me? [...] Don'tcha remembers yer old pal, Colt Skylark?"
    Snowcatcher groaned and placed a hoof to her forehead. "First of all, you look and sound nothing like Mr. Skylark. Second, he's not an 'old friend' — he's a random pony with a suspicious backstory who we've known for less than an hour."
    "So you don't remembers yer old friend. Snowcatcher, that hurts me, right here it does." He placed a hoof over his heart.
  • This Bites!:
    • In Chapter 38, like in canon, Usopp disguises himself as Sniper King before the raid on Enies Lobby. This time however, Cross, Leo and Donny easily see through his disguise, and when Cross grabs Usopp and demands to know what he's doing, Usopp (they're both whispering) admits he was scared because they're going to be raiding Enies Lobby, one of the worst places for a pirate to be so he made up the disguise to be brave. Cross then tricks "Sniper King" into admitting why he was there (Usopp ran away and asked him to take Usopp's spot), Luffy pounds Usopp and then the Long-Nose Sniper whips off his disguise and fully reveals why he came up with his disguise. This does mean that Usopp doesn't give Luffy his Heroic Second Wind against Lucci, but Cross and Soundbite use the SBS to get Luffy to hear all the pirates cheering for Luffy including Gol D. Roger.
    • In Chapter 46, when the Straw Hats come to pick up Merry from the Shipgirl's base, they show up in a three-masted broadside sloop-of-war that they painted deep blue-grey and painted a seagull and the word MARINE on the sails and is incredibly rough shape. Blows up in their faces when one of the girls (probably Vivi) points out how the shipgirls are never gonna buy it which is proven true when Kongo laughs her head off and says that she doesn't know who the Straw Hats think they are but they shouldn't have picked the US Marines to impersonate. Kongo says their ship doesn't look like an amphibious assault ship to her. Usopp tries to keep the disguise up by claiming that it's a top-secret ship but Cross interrupts him telling him that their cover's already blown and he doesn't know how but it's not the One Piece marines they're dealing with.
  • Tidal waves plays this for laughs when Gabriel notices that Marinette wears her hair in the same style of pigtails as Ladybug. He lures her into a trap through a pastry order, but is thrown off when she shows up wearing a mustache. Marinette herself is equally flummoxed when Hawkmoth himself appears, then cuts off his own Evil Gloating once he gets a better look, apologizes to 'him' for the mix-up and pays for the pastries. Gabriel spends the rest of the work confused about her gender identity.
  • Top of the Line (Editor-Bug): The Role Swap Plot in Trading Dismay is enabled just by Zim stealing Tenn's eyelashes and rearranging his antennae into the curly shape of hers, while she straightens hers out to match his. While GIR and Skoodge are tricked, it turns out at the end that Tak wasn't, and just played along to have an excuse to boss Zim around.
  • In The Treasure of Eyja Nott - a Modern AU of How to Train Your Dragon based on The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)- Hiccup's 'disguise' after his years in prison is primarily his dark sunglasses; while he has grown a beard, it's a fairly basic one, but his eyes are too distinctive for him to be sure he wouldn't be recognised if his enemies saw them, even with the advantage that most of the people he's trying to deceive think he's been dead for over a decade.
  • Ultra Fast Pony: in "Utter Lunacy", Spike the dragon successfully disguises himself by wearing a dragon costume (one which doesn't even cover his face) and speaking with a different accent. The only time he comes close to getting caught is when he briefly switches back to his normal accent.
  • In The Unbroken Saviour Dumbledore wears a fake nose, a hat with ostrich feathers and one of his usual outlandish robes in an attempt to be inconspicuous. However, the outfit succeeds due to each of the elephants on the robe having an individual Notice-Me-Not charm cast on them.
  • Justified in The Unexpected Rookie. While in the world of Cars, the Autobots need to keep a low profile while looking out for Decepticons. Fortunately, in this world they don't need to do much to disguise themselves except transform into their vehicle modes and use holographic eyes and mouths. None of the cars realize they're robots in disguise until they transform.
  • In Unity, this is brought up when Honey Lemon learns that Susan's Ginormica, as she asks how she didn't recognise Susan when Ginormica doesn't wear a mask, Susan observing that it's surprisingly easy to blend in when people expect you to be ten times taller.
  • In Vapors there is an international, kunoichi-only summit to discuss dealing with the Akatsuki. The Dragon Konan doesn't even bother with a disguise, she walks in with her real face and name as the representative from Rain, because no one except Aiko knows who the leaders of Akatsuki are, and she can't tell.
  • In A Very Potter Musical it's lampshaded multiple times:
    • Harry's Invisibility cloak, which barely covers the group's shoulders and yet it seems only Dumbledore knows they're there.
