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Off My Mind: Why Do Heroes Wear Their Underwear On The Outside?

Is there really a purpose to this look?

A superhero's costume is something they must give a lot of thought to. Besides coming up with a really cool name, a their costume is what will define them. Along with having superpowers, you have to admit it must take some superguts to wear the skin tight spandex-type suits that most heroes wear. The biggest question I have is why do some heroes appear to be wearing their underwear on the outside?

Maybe they're not really wearing their underwear on the outside but what's with the costumes of characters like Superman, Batman, or Wolverine? I don't understand what the point of wearing underwear or shorts over their spandex is. The shorts don't contain any pockets so it's not like they're keeping their house keys or cell phones inside. Some heroes, like Batman, have sophisticated utility belts that allow them to keep their gadgets safe and accessible. Is the purpose of the shorts to keep their private bits a little warmer?

I know if they didn't have the shorts, their costumes would look weird but I wonder if that's just because we're so used to seeing them being worn. There was a time when Batman redesigned his costume and it didn't have the shorts. I suppose that simply didn't work for him as he went back to wearing them. What makes this even odder is when you have characters like Captain America or Daredevil who wear shorts that are the exact same color as their...leggings. Speaking of Captain America, when Bucky started wearing the redesigned costume, you'll notice he's not wearing the shorts.

Maybe I've just been missing something all these years. I just don't understand if there is a true purpose to this look or if it's just a traditional thing. The thought of wearing speedos over full length pants just seems like an odd thing. I've seen runners wearing full length spandex with looser shorts on top but I don't think I've actually seen someone wearing their underoos on the outside. Is this look just something we have to accept? Is it too late for Superman to stop wearing the shorts? Is there actually a purpose to them that I'm just missing?
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Edited by themaskedhero

Reminds of Quailman. But in all seriousness, I would imagine it all has to start with the fact that in the 1930's when Batman and Superman were created they didn't think that kind of look was going to catch on, or the entire Super Hero thing in general. 

Posted by blaakmawf

I think it's pretty obvious: they are all trying to emulate Quail Man. 

Posted by EdwardWindsor

perhaps you shoudl try the look for yourself around the office see if it inspires or in empowers you lol

Posted by IronSpidy-Rooney

I think it makes a statement saying that if this guy has the balls to do this you don't want to mess with him

Posted by mimschkin

Added support?
 
I'm going with the design theory though. I guess the person who designed the early characters was drawing and just thought it looked a bit plain without. It just divides up the space a bit, you know.

Posted by Lady Tlieso

Maybe they were them on the outside to help keep their pants/tights up.

Posted by Son_of_Magnus

Sex appeal

Posted by Precise

It emphasizes certain.... 'aspects' of the character that intimidate male opponents and enchant female opponents?

Posted by Lady Tlieso
@Precise: lol
Posted by doordoor123

I wonder what the person who created superman was thinking.

Posted by Precise
@Lady Tlieso: I thought it sounded plausible :p
Edited by Storm Rider

The real reason? Superman, the original costumed hero, was designed to have the sleek look of the circus acrboats and wrestlers of the era. They wore the trunks over tights, the creators thought it was a good look to give him, and the costumed hero was born. All who came along after set out to emulate Superman, and the rest is history.
 
A lot of wrestlers wear them like that to this day. Some of it is for support, some like the look because it emulates the classic superheroes (who were, in turn, emulating the original wrestlers, thus completing the cycle).

Posted by Odyssey_Dawn

In my opinion there is no (or never was) a "functional use" I speculate that it was originally about separating what normal everyday people wear, from what Superheroes wear. The shorts/underwear on the outside, the tights, the emblem, boots, unorthodox gloves with spikey things on em. Seems like its just part of the whole Exaggerated theme that goes hand in hand with comicbook characters. I guess back in the day the creators needed as many identifiable themes as they could come up with. Think about black and white t.v. Without the cape and the shorts on the outside Superman would just look like a dude with an S on his chest. 
 
Remember the original Robin? He only had the shorts, I always hated that look. And then Aquaman only had the tights, something was still off. Today comicbook characters can get away with wearing everyday clothes. But I think back then a costume had to be so outrages that putting shorts on the outside of the tights just seemed to fit. I dont know, I kinda wish I could walk around with my underwear on the outside of my pants :D

Moderator
Posted by Captain13

I think it's to break up the color of the costume so that one color doesn't dominate that much. Or it's to keep them from looking like they have a unitard.

Edited by FoxxFireArt

Don't judge super heroes for wearing skin tight clothes. If you had pecks and abs like that. You would too. Though, as far as I know you are that ripped. =P
 
Mayhaps, if they wore it on the inside while they battle evil it would get filled with sweat and smell all ripe. That or they just want to avoid the villains making fun of them by saying they all wear Onesies. Another question. Do they wear boxers or briefs under the leotard part that has the underwear over that?
 
