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White Shirt of Death

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That'll be murder to wash out.

"Even though we are going to shatter thousands of lives, wearing white is gonna make the blood look so pretty."
Ladd Russo, Baccano!

Ever notice how much more dramatic blood looks on a white background? It follows that wearing a white shirt can be more hazardous than wearing a Red Shirt. The death of a white shirt wearer will be much bloodier than that of your traditional red shirt.

Also, in Korea, China and any Fantasy Counterpart Culture strongly influenced by the same, white is the traditional color for funeral dresses.

A quite literal interpretation of the trope existed in the Bulgarian army around the beginning of the 20th century as some common soldiers would keep a white shirt for last and put it on when defeat seemed imminent, in odd contrast to Bring My Red Jacket.

Compare Snow Means Death, which uses the color white to similar effect. See also Ethereal White Dress, for when the violent event is only implied or is part of a backstory, Villain in a White Suit, Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress, and Bedsheet Ghost. Contrast Bring My Red Jacket and White Is Pure.

Since this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers in the examples below!

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ceres, Celestial Legend, Chidori is wearing a white dress when she is fatally shot in the chest to protect Yuuhi. Later, Aya is wearing white clothes when she is stabbed by Aki, who is possessed by Shisou. She survives, along with Tooya's baby.
  • For the final arc of Code Geass, Emperor Lelouch wears a fancy white set of robe. In the very last episode, he is stabbed through the chest with a big honking sword, just as he planned. A lot of focus is put on the blood.
  • Inverted in Darker than Black. November 11 tends to wear a white suit, which usually remains spotless. The one time he wears a black suit, he gets killed.
  • Rei "Hana no Saint Juste" Asaka from the Dear Brother anime is all dressed up in white when she falls in the path of a train and to her death.
  • Solf J. Kimblee in Fullmetal Alchemist starts wearing an entirely white suit after being released from prison. His death? Having his jugular vein and possibly the carotid artery bitten off by a chimera, which Pride lampshades before eating him and gaining his alchemic power.
  • Hakuron from Haou Airen is shot to death while wearing a white suit.
  • Inuyasha often sustains his worst injuries when he's stripped down to his white undershirt, losing the protection of his armored kimono. The most notable example was during his fight with Goshinki, who predicted his every move, avoided his attacks, clawed his back open, and left him dying in a pool of his own blood. He got better.
  • In the anime of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Yoshikage Kira's business suit is white during the final battle with the heroes.
  • Nanoha's near-death incident that occurred sometime between the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS used both this trope and Snow Means Death to great effect, as her blood is shown splattered all over her white Barrier Jacket and the snow-covered field.
  • Subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Lacus's Body Double Meer Campbell is dressed in a gray outfit when she's killed in a Heroic Sacrifice, but her lifeless body gets a white gown put on her right before she's given a Burial in Space by Lacus, Athrun, Kira, and their friends.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • When Kenshin and Tomoe met in the manga and OAV, she was wearing a white kimono. He had just killed a man in front of her. She said "you make rain blood".
    • Tomoe was wearing the white kimono in her own death scene.
  • Invoked and (somewhat) Inverted in Tokyo Ghoul. During an internal monologue, Naki explains that the White Suits dress that way so that the blood spilled during a fight will show better. As the front-line fighters, the gang tends to suffer gruesome injuries and numerous deaths along the course of the series.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • Battler Ushiromiya combines white shirt with Bring My Red Jacket; his habitual outfit is a white suit with a red shirt. Although he doesn't tend to die in as many arcs as some of the other characters, his luck still sucks a lot.
    • Subverted, at the end of the series he is shown to be the only one besides Eva that survived Rokkenjima.
  • The Kurama vs. Karasu fight in YuYu Hakusho is definitely an example of this. Karasu's bombs eventually make Kurama bleed so much the entire front of his outfit and some of the back is dyed red.