    • Dumbledore's (extra) beard when hiding from the Death Eaters searching for him.
    • And, of course, Quirrel and his magically sneezing turban.
  • Wander over Foster's AU One-Shot (Wander over Yonder, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends): Bloo's "investor disguise" consists of his typical enormous coat and sunglasses.
  • In Welcome To The Family Light Yagami determines that not even the genii of Wammy's House can withstand the mighty stealth powers of the "magic hoodie" that somehow renders him unrecognizable whenever he goes out to do nefarious things.
  • Played for Laughs in Yamujiburo's Pokémon fan-art where Jessie begins dating Ash's mother Delia. Ash doesn't initially recognize Jessie when introduced to his new step-mom.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
    • Despite hiding his face and body well, Bandit Keith still frequently uses his catchphrase ( America!) while disguised, and still uses the same deck (but to be fair, seeing as how he was a regional champion, it could have easily been Netdecked to hell and back).
    • Averted in the anime, as Yugi's smart enough to figure out who it is from the deck theme. However, it's played straight a few arcs later when Yugi's grandfather enters the KC Grand Prix and duels Joey... the only one who didn't see through his disguise.
    • Played straight with "Malik Blishtar".

  • "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" was a hit song for the Louisiana-based John Fred and His Playboy Band in early 1968. The song was a parody of The Beatles' hit, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".
  • The Lonely Island song "Two Worlds Collide" features Andy Samberg singing about his love for country singer Reba McEntire. "Reba" is played by SNL cast member Kenan Thompson, who is actually an ordinary guy (who fully admits to being a man) who found a red wig in the dumpster, put it on, and somehow convinced Samberg that "she" is the real deal. The extremely graphic song describes all of their sexual escapades (with Thompson frequently mentioning his penis), but Samberg is none the wiser because of the wig.
  • The members of Pink Floyd would sometimes mingle with the audience for drinks during the intermissions for their shows, with no disguise other than leaving their instruments behind. They were almost never identified as the people who had previously been performing under a spotlight right in front of them. Of course, all four of them were pretty unremarkable-looking and they tended to stay out of the public eye, but still...
  • In the music video for "Paparazzi," Lady Gaga first appears as a platinum-blonde woman wearing outlandish outfits. After an attempted murder by her boyfriend, she seeks revenge by coming back into his life and killing him and the entire staff of his mansion. To do this, she dons the brilliant disguise of...platinum blonde hair and an outlandish outfit. Of course, this could be deliberate, as the video seems to be an attack on the public who eagerly cast away old stars to embrace newer, similar ones.
  • The music video for SoulDecision's "Ooh It's Kinda Crazy" involves a scene where two band members try disguising themselves as mechanics to walk through a crowd of crazy fangirls, wearing blue jumpsuits, caps, glasses and fake mustaches that match their hair color. Naturally, one of the girls in the crowd isn't fooled by their disguises, and calls them out.

  • My Beloved Mother has the protagonist Sinbell infiltrating a penal colony full of robots near the end while wearing a jacket and motorcycle helmet. Which none of the guards (all humans) noticed him to be human. In all fairness, there are literally hundreds of robots around the area, and Sinbell doesn't stick out the crowd as much.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Achilleid: The dress Achilles wears does nothing to hide the fact that he's built like an ox and taller than any girl his age. The only excuse for why he isn't immediately found out is that a goddess made the disguise, and even then, Ulysses immediately sees through the disguise anyway.

  • Dice Funk: Rinaldo concocts an entire alter ego, only for it to immediately fall apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny.
    Leon: I'm Filet Mignon from Pottsylvania!
  • Tomlane Belaroth in Hello, from the Magic Tavern is such a good actor the he can impersonate a series of bats by simply waving his hands and saying "I'm a series of bats". This fools everybody except Arnie.
  • In one episode of the The John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show, regular character Derek Dalek tries passing himself off as Derek Dolak - but not very successfully, because even John grows suspicious:
    John: I must say, you rather remind me of someone.
    Derek: Well, I am well known locally.
    John: Your telescopic manipulator arm in particular looks familiar.
    Derek: What? This little thing? (boing)
    John: Yes.
    Derek: It's just there for show, John! JUST! THERE!! FOR!! SHOW!!! [exterminates a tree]
  • One episode of Mission to Zyxx sees the crew land on a planet that hasn't discovered space travel yet so they're forced to disguise their alien appearances. Everyone puts in an effort except hulking Dar, who only wears a fake beard.
  • Tellie from Sequinox gets put in a hotdog costume on Halloween by Vivaldi, and thinks that by that logic it wouldn't be recognized and could go to the school. Yuki quickly shoves it in her bag on account of, y'know, it's still a talking space fox. When the girls tell it to act more like a dog, it just says "bark bark bark".
