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Underwear of Power

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Only one of them is wearing anything near conventional pants, and you can't see them anyway.

"I think this uniform needs something, something that says, 'I'm here to destroy you...' but with a sense of fun! I've got it! Wear your underwear outside your pants! [Turns to audience] Hey, it worked for Madonna!"
Dot Warner, Animaniacs

Sister Trope to Leotard of Power, Underwear of Power is when a superhero or a related type of character wears a speedo or something similar as part of their outfit. Speedos or briefs are usually used for this today. Initially used for nearly every hero (who didn't wear a full body suit) back when they looked like short pants or trunks instead of a speedo, this eventually became more associated with female characters, occasionally even going into bikinis, actual underwear, and thongs, although less often (and usually on women).

For most super heroes this was initially a reference to the Strongman uniform (i.e. a bathing suit) of the day. Then it became iconic of super heroes, mostly due to Superman, which the rest of the heroes then drew upon.

A secondary, initially unintended reason why so many characters had this, is because of the low quality of printing used for comics at the time. In a fight scene, making a character's hips distinct from the rest of their torso and their legs frequently made the action "read" more clearly in a low-quality image (you could clearly see if a character was twisting around, for example).

Wearing them over tights was a staple of The Golden Age of Comic Books, but today only really exists in parody (or for characters from that time that are still around).

For comedy, drama, Fanservice, or simply for their enemy to humiliate them, expect those who wear Underwear of Power to suffer a Groin Attack at least once. Especially for a Superhero, it's not uncommon because surprisingly, some of them are weak in that part while some others are not. You can also expect those who wear them to be given a Wedgie in a comedy or parody.

However, just like Leotard of Power, with the shift from trunks into anatomically revealing "underwear", this has become a Fanservice Trope and is also pretty much dead—dropped in favor of bodysuits, or regular clothes. See Most Common Superpower and Show Some Leg for some related tropes. If the hero looks monstrous, expect the Underwear Of Power to be the only thing the hero wears.

Compare Superheroes Wear Tights, Chainmail Bikini.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hiromu Arakawa, mangaka of Fullmetal Alchemist, depicts herself as a cow with glasses. Early in the series, she drew her cow self with "Fighting Panties," and has since commented that so many people associate her with that image over all the others.
  • A lot of early super robots, such as the Mazinger and Getter Robo families, where the mecha featured colourful, underpants-like waists. Examples:
  • Taken to the extremes with the shounen manga Hentai Kamen, a superhero who fights with a pair of panties to cover his face and a really small pair of underwear to cover everything else.
  • As Nano: In a direct reference to Hentai Kamen, the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Nano Fan Webcomic has this probably Safe For Work but probably not Safe For Eyes costume decision for the Mysterious Protector.
  • Parodied by the manga Miracle Lingerie, in which the heroine's powers derived from her Applied Phlebotinum underwear—which didn't function if she wore anything over them.
    • Hilariously, besides the heroine and her rival, there's a 3rd character with the magic bra and panties — their principal, a giant burly man. Who hides his identity by wearing a lady's stocking over his head.
  • Franky from One Piece. 'nuff said.
  • Saint Seiya: Unicorn Jabu has metal Underwear of Power.
  • Lina Inverse appears to be wearing this over her clothes in the Slayers anime.
  • Strike Witches has its little girl soldiers wearing no pants at all, resulting in them walking and fighting around in underwears, or perhaps, something look like them. This is justified by the equipment they wear needing direct skin contact for better control.
  • Gatchaman Crowds: Utsutsu. Although when she transforms for battle, she wears an all-covering extradimensional robot suit like all the other Gatchamen.
  • Dragon Ball Z has Freeza, his father King Cold, and several of their minions — Captain Ginyu, Zarbon, and Jeice, among others — all running around in their underwear. Well, underwear and body armour. Seems to be standard issue in Freeza's army.

    Asian Animation 

    Card Games 
  • The card game Super Munchkin has one card named "Underwear on the outside", that gives a free level to its player.