    Fan Works 

  • Ladd Russo from Baccano! finds himself subject to this trope. He doesn't die per se, but he does get his ear clipped off and his left arm completely skinned to the bone. Notably, Ladd invoked the trope, explaining that he and his friends all wear white because he thinks blood spatters look best on white clothing. Of course, at the time, he probably didn't think it would be his blood... And then there is the Rail Tracer, whose white conductor uniform gets completely coated in the blood of his victims.
  • In the book Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Santiago Nasar decides to wear an unstarched white linen shirt and is murdered in a very bloody way that day.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Sleep of Reason, Fitz makes the questionable fashion choice of wearing white trousers. As a Genre Savvy character like himself should have expected, he ends up with a leg injury. It's not fatal and not even that bad, but it sure seems to bleed a lot:
    His trousers were blossoming from white to red.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter slices Draco Malfoy up like a Christmas ham in the bathroom and Draco nearly dies, but he gets better. His white shirt was covered in his blood.
  • Gretchen from Sean Phillips’ Sleeper wears white combat boots solely for the reason that she enjoys seeing them become covered in blood while she stomps her helpless victims to death.
  • The Stormlight Archive: At the end of Words of Radiance, Adolin Kholin finally decides he's had enough of Torol Sadeas' attempts to undermine Dalinar's plans and stabs him to death. During this scene, Adolin's narration notes that Sadeas is wearing a white outfit that does not suit his ruddy complexion.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy - Grand Admiral Thrawn. Crimson blossom of blood; spotless white uniform. Even his murder was stylish.
    " was so artistically done..."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Samantha Roth during Day 7. Also, later on in the same season, Erica.
    • Although he doesn't die for obvious reasons, after getting stabbed a couple times in the first episode of the sixth season Jack Bauer's white shirt is left completely blood-stained until he changes it in the following episode, not helped by it getting covered in even more blood when he bites out his would-be killer's throat.
    • In the first season, Jack gets Alexis Drazen's blood all over his white shirt as he desperately tries to keep him from bleeding out after he's unexpectedly stabbed in the gut.
  • The White Sheet of Death occurs in the Angel episode "Habeas Corpses" when a monster rampages through a skyscraper full of lawyers, killing everyone in sight. Whenever we see a corpse afterwards, they all seem to be clutching bloody paperwork.
  • In Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger Mikoto Nakadai AKA Abare Killer bleeds out in a white lab coat before riding on Top Galer who flies high enough to make sure the explosion from his Dino Minder won't kill anybody else.
  • As shown in a flashback during the finale of Being Human, Hal was wearing a white shirt when turned into a vampire.
  • In the Grand Finale of Blake's 7, we witness a scruffier and more cynical Blake who has apparently Took a Level in Jerkass. Yet he's wearing a white shirt under his vest, showing he's still on the side of the good guys. Unfortunately, this also foreshadows his Bloodier and Gorier death when Avon shoots Blake in the mistaken belief that he's turned traitor. As he had no intention of going back to the role the actor playing Blake wanted to make it perfectly clear that he had been Killed Off for Real, hence this trope.
  • Breaking Bad: Combo is wearing a white shirt and jacket when he is shot to death in "Mandala".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • A variation in "Seeing Red". When Tara gets shot her blood splatters onto the white shirt worn by Willow. For added effect, Tara doesn't even realize she was shot; her last words are a confused "Your shirt?" before she falls.
    • And in "Bargaining Part 1", Willow wears a white dress when she kills a fawn for its Blood Magic.
    • When Faith decides to turn Angel evil via a spell, she starts by throwing a jar of blood on his white singlet.
    • In "This Year's Girl", Faith has a dream in which she helps Buffy make the bed, then notices blood dripping onto the white sheet. She looks down and realises Buffy has just shoved a knife into her gut.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021)
  • Daredevil (2015)
    • When Frank Castle is sent to prison, he's made to wear white Institutional Apparel. This comes in handy for this trope during a particularly bloody Hallway Fight when Castle has to take on an entire cellblock.
    • When Wilson Fisk is released from the same prison, he starts wearing white three-piece suits, symbolizing his transformation into The Kingpin. In the climactic battle of the series finale, his white suit, the white wedding dress of the woman he just married, and the painting "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" which consists entirely of graduations of white, all get splattered with blood.
  • The Defenders (2017): Alexandra, leading Finger of the Hand, always wears white outfits. White is a color associated with death in some Asian cultures (K'un-L'un is in the Himalayas), and this is officially emphasized as white is the color she's wearing when Elektra kills her.
  • On Degrassi, JT is wearing a white shirt when he dies.
  • The promotional images and DVD boxsets of Dexter often depict Dexter in white, blood-splattered clothes standing in front of a white background.