  • The Thrilling Adventure Hour:
    • On certain "Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars" segments we encounter Jib Janeen, an alien shapeshifter. Although Jib Janeen is always voiced by Paul F. Tompkins and speaks in the same goofy, high pitched tone regardless of who he's impersonating, the other characters are always completely fooled by the impersonation.
    • "Desdemona Hughes, Diva Detective" features former actress Desdemona Hughes adopting various disguises to solve murders. The disguises are apparently legitimately good and, unlike Jib Janeen, Desdemona alters her voice to suit her impersonations. She also makes a very conspicuous show of leaving right before assuming a new disguise and the disguise is often of someone or something completely random and unrelated to the current situation. Nobody is ever suspicious for long and are always surprised at the actual reveal.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • It's a standard part of any Charlie Brown from Outta Town storyline.
  • André the Giant: In the spring of 1986 (following his WrestleMania 2 battle royal victory), Andre requested time off to go on a tour of Japan, heal from legitimate injuries, and begin filming scenes from a movie he was hired to star in, The Princess Bride. At the time, he was engaged in a 3-year-old feud with Big John Studd over whom was the true giant of wrestling, and a storyline was contrived to have Andre "miss" several high-profile tag-team matches (with a partner of his choice) against Studd and King Kong Bundy. Eventually, at Bobby Heenan's behest, WWF president Jack Tunney "suspended" Andre. Later in the summer of 1986, a masked wrestler, identifying himself as the "Giant Machine" appeared, targeting – along with other masked "Machine" wrestlers – Studd and Bundy. The villains insisted that the Giant Machine was in fact Andre. They were right, except they were unable to mask Andre to prove his true identity (much to the delight of fans), and the WWF's lead announcers, usually Vince McMahon, Gorilla Monsoon, or Bruno Sammartino, speculated that the "Giant Machine" might be one of several famous Japanese wrestlers.
    • Indeed, Bundy and Studd never were able to prove their case to the fans, which – had they succeeded – Andre would have been "fired" (for circumventing Tunney's suspension). However, the storyline was always left open so that if Andre's health forced his retirement, the "Giant Machine" would have been unmasked. However, Andre's health held up enough and – after finishing filming of The Princess Bride and concluding his Japanese tour – he was "reinstated" ... and a heel turn later that led to his famous WrestleMania III match with Hulk Hogan etched his name in history.
    • At the height of the Bundy/Studd-Machines feud, Heenan introduced his own stable of "masked" wrestlers during a segment of "The Flower Shop" with Adrian Adonis. It was obviously Studd and Bundy wearing paper masks, and they quickly revealed themselves to scornfully mock Andre.
  • John Cena was storyline fired from WWE following Survivor Series 2010, but didn't actually leave the company (since he's kind of the biggest money-making machine WWE has at the moment). In his place at house shows, WWE trotted out Juan Cena, until he was "re-hired".
  • Hulk Hogan's Mr. America disguise came about after he was "fired" in 2003. When he left the company, footage appeared revealing that Hogan took off his mask after a match.
  • In TNA, what disguise did Sting wear when he attacked Rob Van Dam from the crowd? A Sting mask.
  • Delirious tried to do CM Punk's steal an audience member's clothing and hide in the crowd trick but his mask and the tassels hanging off of it stuck out like a sore thumb. Daizee Haze has also worn some disguises in her efforts to aid Delirious...with mixed results.
  • Kane's "imposter". In 2006, Kane feuded with an imposter who was wearing his old mask (but didn't look anything at all like him otherwise) who beat the actual Kane several times using his old moves. While it was obvious to fans who was who, nobody affiliated with the actual WWE could tell them apart. (Probably why they were content to drop the storyline without even revealing who he was after Kane did kick the phony's ass.)

    Puppet Shows 
  • In 31 Minutos, the episode "Lulo Serrucho" have the eponymous character, a master of disguise that manages to deceive everyone with his disguises. He is a literal handsaw and his disguises are just putting on some coloured fabric ressembling his victim, and yet no one can tell the real people from him.
  • In the Cloris Leachman episode of The Muppet Show, pigs take over the show and fill all the roles. Cloris comes out on stage while "Kermit the Pig" is making an introduction and states her belief that he's not Kermit the Frog, despite being green (not easy for a pig) and having the collar. What changes her mind? "Ribbit!" He didn't even have to hide his ears or snout. Though given Cloris later saves the show, she evidently saw through the disguise at some point.
    • Any role played by Gonzo fits, as the mask has to fit that unique nose of his.
      Gonzo: (As the Black Knight) The world will forever wonder who I am!
      Kermit: Though some may harbor suspicions...
    • Beaker once donned a lampshade to hide from testing Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's invention. This worked well, until Beauregard plugged him in.