    Comic Books 
  • There's always the many examples in DC Comics, particularly Superman and Batman, who had the interesting (but hilarious) quirk of wearing trunks over their regular clothes. In addition, Wonder Woman originally wore a blue bikini bottom with stars, until she traded it in for a skirt. In any case, listing all of them is, in itself, a job for Superman.
    • Superman's costume was based on one of the kinds of trunks worn by the "strongman" in traveling circus sideshows, and his popularity most likely spread the trope around.
    • Depictions of Krypton often show this look as being having been a staple of everyone's clothing (along with tight-fitting outfits and capes). If we assume that Superman based his outfit on Kryptonian ones, and in turn, that many superheroes based their outfits on his (both of which would have been reasonable assumptions in the Silver and Bronze Ages), then it arguably all becomes a Justified Trope.
    • Robin (Dick Grayson) is a notable example, as him wearing trunks is one of the things that started all the Batman Ho Yay that the early Batman comics are ridiculed for.note 
    • Dick (as Nightwing) actually gives Tim (Robin III) a hard time for wearing a costume that looks like it includes underwear over pants. Tim easily ignores the jab, probably because he knows that Dick has much more unfortunate costumes in his history. "Still wearing your underwear on the outside. Odd way to try intimidating the bad guys."
    • Most of the heroes and heroines in the DC Animated Universe wore this (for the heroines, if they normally wore a Leotard of Power instead in the comics, with the exception of Black Canary).
    • Supergirl's wearing a red bikini bottom, similar to the red trunks Superman originally wore, in Supergirl (2011), replacing her traditional skirt/leotard.
    • A more modern example is Huntress, who has had many costume changes both to and from this over the past few decades.
    • One of the visible changes to the New 52 reboot is that DC has pretty much abolished this for the bulk of their characters; including Superman and Batman. Something noted by critics of the redesign is that for the former especially, removing the trunks threw off the color balance that emphasized his strongman physique — if you read any books from the era where Supes appears and he looks oddly slimmer than usual, it's probably because of the lack of this trope.
    • The DC Rebirth line of comics eventually gave Superman and Batman their classic costumes back, trunks included.
  • Marvel Comics had this on several characters, including Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, The Thing, Namor, The Vision, several of Hank Pym's superhero identities, and a few others. Since modern times it has been used sporadically, though it's still in use today.
    • The standard X-Men uniform is often depicted as involving this (yellow briefs over black tights), along with Kitty Pryde who pretty much wears an adult version of the attire as her standard look in modern times. Occasionally this is changed into just a yellow stripe down the torso between the legs, which has the unintended (or possibly intended) tendency to make it look like they're wearing a large thong over their tights.
    • And then there are characters who couldn't be wearing underwear outside their costume, yet conform to the color scheme. A few versions of Iron Man's armor, for example.
    • Perhaps the silliest one in existence: Fin Fang Foom. A dragon. In underwear. Damn.
      Tabitha Smith: Oh my god. It's wearing underpants.
    • Justified for the Sub-Mariner. He actually is wearing swimming trunks.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Trope Maker (and also the Trope Codifier outside of the States) is likely The Phantom: Red-and-black-striped underwear on blue/purple has been a constant (and much-mocked) part of his costume since his first appearance in 1936.
  • The old variation is mocked in this Finnish comic strip.
    Superman: [snicker]
    Batman: Did you see...
    Superman: ...that guy wore his underpants under his clothes!
  • A Sunday Strip of Ink Pen references the decline in this trend.

    Fan Works 
  • Invoked in Amazing Fantasy. While training to get into U.A. with his new spider powers, Izuku decides to visit a costume shop and buys a Spider-Man costume to psych himself up. He knows that characters from the The Golden Age of Comic Books would wear "underpants" over their spandex in case they had an "accident". He decides in advance to wear a pair of exercise shorts over his outfit just in case. It becomes especially important after he finds that his new muscles make the costume uncomfortably tight, particularly around his butt and crotch.
  • Parodied in Kara of Rokyn by Superman's uncle Zor-El, who states he'd "look stupid in a pair of trunks."
  • In A Study in Scarlet and Blue, Spider-Man Lampshades Taskmaster's costume choices:
    Mary Jane: No offense, but you all kind of blend together to me.
    Spider-Man: Jeez, I hope not. Only one of us is stupid enough to run around with his tighty-whities on the outside of his— [Mary Jane Spit-Takes]

    Films — Animation 
  • Everyone from The Incredibles count as examples of the trunks over spandex variety.note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in The Return of Captain Invincible when one of the charges levelled against the eponymous superhero was of showing his underpants in public.
  • The Spartan warriors of 300 all wear leather briefs and opera capes. The briefs are to avert a Full-Frontal Assault — they didn't bother with them in the graphic novel.Historical note 
  • Sucker Punch features two female characters whose outfits specifically frame their panties in the form of a pair of pants with strategic cutouts and the strangest-looking Longcoat-like thing in the history of cinematic Fanservice.