It could also be something similar as to what we would see in the 80's. When women would do aerobics, wearing a leotard; but for some reason would wear a belt. What was it holding up?

Posted by joshmightbe

its not fair superman does it fine i do it and im a weirdo
Posted by Odyssey_Dawn
@joshmightbe said:
" its not fair superman does it fine i do it and im a weirdo "
Yeah but Superman's are clean ;P
Moderator
Posted by joshmightbe
@Gambler:
no his cape just covers his skid marks
Posted by Son_of_Magnus

 If I were a Superhero I would dress like Terry from Reno 911
Posted by Odyssey_Dawn
@joshmightbe:  Ha! Touche.
Moderator
Posted by Precise

But, even though he wears his undies on the outside, I still like his costume =)

Posted by kennybaese
@Storm Rider said:
" The real reason? Superman, the original costumed hero, was designed to have the sleek look of the circus acrboats and wrestlers of the era. They wore the trunks over tights, the creators thought it was a good look to give him, and the costumed hero was born. All who came along after set out to emulate Superman, and the rest is history.  A lot of wrestlers wear them like that to this day. Some of it is for support, some like the look because it emulates the classic superheroes (who were, in turn, emulating the original wrestlers, thus completing the cycle). "
This. 
 
And at this point it's pretty much become tradition. I do remember it bugged the crap out of me when I was a kid though. Mostly because my parents wouldn't let me go out in public with MY undies on the outside. 
Posted by Odyssey_Dawn
@Storm Rider:  Nice answer.
Moderator
Posted by Gylan Thomas
@Captain13 said:
" I think it's to break up the color of the costume so that one color doesn't dominate that much. Or it's to keep them from looking like they have a unitard. "
This guy's right. It's pretty much exactly what I was gonna say.
It started with Supes and Batman too so maybe the circus strong man thing? Carnivals and such were still pretty popular back then.
Posted by warlock360

Undies on the outside = Excellent conditions for backyard wrestling, yehaww Look mommy I'm superman!
 
Boosh

Posted by Golden Cod
@Storm Rider: 
 
Oooooh didn't know that.   Thanks for sharing :D
Posted by Superevil225

 @IronSpidy-Rooney said:

" I think it makes a statement saying that if this guy has the balls to do this you don't want to mess with him "

Agreed. XD
 
Also it may be like a Jock or something, in case (Insert villain name here) goes for a shot down low. I dunno. It could also be because it looks cool. Like if you take the undies away, Superman's costume looks really lame.
Posted by Divine_Monkey

I think of it as doing us all a favor. Have you ever seen a guy wearing skin tight spandex pants? (don't google it.) Just be glad they're wearing something over it.

Edited by Nerd Of A Hero

I've always wandered why a superhero like Superman or Batman would be wearing underwear outside of the spandex. It would look awful if they walked around without them...I think it's a fashion design that became a tradition, build an underwear that protect's there "balls" from dealy encounters(haha). Whatever the case, it's best to leave it alone. Otherwise, I'd prefer to have this:  
 

 
NOW THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. ANYONE AGREE ^-^
Posted by Lustwish

cause its comfortable, and superheroes dont need to worry if they shit their pants, and manage to keep a clean pair of underwear, didnt your mother ever tell you this?

Posted by WW-Fan

maybe beguse it looks good :)
Posted by goldenkey
@Nerd Of A Hero said:
"I've always wandered why a superhero like Superman or Batman would be wearing underwear outside of the spandex. It would look awful if they walked around without them...I think it's a fashion design that became a tradition, build an underwear that protect's there "balls" from dealy encounters(haha). Whatever the case, it's best to leave it alone. Otherwise, I'd prefer to have this:  
 

 
NOW THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. ANYONE AGREE ^-^ "

this is awsome
Posted by darkxman123

i can onley think of bats and supes

Posted by Crazy Pan
@darkxman123: Quailman :D
Posted by Theodore

I think it's to break up the color scheme.

Posted by Cherry Bomb

Why don't heroes where Boxers on the outside of their costume?  it would look better than Briefs. ¬_¬

Posted by mathematicscore
@Precise:
Actually, I think the reverse is true.  Most artists find nudes easier to draw more realistically than clothing, so the briefs were at first for purposes of modesty, in many opinions I've heard.  That said, you're correct that  sexuality and dominance are never far from the Superhero mileau (or most mileaus for that matter).
Posted by ThanosIsMad

Wolverine has had his costume redesigned to remove the underwear.  Only characters with that style now are in DC, namely Batman and Superman.  Both of those characters need a redesign to remove the underroos.  DC needs to browse Deviantart as several fans have come up with alternate costumes that keep the history of each character intact while simultaneously updating the suits.

Edited by mattydeNero

I can't believe I just read this article.  And now I am commenting.  Geez. 
 