  • In the unusually violent Tom Baker-era Doctor Who serial "The Deadly Assassin", the Doctor changes, for unclear in-universe reasons, from his usual layered multicoloured outfit into a much more minimalistic outfit consisting of slim trousers and a billowing, flimsy white poet shirt. The shirt spends the entire third part of the episode serving as a canvas for as much blood, filth, and Clothing Damage as they could get away with on a children's show (as it turns out, they couldn't get away with it - the producer lost his job over the level of violence in this story).
  • Forever Knight. The Reveal that vampire Janette has become human is when she's shot while wearing a white sweater.
  • Game of Thrones: When she finally appears in flashbacks, Lyanna Stark wears a white negligee drenched in blood because she was dying of postpartum hemorrhage.
  • Goodbye My Princess:
    • Cheng Yin wears a mostly white outfit when he and Cheng Ji are attacked. It very quickly gets splashed with blood. Subverted since he doesn't die, but almost everyone with him does.
    • Xiao Feng commits suicide while wearing a white dress.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • In "The Even Chance", when Clayton and Simpson duel to the death with pistols, they both take off their uniforms and both wear white shirts. The place is also covered in snow. Both are wounded, one of them fatally.
    • In "Retribution", Archie Kennedy hides his wound under his uniform. Horatio rips it open and sees the blood all over his belly.
  • The lawnmower incident on Mad Men.
  • Peaky Blinders. Combined with Gory Discretion Shot when Thomas Shelby shoots a member of the Mafia who's on the other side of a white bedsheet that's been hung up on a balcony to dry.
  • Miss Parker in The Pretender is wearing a bright white ensemble when she jumps in front of a bullet aimed at her father. She gets better.
  • The Professionals
    • In 'Weekend in the Country' Doyle's white shirt is splattered with blood while he does basic first aid on the leader of the gang that is holding them hostage.
    • In 'Discovered in a Graveyard' Doyle is wearing a white shirt and jacket when he is shot. Most of his flat (including the carpet he is found on) is in shades of white or grey.
    • Invoked in "Look After Annie" when Annie Irvine insists she only have red and white roses displayed, to symbolise the blood she shed during a failed assassination attempt, where she was wearing a white dress (though the actual scene has Bloodless Carnage).
  • The Punisher (2017). Agent Madani is wearing a white blouse when she's attacked by Billy Russo in the final episode. She wakes up covered in his blood from when she shot him and makes a point of showing the bloodstained blouse to Billy's girlfriend while gloating that he's bleeding to death and won't survive for long.
  • Reacher. In episode 7 a team of assassins—wearing forensic suits to avoid leaving trace evidence—come after the title character. They leave this trope instead, seeing as the suits and gloves are a pristine white color that shows up in the dark.
  • In the Revenge finale, Victoria Grayson is seen wearing a white dress when Emily confronts her for the final time, fully intent on finally killing her for all the trouble she has caused. That is, until the latter's dad steps in to do the deed to take the heat off her.
  • Raised by Wolves (2020). Mother in her Necromancer mode gets on board a Mithraic spacecraft and proceeds to splatter the crew across the pristine white bulkheads with her sonic scream.
  • Rome: The assassination of Julius Caesar on the Senate floor, thanks to the white togas everyone is wearing. Marc Antony later uses this to advantage (offscreen) by displaying Caesar's bloodstained cloak to incite public furor against his killers.
  • Shadow and Bone. In the second episode, the survivor of an ambush gallops back to the army camp on a bloodstained White Stallion.
  • Jonathan on Smallville.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), the woman in white's blouse has more bloodstains each time she appears until her garments are soaked in blood.
    • In "Hollywood Babylon" a Victim of the Week is dragged into a Deadly Rotary Fan, spraying blood over a white reflector board used for the camera lights.
    • Played for Black Comedy in "Weekend at Bobby's". A neighbour of Bobby's who's expressed some romantic interest changes her mind when he shoves a vampire into her wood chipper, splattering her white nightie with the subsequent mess.
  • Titans (2018):
    • The girl of the Nuclear Family pouts that she's got a few spots of blood on her white blouse after leaving a building where she's just helped torture (and likely kill) someone for information.
    • When Dr. Light escapes from prison, there's a prominent shot of a glowing white ceiling light that's been splattered with blood in the otherwise dark prison corridor.
  • Subverted on the first episode of True Blood. As revealed in the commentary, during the filming of the teaser, they deliberately dressed the female redneck in a bright, white shirt to make Genre Savvy viewers look forward to her being splattered with blood when vampires are revealed. She isn't.
  • Westworld. The white clothing version happens in several episodes, and the first episode has Maeve shooting a man in the face with his blood splattering over the white reel of punched paper on the self-playing piano which then starts playing.
  • The X-Files has a couple:
    • There's the episode where the ghosts make Scully and Mulder think they shot each other, only for the blood to disappear as soon as they leave the haunted mansion. Both wear white t-shirts.
    • Mr. X, although, in an unusual variation, it's a white shirt with pinstripes.
    • Scully is shot in "Tithonus" and bleeds on her white top. Ironically it's implied she avoids Death, possibly forever.
    • Scully wears a snow-white blouse when a psycho writer and serial killer who's in love with her tries to rip her heart out with his bare hands.