  • Captain Underpants is written pretty much specifically as a lampshade parody of this trope, as he is described as a superhero who "really is flying around in his underwear".
  • The book How to Be a Superhero specifically says to avoid this in its section on costume design.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Battlizer from Power Rangers S.P.D. has a thong.
  • Kamen Rider BLACK RX in his main and Biorider forms, Kamen Rider ZX, and all of Kamen Rider Hibiki's Oni are obvious examples. Black, RX Roborider, ZO, and J have this as well, but it's part of the armor design and not as obvious.
  • Spoofed when The Goodies try to ward off an Alien Invasion by convincing the aliens that humans are a race of supermen. Graham exits a phone booth in his blue tights with underpants on the outside, followed by Tim wearing his Goofy Print Underwear.
  • In Lois & Clark, when Lois visits an alternate universe where Clark never became Superman and was dating Lana Lang, Lois tries to get Alt-Clark to become Superman by making him a suit like Clark's. When Lana sees it, she asks what is Alt-Clark supposed to be, an underwear model?
  • One memorable Round the Twist features underwear that actually gave superpowers after being heated up in the microwave. Unfortunately, they were not pre-shrunk, and shrunk when they get wet.
  • Warehouse 13 used literally with the Angelo Siciliano's Workout Trunks, the guy who named Charles Atlas Superpower, appearing in a very comics styled episodes they even trace the connection between the superhero and the strongman.

  • Analog: The April 1941 cover features two people fighting on the cover, each with a colourful and tight full-body outfit with a pair of red shorts worn on the outside.

  • The Heavy Mithril band Manowar often performs in Underwear of Power.
  • Surely Lady Gaga counts for singing and dancing in panties? In fact, it's been somewhat of a trademark for her. The last time she was seen in normal pants was in "Alejandro" and her fandom was astonished.
  • Long before Gaga, Cherie Currie of The Runaways performed only wearing corset, panties, and fishnets.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This the most common type of outfit in Professional Wrestling, showing up pretty much on everyone, unless they're one of the few who wears normal clothes instead. Interestingly, this is, in an inversion of the usual way this is used, generally more often used by male wrestlers. This is because pro-wrestling is a remnant of circus style strongmen shows and some vaudeville acts that used similar clothing.

  • Parodied in Holy Musical B@man!, in which all the characters wear colored briefs matching their character's colors with incredibly obvious white seam lines.

  • Stretch Armstrong wore only a removal speedo in The '70s, and a painted-on speedo in the "Original" variant of The New '10s figure.