First off, really?!  I don't even want to know if most people have actually looked at the  undies" over top of the tights and have spent a considerable amount of time questioning it.  Guys like Supes and Bats have been around since forever.  Back in the 40's, you think that anyone really cared about the undies?  And in the real world, if Supes and Bats were among us, would you walk up to them and ask why they dress the way they do?  Nope.  If so, you'd get a Batarang to the facehole.  You ever think they just want to show the ladies what they're working with?  Duh. :)
Posted by Icon
@ThanosIsMad said:

" Wolverine has had his costume redesigned to remove the underwear.  Only characters with that style now are in DC, namely Batman and Superman.  Both of those characters need a redesign to remove the underroos.  DC needs to browse Deviantart as several fans have come up with alternate costumes that keep the history of each character intact while simultaneously updating the suits. "

Agreed.  
 
  @IronSpidy-Rooney said: 
" I think it makes a statement saying that if this guy has the balls to do this you don't want to mess with him "
 
 lmao x]
Posted by Kamionero111

I figured its so u cant see the outline of their junk! If they had only the tights, u´d pobably be able to see all their stuff hanging out... the shorts over them hides their shame a little.
Now ther eal question is: Why do some like superman need a belt to keep them on???

Posted by ARMIV
@IronSpidy-Rooney said:
" I think it makes a statement saying that if this guy has the balls to do this you don't want to mess with him "
Ha-ha!
Posted by danhimself

I really don't have a problem with it....I would actually be upset if they changed their costumes....those ARE Superman and Batman's costumes...they're like the 2 most recognizable costumes of all time....plus remember the horror of Electric Superman and that costume change....there's nothing broken so don't try to fix it

Posted by ninjadude853

i'm fairly sure that its for the color contrast, just so one color doesn't dominate the whole thing

Posted by cascadeking09
@danhimself said:
" I really don't have a problem with it....I would actually be upset if they changed their costumes....those ARE Superman and Batman's costumes...they're like the 2 most recognizable costumes of all time....plus remember the horror of Electric Superman and that costume change....there's nothing broken so don't try to fix it "
i loved the electric superman costume.
Posted by TheMess1428

Some pro wrestlers actually dress like that too. I noticed before that Chris Jericho, Edge, and Christian used to wear spandex pants with spandex speedos over them. So if you really want to find out, ask them.

Posted by Decept-O

@G-Man:   While I do HATE the whole underwear on the outside costume scheme and it's GOTTA GO, artists from the Golden Age and into the Modern Age have based a lot of their designs on strongmen, wrestlers, and other athletes who wear trunks, leggings, and the like.    
 
It's an old affectation that must be thrown away and with a lot of the costume re-designs both in comics and movies let's hope this look will be a thing of the past.    
 

 
Edited by Blackestnight

I'll give you an actual answer. 
 The reason for outside underwear is because of what it came from. The first super heroes. Professional wrestlers. These guys wore the speedos for function. If you wear grabbale clothing to wrestle it turns into Judo.  The first big guys would have been shown like wrestlers wearing just the underwear and boots. Sometimes wrist tape which became bands or gloves.  
But back in the day comics strips only had about 9 colors. Flesh color was hard to make, it consisted of yellow dots on white.  Naked people looked strange and in the cities backgrounds were mostly light colors like yellow. They couldn't do the dark scenes we see in Batman and dare devil today. To contrast with the light back ground, and avoid the dotted flesh, you change a character's skin or dress them fully. But they still wanted the muscle. The solution is full body tights.  all one needs to do is draw five lines and color the body with a more contrasting color and problem solved.  No nipples, no body hair, none of those problems.

 The reason for the tights is to show off muscle. The reason to cover the whole body and the reason for capes was to make easier faster art. Capes hide odd angles make back shots easy, make a distant superman visible in the air and tights get rid of a need to draw leg hair etc. Blue also fits with city backgrounds. You won't have a blue building. If Superman is in the sky which was just left white most times, you could still outline him with is red cape. 
 
Others kept the underwear tradition because superman did it. He started it And it was what we were used to. Another reason is people are sketched that way. They don't draw the priavtes for obvious reasons. But the underwear look was fitting with the big man look from pro wrestlers who came from circuses.
 
A lot of athletes used the tight showy look we see, swimmers, acrobats, grapples etc and guys like Batman and Robin were all of these, agile as a trapeas performer, brutal as a wrestler, and so on. By the way the lack of color choice and inability to shade in the beginning is also the reason for the disproportionate number of red headed women. 
 
I actually saw a behind comics thing in Japan that addressed some of the same questions G-Man asked. I'll go dig up the video for a picture.

Posted by RonaldoMartinez

I don't care if it's traditional or iconic. I think it's time for Superman to change his costume. I suggested wearing a more stylish rendition of his classic costume and just get rid of the tights.
 
Simple, yet still faithful to the iconic look, see what happened to Wolverine in his current outfit?

Posted by Jotham

I've always thought it was similar to what Orwell said about goose-stepping. They're basically saying "Yes, I am ridiculous, and you daren't laugh at me."

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