  • Uhm, does "White Shirt" by The Charlatans (as in "She laughed and then she died") possibly refer to this trope?

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Hēibái Wúcháng ("Black and White Impermanence"), a duo of Shinigami in Chinese Taoist mythos. As the name implies, one of them (also known as "Xiè Bì'ān", "General Xiè", "Old Man Seven", etc. depending on variation) dresses in white robes.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Downplayed example. Jim Cornette was once attacked by Paul E. Dangerously while wearing a white suit, which was soaked in Cornette's blood. Cornette purposely wore a white suit to make the blood stand out more.

  • Double Subverted in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, in which Mad Padraic wears a wife-beater when he gets down to torturing, and it gets covered with other people's blood. Until he gets killed, messily.
  • In an extension, after each character dies in the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, they're outfitted with a red-streaked white shirt for the rest of the show (since they still need to be on-stage as the chorus or to play instruments or whatever, depending on staging). In one production, the dead characters put white makeup on and powdered their hair white/grey, and spent the rest of the show as ghosts.
  • The titular Elisabeth is dressed in a pristine white dress after she's stabbed to death by Lucheni, in her reunion with the Grim Reaper. It's also the same white nightgown she wears as a young woman for her "I Want" Song, "Ich gehör nur mir" (I Only Belong to Myself).

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy XV Lunafreya wears a white dress throughout the story. She's stabbed by Ardyn at the end of Chapter 9.
  • Ghost Trick: Partially subverted. Cabanela does die (though you get to fix it), but his coat remains unstained. He just falls over.
  • Every standard headcrab zombie in Half-Life 2 wears a very blood-covered white shirt. This was lampshaded in the parody comic Concerned: Frohman becomes a zombie and laments that "He had to be wearing white" at the time (referencing both the zombies' bloody white shirts and the fact that he had started to adjust to life in Ravenholm).
  • Hitman 2: Silent Assassin makes good use of this, cutting to a white screen whenever you die that really highlights your character's blood pooling around his body. In addition, there's the funeral shootout at the very end of Hitman: Blood Money.
  • Kaede Smith in Killer7 always wears a white dress with a big red blood splat on it. Especially fitting, given that the bloodstains match the bullet wounds that ended her previous life.
    • Whenever you die in Killer7, you get a shot of your character's severed head on a completely white background exploding into a smear of blood. There's a lot of blood in Killer7. The blood smear when you die in Killer7 is shaped like a screaming skull.
  • All six of the Handmaidens in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords wear white jumpsuits or grey robes. Every appearance of the five who stick with their white jumpsuits fighting ends with them getting their asses handed to them.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid you fight against Sniper Wolf two times. The second time is in the middle of a snowstorm, so she's obviously wearing a white camouflage anorak.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the most dramatic battle takes place in a field of white flowers against a blonde opponent in a white battle suit.
  • Played straight and averted in Ōkami, where heroine Amaterasu and her past self, Shiranui, are white wolves. At one point, one of them is fatally injured and shown bleeding profusely, while the other never shows a scratch no matter how much damage she takes.
  • Shiromujō and Shirodōji in Onmyōji (2016), who are death gods and based on the White Impermanence in the Myths folder above.
  • This happens to The Girl in White in The Path; one of the only splotches of blood in an otherwise bloodless game: After all six sisters have been taken by their respective wolves, The Girl in White goes to see Grandma... and returns with her dress stained with what probably isn't her blood.
  • It's not your death in Sleeping Dogs, but you get to keep the all-white suit covered in blood from the hit at Winston's wedding.
  • The final battle of Stranglehold has Mr. James Wong, like most of John Woo's villains, wearing white. Though he gets shot up plenty, he is finally brought down by Teko, who sends him off a balcony as he's preparing to finish off her father.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, three of the cast members are white doves. During BBL, one is stabbed. Character's images don't really change in this dating game unless the characters are clothed, but an exception is made here.


    Real Life 
  • Briefly mentioned in the Seppuku article: the Samurai would wear a white kimono for ritual suicide.
  • Junior officers in the French Army in 1914 thought it chic to die in white gloves, perhaps so they could press their hand to the fatal wound and remove it dramatically. The French Army was...slightly crazy at this point in time, with a very Napoleonic and romantic attitude to the way modern war should be waged, and it paid accordingly.
  • The Flag of Austria has been said to symbolize the duke of Babenberg's white surcoat getting soaked in blood in a battle. Only the portion of the surcoat which was tucked under his belt remained white.
    • The Austrian army during the Musketry Era wore white. Historians are divided as to whether this trope caused any handicap. The pragmatically-minded British, on the other hand, wore red for precisely this reason.
    • Other armies of that era also wore white, e. g. those of pre-Revolutionary France, Saxony, and Spain.
    • Which is a fun myth, but sadly, only a myth - even a cursory experience would cause one to realize blood still darkens and dyes red cloth of that hue. In truth, red dye from madder was just cheaper for the British to produce, and officers enjoyed the scarcity, expense, and thus prestige of brighter cochineal.
  • Supposedly invoked by the family of assassinated Filipino senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. (after he was gunned down by soldiers while descending from the Manila International Airport). They (most notably his own mother) decided to not embalm his corpse and show him with his blood-stained, all-white outfit in full view.