You probably want to disguise your face before, say, robbing a bank, to avoid getting caught. But you totally forgot to include that in your bank-robbing plan! You want something better than a Paper-Thin Disguise, but you can't get professional realistic masks. Time for the Stocking Mask.
This trope is Truth in Television, as:
- Stockings are cheap and available almost everywhere;
- They're light and easy to conceal, while taking little time to put on or take off;
- They can provide sufficient masking by distorting your face;
- Buying stockings is a mundane thing; which makes it a popular choice among masks.
However, a stocking mask also has disadvantages, such as making the wearer's vision go fuzzy (of course you can cut out holes to reveal your eyes, but that would just complicate things), and very thin stockings can't cover your scars and such. And needless to say, it only covers your face. Also, due to its popularity, anyone wearing one of these in the street will be considered a Blatant Burglar.
Expect a Minion with an F in Evil to bring pantyhose instead.
- An advertisment for Via Rail showed a check-in clerk at an airport donning a stocking mask and proceeding to rip the customer off.
- A Snickers commercial has a group of robbers wearing stocking masks, but one messed up and wore fishnets instead.
- In the first chapter of City Hunter, the villain puts on one of these to mug/extort his target. His victim didn't recognize him until later, but the baddie takes off his mask in full view of the nearby Ryo.
- During the first Panty Hose Taro arc of Ranma ½, Panty Hose Taro threatens to put one of his pantyhoses over Akane's head if the heroes don't go with his demands, complete with an illustration of this trope (just to make her look stupid).
- In Happy Heroes, the villains Big M. and Little M. often wear socks for masks whenever they try to steal something.
- Lamput: In Season 3's "Reward", the docs resort to robbing bank to earn money to give to the lady asking for a reward for capturing Lamput. The docs wear black socks as masks with holes cut in them and find another crook wearing the same kind of mask.
- In the film version of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ash has to wear a sock as he lacks a balaclava.
- The crooks wear stockings to disguise their faces while pulling the Armed Blag on Tower Bridge at the start of Circus of Fear.
- The serial rapist/killer in Eyes of a Stranger wears a stocking mask when he is out to murder someone.
- Lady in a Cage: Randall and Elaine wear stockings over their heads as they ransack Cornelia's home. Sade later has a stocking put over her head by Essie on Randall's requests as she's coerced to assist the gang by carrying out the loot from Cornelia's house. Essie himself does not wear a stocking over his head and seems to wear a knit ski mask.
- Raising Arizona: HI dons a stocking mask whenever he sticks up a grocery store. When running from the law, he jumps into a truck, where the driver blithely notes, "Boy, you've got a panty on your head!"
- In Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, So-young and her husband wear stocking masks during the bank robbery they. The stocking have a snakeskin pattern on them, and—perhaps because they are more opaque than regular stockings—they have cut eye and mouth holes in them.
- In Trouble Man, the four robbers all wear stocking masks.
- The Way of the Gun. Parker calmly walks towards the two men guarding their target while pulling a stocking over his head. Her bodyguards step in front of the woman they're protecting and reach for their guns, only for Longbaugh (who's wearing a dust mask) to grab her while their backs are turned.
- In Big Trouble, Snake and Eddie wearing pantyhose as masks, having shoplifted two pairs of "Hanes Control Top, for the full-figured woman, in jet black."
- In Blaze, Dumb Muscle Blaze robs a grocery store but forgets to put the stocking on. Fortunately, he scares the salesclerk so much that he can't remember anything to identify him. Blaze later comes back to the same store, this time wearing the stocking, and even points it out to the clerk.
- In one of the Discworld books, The Truth, someone tells the Watch that they'll be able to identify the robber because "not many people wear a stocking on their head."
- In In Cold Blood, the principal villains consider getting stockings to disguise their identities, and visit a hospital to get black stockings from a nun. But since it would be so awkward to ask, they abandon the idea altogether. If they had used them, the murder of four innocents during their failed robbery may not have happened at all.