    • Bunsen takes a turn while being harassed by multiple clones of Beaker, trying to hide his identity using a Conspicuous Trenchcoat, a hat and a plastic glasses/nose/'stache arrangement. It fools Kermit but works for all of thirty seconds before the Beakers find him.
    • In the episode with Milton Berle, Fozzie is afraid of meeting his idol and hides throughout the show. At one point, Fozzie wears a disguise, which is merely a pair of glasses with a fake nose and large beard attached. At first Scooter appears to be fooled, but then it's revealed he isn't.
    • In another episode, Fozzie disguises himself as Ms. Piggy to get more screen-time (his mother's in the audience and he wants to show off). This consists of stealing her Pigs in Space costume and putting on a blonde wig, then peppering his statements with "Mon capitan". Since he's dealing with Link Hogthrob, this works. Link just thinks "Piggy" hasn't shaved, and then tries to kiss her, much to Fozzie's alarm. It's only once he takes the wig off Link realizes he's been had.
    • In Tales Of the Tinkerdee, a pre-Muppet Show Jim Henson production, Taminella Grindenfall, witchiest witch of them all, is able to disguise herself as a Santa Claus, the princess, the kingdom prime minister, and an artist by wearing different wigs and hats.
    • Zigzagged in the Muppet special Hey Cinderella!. As the King plans a masked ball, Prince Arthur Charming meets Cinderella while gardening and, after realizing she doesn't recognize him as the prince, says he's the gardener. He arranges for everybody to be invited to the ball so she can go, but since it's a masked ball they arrange to each wear a geranium so they'll recognize each other, unaware that the King plans to give each guest a geranium. They end up spending the whole time at the ball dancing together without knowing it — but the masks they're wearing only cover the eye area of their faces, to say nothing of the fact that they'd spoken to each other at length and thus should have recognized each other's voices. Sort of justified in that they also dressed differently from how they expected each other to dress (Arthur thought Cinderella was going to wear a crummy dress, Cinderella doesn't know Arthur is the prince) and had only met each other once (though they do recognize each other when they next see each other three months later, and Cinderella initially doesn't notice Arthur in prince clothes at first).
    • Additionally, the only time Cinderella uses her mask as a disguise is when she's near her stepmother and stepsisters. It works, but is justified in that they don't expect her to have such a nice-looking dress. And when the Fairy Godmother encounters Splurge at the dance, she says that she initially didn't recognize him with his mask on. Keep in mind Splurge is a big purple monster and his mask is a Lone Rangers mask.
  • Usually averted whenever it happens on Sesame Street, when other characters see through the paper-thin disguises. Justified as it is an educational show for children. Some examples include:
    • In one sketch, Ernie gets a disguise kit and uses it to fool Bert, who is not fooled at all, especially since Ernie left his pirate beard on when he dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. However, when a wolf shows up, Bert thinks it is Ernie.
    • In another sketch, Cookie Monster dresses as "The Cookie Bunny", and "corrects" Ernie whenever he refers to Cookie as Cookie Monster.
    • In a street scene of one episode, Big Bird and Alan bake birdseed cookies for Granny Bird. When Cookie Monster finds out, he dresses as Granny Bird. Big Bird and Alan know that it's Cookie Monster all along but play along with it.
    • In another episode, Abby thinks Oscar might really be a prince and wants to kiss him, which Oscar wants to avoid. At one point Oscar dons a disguise (Groucho Marx glasses) which doesn't work.
    • One "Word of the Day" sketch features Jack Black and Elmo defining the word "disguise," so as might be expected, Paper-Thin Disguises came into play. Jack claims to be a "master of disguise," and tries to prove it by putting on various outfits to conceal his identity. The first is a large sombrero and a pair of sunglasses; the second is a rainbow clown wig and...another pair of sunglasses. Elmo instantly sees through both disguises, which makes Jack sad. He leaves, and a few moments later, a Muppet chicken enters. In a subversion of the trope, Elmo asks if the chicken has seen Jack Black...three guesses as to who the chicken really is.
    • In the "Smart Cookies" segments introduced in the 46th season, The Crumb, a villainous chef, is always able to fool Cookie Monster with these kinds of disguises, such as a mustache or even simply a bow-tie. Because Cookie is comparing him to a digital photo, these elements don't appear in the photo, allowing Cookie to be easily fooled.
    • In an episode of The Furchester, "Don't Eat the Guest", a talking cookie comes to the hotel, on a day when the hotel is out of cookies. In an attempt to keep Cookie Monster from eating the guest, the staff puts a fake mustache on him so Cookie won't know that he's a cookie. Sort of works, though Cookie Monster does say that he thought it was a cookie at first ("But whoever heard of cookie with mustache?").
