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).
For comedy, drama, Fanservice, or simply for their enemy to give them huge humiliation, 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.
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.
- The OVA series Arcade Gamer Fubuki, wherein the title character's literal Underwear of Power would give Fubuki mad gaming skillz (but only when she exposed them to the world at large)
- 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:
- Mazinger: Both the heroes of the trilogy and their robots (Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger and UFO Robo Grendizer), as well as the Fem Bots played this trope.
- Robot Romance Trilogy: Combattler V, Voltes V and Daimos wore "underwear" (Combattler and Voltes, dark blue; Daimos, red).
- Kotetsu Jeeg: It was greyish-blue.
- 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.
- In a direct reference to Hentai Kamen, the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Nano Fan Web Comic 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. Seems to be standard issue in Freeza's army.
- The card game Super Munchkin has one card named "Underwear on the outside", that gives a free level to its player.
- There's always the many examples in DC Comics, particularly Superman and Batman, who had the interesting (but hilarious) quirk of wearing them over their regular clothes. In addition, Wonder Woman originally had one of these, until she traded it in for a Leotard of Power. In any case, listing all of them is, in itself, a job for Superman.
- Superman's costume was based on one of the kinds worn by the "strongman" in traveling circus sideshows, and his popularity most likely spread the trope around.
- Robin (Dick Grayson) is a notable example, as him wearing this is one of the things that started all the Batman Ho Yay that the early Batman comics are ridiculed for.note
- 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 one of these in the New 52 reboot, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Everyone from The Incredibles count as examples of the underwear on the outside variety.note
- 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.
- The Battlizer from Power Rangers S.P.D. has a thong. Fan Nicknames are extensive.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Mega Man Battle Network incarnation of Roll also qualifies. Also a rare example of a female who gets a full-body suit for the Speedo to go over.
- 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.
- Dawn Star and one of the female player character models in Jade Empire don't exactly have pants...
- 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.
- Li Mei, Jade, Mileena and Goro from Mortal Kombat all have costumes with thongs or speedos (in Goro's case), though Mileena and Jade also have Leotard of Power alternate costumes as well.
- 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.
- King, a luchador from Tekken, can be customized to have these, although his usual costume has wrestling trunks over tights.
- The Magic Bikini in Dragon Quest III. In the GBC version, there's also a Sacred Bikini.
- And in Dragon Quest IX, now that legs are an equipment slot, there's a handful of underwear equipment choices for either gender.
- 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…)
- DeathSpank wears naught but armored boots and a purple thong (called the "Thong of Justice") on his lower body.
- In Scarlet Blade, underwear can increase your character's stats and, if you so desire, you can run around wearing just that.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pretty much every other superhero in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe wears Underwear of Power. Every other superheroine wears a Leotard of Power instead.
- 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.
- 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, "At least we don't wear our underpants on the outside!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. There are no schools left in Japan that use them for this reason. It still appears in Anime and Manga because of the generation gap between writers and reality. 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 underwear of power.
- 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.