    Video Games 
  • DeathSpank wears naught but armored boots and a purple thong (called the "Thong of Justice") on his lower body.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The Magic Bikini in Dragon Quest III for female characters of any vocation. In the remake versions of the game, there's also the Blessed Bikini. Both pieces of equipment actually change the appearance of the wearer.
    • Recurring character Kandar/Robbin' 'Ood and his various palette swaps go around in little more than a hooded cape, gloves, boots, and a pair of briefs. The bestiary description for the Hood monster in Dragon Quest XI even wonders how they go around without getting arrested for public indecency.
    • The Fire Spirit from Dragon Quest VII goes around in a pair of trunks and very sparse armor, giving him the appearance of a fire-themed superhero.
    • And in Dragon Quest IX, now that legs are an equipment slot, there's a handful of underwear equipment choices for either gender.
  • In F-Zero, Jody Summer and Mrs. Arrow wear what look like bikinis over tights, while Kate Alen has the bikini without the tights. On the male side, Pico, Octoman, Billy, Bio Rex, and Leon have briefs and bare legs, while Mr. EAD has briefs over tights.
  • Dawn Star and one of the female player character models in Jade Empire don't exactly have pants...
  • Tizoc from The King of Fighters and Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a luchador that wears these. Part of his Face persona is standing for justice and defeating evil, so he evokes a classic superhero image.
  • Mega Man (he's blue and cyan!), Proto Man (with added Scarf of Asskicking) and several Robot Masters have this look. Theirs even change color, based on the weapon in use. Mega Man's successor, X, follows suit with the addition of a chest armor piece, and naturally this also expands to Zero, Axl and substantial amount of Reploids.
  • Both genders of Skulls in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain wear skimpy black underwear – the female ones wear only this while the males have it over a skintight suit. The player can also become an example of this trope by developing and wearing the Parasite Suit.
  • Li Mei, Jade, Mileena and Goro from Mortal Kombat all have costumes with thongs or trunks (in Goro's case), though Mileena and Jade also have Leotard of Power alternate costumes as well.
  • Most of the characters created by Davey Randle at Randle Sim Racing wear this clothing type, along with bare legs and bare feet, especially due to Davey's love for thighs and pro wrestling. Usually, when his female characters aren't wearing Underwear Of power, they're wearing a Leotard of Power, most notably, Lizzie and Brenda.
  • In Scarlet Blade, underwear can increase your character's stats and, if you so desire, you can run around wearing just that.
  • Soulcalibur 3 and 4 allow you to do this in their character creation, and, in fact, you generally have to do this in Soul Calibur 4, since Clothing Damage is almost assured anyway. The only four real options for underwear are furry loincloths (for men), Underwear Of power (for both) in all shapes in sizes (from actual thongs (for the guys) to a bottom and pantyhose (for the girls)), and a couple versions of Leotard of Power.
    • For those who prefer their fights in SoulCalibur 4 to look less ridiculous by having your character actually be wearing something by the end of it, there are full suits of mail armor for both genders.
  • Space Channel 5 Part 2: According to its description, the Super Ulala Suit is "Rumored to be just underwear." (If that's the case, it'd be some pretty unusual underwear…)
  • Zangief, and, technically, Sakura, who usually wears a very short skirt to (poorly) cover it (in SFIV, she gets a very long gi top - a la Ryu- to barely cover it instead).
    • And don't forget Gill and his brother, Urien, who take after Grecian gods in their desire to fight with the barest of coverings. In Street Fighter V Urien normally fights completely clothed (unless you use a special code before the fight, where he burns off his clothes to fight in his signature thong) but Gill continues to fight with just the white thong (in his default outfit).
    • Many of masked luchador El Fuerte's alternate costumes can give him this look. One of them is a traditional Aztec-themed costume complete with feathers and a headdress. Another is an old-fashioned wrestling outfit with a tank top and a championship belt, while one is a more modern wrestling getup with white trunks worn over black tights.
  • King, a luchador from Tekken, can be customized to have these, although his usual costume has wrestling trunks over tights.
  • Time Gal: Reika wears nothing but a bikini.
  • In the WWE Day of Reckoning games, choosing "long tights" for your wrestler's leg wear comes with the not so well hidden option of having the wrestler wear underwear on the outside of them, or at least the illusion of doing so.

    Web Animation 
  • In one Bad Days short, General Zod snatches Superman's briefs at the laundromat, making him become too Wangsty to fight crime anymore.
  • X-Ray & Vav: The eponymous characters have this on their spandex outfits. It doubles as a Bag of Holding for their gadgets.

    Web Comics 
  • David Willis of Shortpacked!! fame had a little fun explaining the Golden Age origins of this trope in one of his notorious Batman Fillers.
  • Mahou Shounen Fight!'s main charecter dosen't exactly feature underwear as part of his costume, but his mantisman briefs are the focus of his power, so he has to wear them everyday, Making this a much more literal take on the trope than usual.
  • Homestuck:
    • The infamous codpiece worn by God Tier Gamzee.
    • Less extremely, a similar item worn by his ancestor, the Grand Highblood.
    • God tier Pages also wear tiny speedos as part of their outfit.

    Web Original 
  • Justice Squad: As befits the satire, worn by those who are an expy of a superhero character that traditionally wears one (such as Nightflyer for Batman or Capeman for Superman).
  • In Sockb4by, the mooks all wear black wetsuits with white briefs on the outside.
  • Averted by SCP-1388, underwear in a brief style with pictures of superheroes printed on it. Two examples are currently in Foundation custody. They will literally shift spacetime to fit anyone, compel you to want to wear them, and convince you that you are genuinely superpowered, but doesn't give you any superpowers. It makes you think it does, leading you to kill yourself by trying to use your nonexistent powers in real life.
  • How to Hero discusses this phenomenon as a staple in superherodom.