    • In a viral video, Abby looks for Elmo, who disguises himself wearing only a pair of Groucho Marx glasses. She is actually fooled, even when Elmo says "Elmo hasn't seen your friend Elmo anywhere".
    • In one sketch, Bert accuses Ernie of stealing a plate of cookies he was saving for himself. Ernie loves cookies and has been known to trick Bert out of his desserts, but swears that he's innocent in this case. Bert argues that he saw someone in a red-and-blue striped sweater with a tuft of black hair laughing in Ernie's distinctive "Khee-hee-hee" manner, which proves he must be the crook...and that's when Cookie Monster enters, wearing a sweater that looks like Ernie's and a small black wig, to help himself to another dish of sweets. This was apparently enough to fool Bert, despite the fact that Cookie Monster is, you know, a fuzzy blue monster.
    • In the episode where The Count has a ceremony to receive the noble prize for counting, The Count is late showing up, and the rules state that the winners must receive their prize in person, so Alan, Telly, and Elmo all dress as The Count in an attempt to get him to have his award. The judges rightfully don't think they look enough like The Count, but go along with it anyway, not learning the truth until each one confesses/gets exposed as imposters (only done after they fail to do the counting challenge or fail to make thunder and lightning).
    • In the New Year's special Sesame Street Stays Up Late Telly dons an ill-fitting fake beard, sunglasses, a fedora and trenchcoat and claims to be an agent from the U.S. Department of Celebrations and Parties under the impression that stopping the New Year's Eve party would stop the new year from coming. While the kids believe him until he gets his beard caught in his briefcase, Gina is visibly not fooled.
  • Tales of the Tinkerdee: The audience won't be fooled by Taminella the witch simply putting on a wig, a false beard, or a hat. But the other characters seem taken in by her disguises, with a partial exception of the king noting that a "sculpture" of the princess looks more like the princess than she does while Taminella is impersonating the princess.

  • Pip Bin of Bleak Expectations is always fooled by his nemesis Mr Gently Benevolent's disguises, though they're always comically thin and he's prone to slipping back into his accent, saying his evil internal monologue out loud.
    Pip: Mr Benevolent! How did you fool me for so long?
    Mr Benevolent: Do you know, I genuinely have no idea.
    • Taken to extremes in one episode where Pip Bin's sister (at that point Mr. Benevolent's 'saucy evil consort') blows the disguise in seconds. Twice. He still doesn't catch on.
    • And then there's Miss Talula Really-Obvious-Fake I-Can't-Believe-You-Haven't-Noticed Not-A-Man. "She" is still Mister Benevolent, and he manages to fool Pip Bin long enough to get married. Even after Benevolent drops the act, Pip still believes Talula was real.
    • Pip and one of his sisters get in on the act too. They escape from their respective boarding schools with the aid of their aunt by dressing up as a rabbit, famous British Admiral Lord Nelson (several years after his death) and... a grandfather clock. When someone spots them and questions the walking grandfather clock his sister merely says "bong bong bong" and the question is dropped.
    Nun: Good evening to ya, Admiral Nelson. Nice to see you alive again.

  • In Fellowship of the Raven, the party at one point had to disguise their dragonborn member Glaedr when they had to return to the town of Vallaki both due to non-humans being very uncommon in Barovia and them still being fugitives there. The first attempt from Muriel was of this type, amounting to Groucho Marx glasses on what was still obviously a humanoid dragon, but after some assistance from her boyfriend Ivan the second attempt was actually pretty convincing.
  • Scary News out of Tokyo-3: Anyone with any knowledge of Neon Genesis Evangelion should be able to guess immediately who's hiding behind the transparent handle of "ZeroGirl00" — she's one of several characters with inside knowledge of NERV, and she has a tendency to talk about the Pilots in I Have This Friend fashion. Unfortunately, none of the other characters are in a position to figure out the truth until she finally comes out and admits it.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers, Lenore (Fool's Hydreigon) and Ammy (Umbra's Volcarona) use these to get their own Trainer's Licenses — they wore fake moustaches and trenchcoats. Lenore's case is more notable, because while Ammy was wearing a Pokémon-to-Human armband, Lenore wore the disguise as a Hydreigon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The example game for the default version of Goblin Quest has the players try to steal a prize-winning bear by infiltrating a bear show using a crudely-made mechanical bear costume. The artwork shows various goblins sticking out of the mechanical bear, which itself has a sign on the front saying, "yes im baer".

  • It's not unusual for disguises to seem paper-thin on stage, a dramatic convention to make allowance for limited props and budget. Willing Suspension of Disbelief is encouraged in this scenario.