- 1000 Ways to Die had a variation of this with a would-be robber. As he is about to rob a convenience store, he dons a pair of pantyhose. Then he enters the adjoining shop. A gun shop. As is the norm with this show, it doesn't end well... note
- Barney Miller: In one episode, Yamana took a call from a witness at a mugging, who stated that the two muggers were wearing stockings over their heads. Yamana then told Barney, "She said one looked darker than the other. She wasn't sure if it was because of skin color or personal taste in nylons."
- The Benny Hill Show. Benny plays the villainous Ernest Potts, whose gang is introduced robbing a store. Unfortunately Potts' stocking mask is stretched so tight over his mouth the store clerk can't understand what he's saying, so Potts takes off the stocking in order to be understood (showing his face in the process). The clerk recognizes the notorious villain, causing Potts to panic and flee. As his gang follow him, two of them get stuck in the door as they're wearing one pantyhose (i.e., stockings with two legs) over their heads, so they can't move around separately from each other.
- Referenced in the Chuck season 4 episode, "Chuck vs the First Bank of Evil". While Vivian was hacking into a Macau bank's computer Chuck and Sarah staged a bank robbery to buy her some time. Preparing for the robbery, Sarah put on a pair of sunglasses and Chuck pulled a black stocking over his head.
Sarah: What are you doing?
Chuck: Wha? We're robbing a bank, right? You packed them so I...
Sarah: Yeah, I packed them in case we had the chance to go out tonight. Take them off, you'll wreck them.
- Cybil: In "Mourning Has Broken" Cybil and Maryann sneak into David's house while wearing black stockings over their heads and dark clothing while bringing a flashlight with them.
- Mission: Impossible: Cinnamon Carter and Dan Briggs wear dark stockings over their heads in "Fakeout" As part of a scheme to fool a drug baron living out of extradition that he's the target of a con artist couple. Cinnamon even wears the stocking over her head in front of a mirror while imitating an aggressive cat (or another kind of feline) to test it for herself.
- A Flashback on My Name Is Earl shows Earl stealing books from a bookstore wearing pantyhose over his head.
- A Played for Laughs allusion on MythBusters — at one point in a build, Tory took a break from stuffing dead quail into fishnet stockings, pulled one stocking over his head, and started playing robber.
- Parker Lewis Can't Lose: Played for Laughs in "Rock 'n' Roles" when Shelley sneaks into Parker's room to find his hidden money stash. She puts a pair of pantyhose over her head as it makes an unrealistic rubber pulling sound before she looks at herself in the mirror by accident and scares herself.
- The video for Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight" starts with a man buying stockings in a store. He robs a nearby butcher less than a minute later.
- Ryder in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas attempts to rob a pizza joint this way, except it hilariously backfires due to him already trying the exact same stunt previously, which has the owner go "Ryder? Not this shit again!" since he recognizes his small stature. The moment Ryder turns his back, the owner pulls out a shotgun and fights back.
- Lonely Wolf Treat: In the third chapter, one of the props Moxie can collect for her murder mystery drama is a mask made from a sock with eyeholes cut out. However, collecting it is not required to complete the drama, and Pepper (who plays the murderer) will refuse to wear it if you do.
Pepper: What killer runs around with a sock over their head? My victims won't take me seriously.
- American Dad!:
- In the season 2 episode "Dungeons and Wagons". Roger dons pantyhose on his head to rob a store. He then proceeds to run out and get beat up by the owners after robbing them.
- In the season 6 episode "Flirting With Disaster", Lorraine dons pantyhose on her head before throwing acid onto Francine's face.
- The Simpsons In "Treehouse Of Horror VI", Homer dons a stocking over his head before stealing the giant Lard Lad doughnut. The Lard Lad statue comes to life and he is not happy.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- In the episode "The Secret Box", Spongebob uses a stocking as a mask in order to sneak into Patrick's house to find out what he had in the box. When Spongebob puts on the stocking, his head briefly acquires the shape of a human leg.
- As seen by the current image, SpongeBob and Patrick use socks as balaclavas to rob a bank to get into (a seemingly all-female) jail and get Mrs. Puff back into normal life. It goes as well as you can expect.
- Real life robbers are well-known for this for reasons stated above, and lots of such examples can be found if you try googling "stocking mask robber" or such.