    Western Animation 
  • Xandir of Drawn Together.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): He-Man, and, really, any barbarian hero/heroine wears a variant of this if they aren't using a loincloth.
  • Spoofed with Goofy's superhero identity Super-Goof, whose costume is a pair of long johns.
  • Doug's superhero Author Avatar Quailman spoofs this trope by wearing white briefs over his trousers.
    • Quailman's father Quaildad does it with boxers.
  • In the The Powerpuff Girls episode "Members Only," after the girls are rejected by the Association of World Super Men, they leave begrudgingly, but not before Buttercup says to Major Glory, "You got your underpants on the outside!" (to which he embarrassingly covers up)
    • The really strange thing is back on Dexter's Laboratory, Major Glory doesn't even wear those yet he does in "Members Only", this was never explained.
  • In Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Kilowog's Green Lantern uniform now has a pair of Green Briefs over the black skin-tight suit.
  • The Mutates, Griff, Leo, Wolf, and Delilah in Gargoyles are all running around in briefs/leotards. The rest of the Gargoyles all wear loin cloths.
  • Parodied in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Make 'Em Laugh", where the absurd-looking "Condiment King" wears an actual pair of white underpants over his Cheap Costume. It should come as no surprise he was created by The Joker via liberal use of Mind Control.
  • Also spoofed in The Ripping Friends where the titular group all wear Y-front underpants over their costumes. One episode even features Rip's briefs come to life in an overly long manner and become a villainous Puppeteer Parasite that takes control of "Pooperman" to go on a crime spree, pull a Heel–Face Turn, and even a (somewhat unwilling) Heroic Sacrifice. Fun fact: this was one of the SANER episodes.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (the action-based series that aired on Saturday mornings), Dr. Robotnik'snote  swat bots have this appearance.
  • Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in SpongeBob SquarePants; lampshaded by Mermaid Man himself in one episode where he explains the power of the hero is "in the costume", or what he refers to as "colored undies".
  • Parodied with Mysterion (Kenny's superhero persona) in South Park, who wears a regular pair of underwear over his superhero outfit.
  • Super Why! has the title protagonist.
  • Fan Boy And Chum Chum: The boys wear superhero costumes that include tighty-whitey briefs on the outside. They always dress like this, even in public.
  • Harley Quinn (2019): Just like in the original cartoon, Condiment King wears an actual pair of white briefs over his poorly designed costume, which only serve to make him look even more ridiculous than he already would.

    Real Life 
  • Some Truth in Television, depending on the sport (and country), this is the way girls (and sometimes boys) sports teams' uniforms are. Evident in many Anime and Manga, where any time a girls sports team shows up you can expect them to be dressed in shirt and bloomers.
    • In Japan this has become a sort of Undead Horse Trope as women's rights groups denounced bloomers as sexual harassment. For this reason, there are no schools left in Japan that use them. It still appears in Anime and Manga because of the generation gap between writers and reality. In some anime like Lucky Star the writers have Shown Their Work and the girls wear shorts, but most still live in the past.
  • More Truth in Television: From the 1920s into the 1960s, trunks over tights were the preferred garb for highly masculine circus acrobats, wrestlers, gymnasts, and even professional boxers in some cases. Because tights were considered "too revealing" at the time, men covered their lower body with formfitting but loose trunks (that may look like underwear briefs or speedos to modern eyes but were actually baggier). A person has only to look at men's swimsuits in the days before speedos to understand this notion.
    • Another major reason (also having to do with modesty) was that stretchy materials like spandex did not exist at that time. The feats performed by athletes and strongmen caused a lot of stress on the existing fabrics and had a high chance of tearing their costumes. So, to avert a rather embarrassing Wardrobe Malfunction, they took to wearing an extra pair of shorts or briefs on top of the costume. This way, even if the costume ripped, everything "important" was still covered.
    • Batman and Superman were created right in the middle of this period, hence their "undies on the outside".
  • Basketball uniforms, up until about the late-1980s/early-to-mid-1990s usually consisted of fairly tight sleeveless shirts and short shorts. Those uniforms were more durable versions of what a man would have worn underneath formal wear to protect Sunday Best outfits from sweat stains. For a time (mostly during the 1970s) players were encouraged to wear cotton socks which extended almost to their knees so that they could dry their hands during stoppages of play because the early polyester uniforms (which were lighter, more durable, and easier to clean than previous ones) did not carry away sweat as well as their cotton predecessors.
  • Speedos/swim briefs are the standard outfit for male competitive diving and water polo athletes instead of jammers or legskins. This is due to the both sports requires more full range motion (legs movement are particularly important) compared to the standard swimming.