  • In many stagings of As You Like It, Rosalind's "Ganymede" disguise is portrayed as this. In these versions, Orlando recognizes her at once, she realizes as much, and their subsequent "tutoring" scenes together become coy, humorous flirtations between the pair, who through role-playing can be frank with each other in ways a young couple of the time ordinarily couldn't.
  • In Holy Musical B@man!, Alfred is fired by Bruce, later returning as "O'Malley the Irish Butler" who is just Alfred wearing a hat and a ginger beard.
  • In Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, the theater manager's assistant Max disguises himself as the visiting tenor Tito Merelli after Tito is found dead in his hotel room. This works on the opera's audience, as they have never seen the real Tito and won't know the difference. However, Tito's Not Quite Dead, and is running around Cleveland in the same costume Max is wearing (Tito brought two identical costumes). Saunders, the manager, runs into Tito several times without realizing the costumed tenor is not Max, despite Max and Tito, even in costume, looking nothing alike.
  • In Love's Labour's Lost, Boyet discovers that King Ferdenand and his gentleman will serenade the French Princess and her ladies in disguise as Russians. The ladies therefore know which is which, and pull off their own masked stunt to misdirect each man to the wrong lady—but they also back this up by swapping the romantic tokens the gentlemen gave them.
  • Much Ado About Nothing: At the masked ball for Don Pedro and his men. Ursula recognizes Antonio by his wit and head-waggling. Pedro pretends to be his protege, Claudio, in order to woo Hero for him. Hero was informed of Claudio's intent by her father, so she knows that the masked man is one of them and speaks accordingly. Don John's henchman recognizes Claudio by his bearing and Don John pretends to take Claudio for Benedick in order to trick him. The only man whose disguise might have worked is Benedick, and he hears an earful of insults from Beatrice for his trouble.

    Theme Parks 

  • This was the main gimmick for the short-lived late 80's Purr-Tenders toy line: fluffy plush cats wearing fake ears and muzzles so they could pass as 'exotic' animals like dogs and mice. (The fact that they could all communicate with humans and came in pink and purple apparently didn't make them exotic enough.) Somehow, the disguises worked... until they started purring.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Apollo never notices the uncanny resemblance between the picture on the wall at the Wright and Co Offices and the victim of his first case (not even noting familiarity) even when the only difference is a goatee. On the other hand, Phoenix notices from the first meeting. The player, on the other hand, stands a chance of noticing at first glance, even without color.
    • Furio Tigre kills somebody and then disguises himself as Phoenix Wright in order to "defend" the person he framed for the murder. This "disguise" consists of a suit, a fake attorney's badge (made of cardboard), and loudly proclaiming himself to be Phoenix Wright. It works despite Furio having bright orange skin and a very noticeable Bronx accent, and every major player in the case knowing Phoenix personally on top of that. All because he has the exact same spiky hairdo. The defendant mentions that everyone in the courtroom had "big question marks on their faces" when "Phoenix" made his appearance, but every time someone tried to point this out, Furio literally roared them into silence. Even more bizarrely, the disguise is apparently good enough to fool the player — the first you see of Furio Tigre is in the chapter intro where "Phoenix" loses the case... and he's rendered as completely indistinguishable from the real Phoenix. The skin colour can be explained away as being a fake spray tan that Furio just didn't put on that day, but it's pretty much stated that he made no attempt whatsoever to hide the accent.
    • Trials and Tribulations subverts this with Dahlia Hawthorne when she appears to turn up in "Bridge to the Turnabout" with a different hair colour and nun's garments (retaining the same hairstyle and mannerisms, thus the Paper Thin Disguise). The subversion? It's actually her twin sister.
    • Trials and Tribulations, the one difference between Godot and Diego Armando is basically a pallet swap and a face visor.
    • "Director Hotti" in Justice for All is a mental patient at the Hotti Clinic who habitually steals the director's lab coat and uses it to try and pass himself off as the director, ignoring the fact that the ID badge pinned to the front of the coat has the real director's picture on it. He appears again in Apollo Justice as "Director Hickfield" of the Hickfield Clinic. Evidently the Hotti Clinic staff got sick of his bullshit and passed him off to another clinic to get rid of him. That, or the real Director Hotti quit in order to get away from him.
    • Dual Destinies has "The Amazing Nine-Tails", a famous masked wrestler. Players groan at how long it takes for the characters to figure out that he's obviously Rex Kyubi, and are then blindsided when it's revealed that he's actually Damian Tenma.
    • A bit of a Double Subversion with the disguises used by Shelley de Killer, especially his disguise in Investigations 2. While he has an extremely unique face (stitches right down the middle) that he never covers up, the fact there's very few people in-game who know what he looks like means he doesn't really need to put much effort into concealing his identity... and then you realize he's wearing the signature logo of his Calling Card right there, making it loop right back to paper-thin.
