10 TV characters who never change their clothes (and why)
They’re like stealthy members of a secret organization: The League of Eternal Outfits. These 10 TV characters stroll through their virtual lives year after year wearing the same clothes, and we often don’t even notice. We’re not talking about merely having a distinctive look, but literally wearing the same clothing week after week with only minor variations. Here’s a list of the best examples I could find on current shows, from Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (so no Lost or Gilligan’s Island). I also did some digging as to why each character’s look hasn’t evolved — and the reasons are pretty revealing. Let’s start with…
Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow
He awoke from a 200-year nap and his colonial threads still fit great. But fans are already asking if Ichabod is ever going to change into something a bit more 21st century — or even 19th century. Ichabod is impressed by donuts and hair dryers, why not blow his mind with a pair of comfy Lucky Brand jeans? Executive producer Alex Kurtzman tells us Crane will indeed keep his outfit as a reminder to the audience that he’s a man displaced in time. “It’s like his security blanket,” Kurtzman says. “He can never feel comfortable in our world. The minute he gets comfortable, the show is over.” Next: A CBS detective who has worn the same suit for five years…
Realism Ranking: 2 out of 5
Patrick Jane on The Mentalist
Serial killer Red John’s most evil act? Convincing Patrick Jane he can never wear a T-shirt. Creator Bruno Heller once told me that Jane is so haunted by the death of his wife and daughter that he remains stuck in that moment and therefore keeps wearing the same suit from his psychic-charlatan days (there are actually two that look similar; both shades of blue, bringing out Simon Baker’s eyes). The suits are also intended to suggest a magician, with little pockets to hide things. Feel free to credit (or blame) Jane for helping spur the hipster men’s vest trend a couple years back.
Realism Ranking: 3 out of 5
Arya Stark on Game of Thrones
The other main characters in Westeros have had opportunities to evolve their look at some point. But Arya has worn the same tunic and pants since the beginning of season 1 (though she has vest-like outer-garments that change). Given her personality and hellish storyline, viewers accept that Arya hasn’t had the desire and opportunity to get a makeover. There is a bit of trickery going on, however, since 16-year-old Maisie Williams has grown since the show launched. Williams tells us the Thrones’ wardrobe department just keeps sneakily making the same costume bigger.
Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead (kind of)
Characters on AMC’s zombie drama have uniquely specific outfits, but do evolve if they survive long enough. For instance, Dale wore that sweaty undershirt and floppy hat for his two seasons, yet Daryl got a new black shirt for the season 4 premiere (and briefly had a poncho period that is best forgotten). “It’s all about priorities in our apocalyptic world; changing clothing is not the main focus,” costume designer Eulyn Womble tells us. “There are signature pieces attached to each character — e.g. Daryl’s vest — that’s for the comic book feel and the action figure. They grab pieces along the way.” Rick may be the most consistent, having gone from a khaki sheriff’s deputy shirt to his current long-sleeve version that still evokes his former profession (with at least one dark shirt detour in season 2). Still, since zombies aren’t eating clothing and there’s so much gory slaughter, it’s a tad weird some of these heroes don’t more frequently grab fresh-looking clothes from stores or houses. You’re never going to repopulate the planet reeking of zombie kill!
Agent Coulson on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Even when trekking through the jungle, Agent Coulson is still handsomely rocking his suit. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team leader is a government man and kind of uptight, so we can buy that. “No matter what the situation, Coulson feels most at ease when in his suit,” says showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. “He’s a company man who likes consistency and tradition. And as the series unfolds we’ll see more sides to him — including other shades of gray!”
Most of the Revolution cast
While apocalypse drama Revolution was slammed for its costumes looking too clean for the first few episodes, not changing clothes is arguably quite realistic here. The gang is wandering the country 15 years after electricity was cut off and there are no zombies to radically reduce the population. All the manufactured clothing has presumably been snatched up. So as showrunner Eric Kripke points out, every item must be either hand-made or scavenged from the fallen — and wouldn’t you rather have your own filthy clothes than something looted from a corpse?
Dexter Morgan in stalk/kill mode on Dexter
Dexter recently concluded but I wanted to include it because the more you think about this one, the more unbelievable it is. Dex always wore the same American Apparel army-green henley-style shirt when he stalked and killed his victims. This despite the lab-tech stabbing to death, dismembering and dumping more than 100 people. He apparently never once got a drop of incriminating blood on his shirt and had to ditch it. Or maybe his closet is stuffed with these shirts? The show’s costume designer explained Dex’s shirt and cargo pants are like his Batman-style super-hero costume, plus noted the henley shows off Michael C. Hall’s physique. BTW: You can actually still buy this shirt (for either your creepy bedroom fantasies or for your homemade re-shoot of the Dexter series finale into a more satisfying ending).
Jeff Probst on Survivor
Contestants, challenges and idols change; Jeff Probst’s blue safari shirt is forever. Probst varies his outfit slightly each episode, but not by much. “I’ve been wearing the same shorts for nine years,” the host noted in a 2009 interview. “These pants are six years old, that’s 12 seasons.” His shirts were previously Columbia brand and dyed various shades of blue or green (like fellow CBS star Simon Baker, the blue brings out his eyes). Nowadays, the shirts are custom made, and not getting voted off anytime soon.
The Doctor has a major makeover every time a new actor steps into the role. But during each Doctor’s tenure, they will only have minor outfit variations. Executive producer Steven Moffat says when he took over the show in 2008, he was determined to make new time lord Matt Smith’s wardrobe more varied. Then he changed his mind. Moffat’s reasoning could apply to just about every character on this list and is an excellent explanation as to why any producer opts to keep a character looking the same each week: “You find a look that makes that actor feel like the Doctor and you sort of cling to it,” Moffat says. “You cling to it probably slightly childishly. And you don’t vary it. You have a magic moment where having had this young Matt Smith try on lots of costumes suddenly the Doctor’s looking back at you. And you sort of think, ‘That’s what he’d wear.’ And you don’t quite believe anything else.”
Realism: Hard to say? It’s magic!
Pretty much every animated character ever
It’s actually hard to think of one example of an animated character whose regular clothing has evolved (aside from a costume change that’s required for an episode’s storyline). I found some niche examples online like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and LaBarbara on Futurama, along with some lesser-known shows. Since there’s no actual body under the clothes, an animated character IS the costume. More practically, it’s easier on the animators to stay consistent. And since animated characters don’t age so there’s no pressure to make changes that reflect the passage of time. As Lisa Simpson once put it: “I feel like I’ve been wearing this same red dress forever!”
There are probably more so shout them out in the comments below. Also, one more thought: There is an opposite trope to The League of Eternal Outfits that may be even more common: The Alliance of Unlimited Wardrobes — characters who never wear the same outfit twice.