  • At the end of Butterfly Soup, Noelle and Akarsha use these while spying on Diya and Min's first date.
  • In CLANNAD, Akio disguises himself as a rapper at one point. His daughter can't recognize him. In the visual novel, he just put on a pair of sunglasses and it somehow works.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: The only reason that Mukuro is able to pass herself off as Junko is because none of the cast have met either one of them before (well, technically they have, but they had their memories wiped afterwards), and even then, Makoto immediately notices that "Junko" doesn't resemble her magazine covers very closely, to which she gives the excuse that those covers have been photoshopped to hell and back. The flimsiness of the disguise is even more blatant in the bonus School Mode, where it quickly becomes evident Mukuro is really bad at staying in character, as she continually makes references to things like knife-throwing, running away from home, and owning a ghillie suit, even though she's supposed to be playing the role of a fashionista.
  • In Halloween Otome, it's downplayed (especially in the case of The Count), but Emma and Mr. Bandages hair (in length/style and colour, respectively) are striking enough that Emma should have recognized one of the guys, or vice versa.
  • Katawa Shoujo parodies this to demonstrate just how detached from reality Kenji really is. During one of their encounters, Kenji mentions that he's going to the store and Hisao, well acquainted with his paranoia at this point, sarcastically asks if it's safe for him to go outside. Kenji, immune to sarcasm, counters that he's safely disguised because he has a hat. (Bonus points: he's not even wearing a hat.)
  • Little Busters! has Mask the Saito, a mysterious masked man that appears and starts challenging people if, after being returned to the bottom of the battle rankings early on, you can make you way up to the top again. At first glance, it isn't obvious who it is, but as soon as he starts talking it's very clearly Kyousuke's voice. If you lose to him, he doesn't even bother to keep up the charade, turning around and walking off (revealing distinctive red/brown hair) while throwing the mask away. Riki is faintly bemused by the entire thing, but plays along.
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has Ms. Kishido. The only different thing she's wearing is the mask. This might have worked had she not been a blonde-haired, blue-eyed foreigner in Japan with her equally distinctive not-disguise-wearing protector along with her. A few people are actually fooled, though.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors' "Safe" ending, Junpei claims to be Santa who switched clothes with the real Junpei, with no actual effort put into the disguise beyond that. It's incredibly obvious to everyone that he's lying, even to the person he was supposedly trying to fool. But he wasn't actually trying to fool anyone. The reason why it was obvious to everyone was what was important to him. While 99% of people would simply say he doesn't look anything like Santa, Ace instead says he can't be Santa because they just opened Door 3 with a combination that wouldn't work if he was Santa, accidentally outing himself as having prosopagnosia (face blindness), and thus as the likely killer of Snake... or rather, the man who the killer thought was Snake because he was wearing Snake's clothes, meaning the killer couldn't recognize him by his face.
  • Chris in Princess Waltz. How obvious is it? Before The Reveal, knowing how bad a job she's doing acting, Chris asks in a roundabout way if Arata is sure he doesn't suspect her of anything. And barely refrains from mentioning what: Being a girl. It gets worse. He walks in on her with no disguise (bath) and still doesn't get it. All the yaoi fangirls in the class Squee...
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira points out that, despite Kaoru's desire to keep her Momo identity a secret, she goes out in the same distinctive gothic clothes regardless of whether she's Momo or Kaoru. Her only defence is that she loves the style too much to not wear it in her everyday life.

    Web Animation 
  • ASDF Movie 8 has a cow pretending to be a man. Its disguise consists of a baseball caps and a skateboard.
  • At one point in Vinesauce's The Blue Shell Incident, Mario is able to elude Luigi with the clever disguise of a hand with glasses on it, claiming to be Handio. Luigi is fooled, but not for long.
  • Bowser's Kingdom:
    • Steve as a Shy guy in Episode 2.
    • Hal and Jeff as Luigi and Mario, respectively in The Movie.
  • The Cyanide & Happiness Show has John Battman, a Batman Parody whose "secret identity", Broots Waymb, is still wearing his superhero costume (albeit with the cowl pulled down and a baggy, unzipped jacket worn over the tights). He also keeps delivering Blatant Lies that all but state him and Battman are the same person.
    My parents are dead because a crazy bad guy shot them with a gun and then I fell into a bat hole and bats were there. That's when I found John Battman. He helped me to dress up like a Ba-- (static) To fight cri-- (static) To not be afraid of bats anymore and also criminals and their crimes they commit. Also we both hate guns, me because of parent murder and him because of... he has reasons.
  • FreedomToons: After Dave Rubin's guests vow never to come back because he's too agreeable, he instead decides to interview Rave Dubin, a webshow host who is very... agreeable. And wears glasses.
  • Happy Tree Friends: In "Don't Yank My Chain!", Lifty and Shifty disguise themselves with the Mole's sweater and glasses and Handy's helmet and tool belt, respectively. Lumpy is fooled by their disguises, despite all of them having different colored fur.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Bubs' alter ego, The Thnikkaman, consists of him wearing sunshades and a piece of paper reading "TH" taped to his chest. And on a couple occasions he momentarily removes the shades. Only Homestar, The Ditz, ever sees through the disguise.
    • As part of the annual Strong Sad Lookalike Contest, the Cheat dresses up as Strong Sad's left foot by sitting in a paper bag that had an elephant foot crudely drawn on it. Nobody else's costume is particularly convincing either (except for Homsar, who was disqualified because Coach Z thought he actually was Strong Sad), but the Cheat has somehow won the contest three years in a row this way.
    • Also applies to Strong Bad's attempt to use a stunt double in the Dangeresque trilogy. The stunt double in question is clearly Strong Sad, and the terrible editing does not help.
    • And then there's Homestar's The Cheat disguise, which is more extensive than most of the above - painting himself yellow with spots, adding a tuft to his head, walking on his knees, and saying "meh" a lot. It's about as good a Cheat disguise as someone with Homestar's looks could possibly manage... but considering the Cheat is a third Homestar's height and significantly plumper and has no legs (while Homestar has no arms), it's still a very long way from convincing. It fooled Strong Mad, though.
    • In the Cheat Commandos cartoon "Shopping for Danger!", Fightgar disguises himself as an old lady by putting on a wig and glasses and squinting his eyes. It's one thing for him to not shave his Perma-Stubble, it's another for him to not remove his Badass Bandolier. The Blue Lasers are completely fooled.
  • Karekore The Half Blood: When a human boy dated Hisame, Kagechiyo and Cidy spied on them with disguises that barely changed their appearances. Hisame even recognized them on the spot.
  • Monsterbox: When the store owner refuses to sell the little girl a birdhouse for her monster, she puts a fake beak on the monsters nose and ties feather to the monster's arms and head. The store owner sees right through the ruse, but decides to sell her a birdhouse anyway.
  • In Episode 22 of The Most Popular Girls in School, Ashley Katchadorian disguises (read: tries to) herself with... sunglasses, and a trenchcoat. Atchison's Taylor called her "a lesbian Inspector Gadget".
  • During the "Curse of Strahd" playthrough on Puffin Forest the characters assassinate a guard captain with Garo saying they need disguises. While Garo and Gouda have reasonable outfits, the one-armed lizard folk Boshack just wears a potato sack on his head while Krusk refuses a disguise on the basis that trickery is for "lowlifes". They only get away with it thanks to nobody being out at that hour... and then Gouda wears her murder disguise in public the next day.
  • Blake Belladonna of RWBY wears a bow on her head to disguise her true nature as a Faunus, or more specifically, to hide the cat ears perched atop her head. From a meta perspective, seeing as hints to this were dropped heavily, when she accidentally blurted it near the end of the penultimate episode of the first season, almost no viewers were surprised. It was actually lampshaded the very next episode:
    Yang: We're looking for our friend, Blake.
    Penny: Oh! You mean the Faunus girl!
    Ruby: Wait... How did you know that?
    Penny: [points to the top of her head] Uhhh, the cat ears?
    Yang: Cat ears!? She wears a... [dawning realization] Bow...
    [the girls all stand around awkwardly as a tumbleweed rolls by]
    Ruby: She does like tuna a lot.
  • In Season 8 of Sonic for Hire, after Earthworm Jim accidentally kills Morty, he takes up Morty's decapitated body (similar to how he wears his super suit) with a wig but doesn't bother to hide his obvious worm head. Sonic and Tails fail to notice anything off. Even when Jim tries to explain to Eggman that he's not Morty, Eggman doesn't buy what "Morty" says cause he claims to know Jim before tossing him out the window.
  • The Weebl's Stuff cartoon "Scampi" is a list of things that the narrator has seen that are "often in disguise". None of the disguises are very convincing, which include a hamster wearing bunny ears, the planet Earth with a big sign reading "MARS" on it, Shakespeare dressed as a party clown, and a map of Malaysia with Kuala Lumpur's name scratched out and replaced with the obviously hand-written word "France".
  • In Battle for Dream Island Again, a running gag is for several characters to pretend to be a tree and make swishing sounds. This is done by placing Gelatin on top of their heads, sometimes having him having an uncomfortable expression as he's covering Match's hair. This gag also returns in BFB 30

    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s): Strangely Effective Disguise, Web Original


Fake Moustache

The hero has disguised himself to expose a gang of con-men in the bazaar. However, the seasoned con-men turn the tables on him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / OutGambitted

Media sources: