"Waiting to put on a black shirt.
—Pink Floyd, "Waiting for the Worms"
Black Shirts are closet Evil Minions yearning for the day the villain brings about his Empire of Evil. In the meantime, they'll complain about the current "decadent and corrupt" government to anyone who won't roll their eyes. Once the villain starts recruiting, these guys are in line before Les Collaborateurs have finished breakfast.
The threat that Black Shirts represent is a latent one. While they're harmless on their own or in peacetime, they quickly organize into a formidable force in service of the Big Bad. Heroes are nominally obliged not to kill them, but even The Messiah would be hard pressed to make them do a turn to the side of good. What's more, they completely agree with the Evil Overlord's agenda, no matter how cruel, inhuman or insane—even if it means that they'll end up Dying Like Animals themselves by its conclusion (a fact they usually ignore). While Les Collaborateurs are greedy enough that they can be bribed into helping the good guys, Black Shirts do it for fanaticism and can't be swayed by mere money. Against them, only force will ultimately stop them and you'll know they'll show no mercy in a heartbeat if they think they can get away with it, so get ready to get tough with them.
Authors with an agenda will often make them into a Strawman Political for whatever ideology they dislike, and top it off by having them led by a Straw Hypocrite. Some character types like the Alpha Bitch or the Jerk Jock can become Black Shirts when presented with the right opportunity.
Named after the uniform worn by the Italian fascists and by their ineffectual British imitators. The Nazis did the same thing with brown shirts, and one American fascist movement wore silver shirts. Needless to say, this trope is Truth in Television, since every evil ideology has always had followers.
Anime and Manga
- Interestingly enough, MAR manages to pull this one off with a nice Heel Face Turn at the end of it. Ash has actually joined the Chess Pieces to protect the children he loves and despite Ginta telling him that Phantom just wants to kill everyone, he knows this and it isn't until his strongest ARMs are overpowered and defeated that he finally admits defeat and completes the turn. Letting Ginta know that he's leaving it in the boy's capable hands to protect the kids in his place.
- In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the corrupt administration in The Federation has its own black shirts.
- The cult of Kira in Death Note.
- Large swaths of the Marvel Universe's general populace. It is surprising when we see Muggles actually side with mutants and the like....
- Pro-Nazi Bunds were a common foe of the Justice Society of America in The Golden Age of Comic Books.
- In Superman: Birthright, Superman's first foes are Black Shirts working for Luthor, who truly believe Luthor's theory that Superman is an evil alien invader.
- A good version is seen in Planet Hulk, where the Imperial resistance's morale is bolstered when rumors surface of a mysterious green Goliath who put a scar on the Red King's face the first time he entered the ring as a gladiator. The captions put it best, describing how they don't know their peoples' warrior history because those days are long gone, that their fighting streak ended with their fathers' fathers. They don't know how to fight, but all of a sudden... they do.
- Therefore Repent!: The Splitters who side with the psychopathic angels against La Résistance.
- Doc Savage takes on the Silver Shirt bundists in the first issue of Millennium Comics Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.
- Star Wars series: Anakin Skywalker. Likewise Stormtroopers follow this trope mostly (at least with the Clone Troopers), they only respond to the emperor and even those who oppose the Empire are only due to the fact their trainer cared for them so much and shown them their Proud Warrior Race Heritage to warrant such a situation. Some other Clone Troopers are disgusted by that though. This is lampshaded a bit in one of the Tag & Bink comics; a Stormtrooper goes on a little rant about how in a time of war and confusion, the Emperor brought forth peace, order, public safety, health care, and so on.
- Noah Vosen from The Bourne Series
- It Happened Here, set in a German-occupied Britain. It's implied Oswald Mosley is in charge, and the Immediate Action Organisation consists of former blackshirts (at least one of them complains about how the Germans keep "getting in the way" and not letting them run things); in fact actual British neo-Nazis were used for some of the scenes, which caused much controversy as they were allowed to openly express their views.
- Fight Club featured a group of black shirts calling themselves Project Mayhem.
- The Harry Potter series provides numerous examples:
- Filch readily welcomes Dolores Umbridge as Headmistress of Hogwarts during her Tyrant Takes the Helm arc because she gives him free rein in his sadistic disciplinary tactics—in fact, hers surpass his!
- The Malfoys and other Death Eaters readily lap up Voldemort's views and policies on all non pure-blood Wizards as being inferior, even though Voldemort's pretty contemptuous of all others himself. Voldemort is probably tailoring his message specifically to fit their prejudices.
- In several novels, small groups of aristocratic characters are portrayed as plotting against Lord Vetinari so that they can restore the monarchy with a puppet and make their interests policy, even though it's hinted this would be disastrous in the long run, which is why most city leaders are against the idea of a monarchy, even those from noble families such as the Rusts and Venturis who are critical of Vetinari personally.
- The Day Watch and the Palace Guard from Guards! Guards! and Men At Arms, contrasted with the more Jerk with a Heart of Gold-like Night Watch.
- It's debatable how black their shirts are; Lord Vetinari signs their paychecks as well as the Night Watch's after all. It's more that the viewpoint characters, viz. the Night Watch, have a reputation as sort of a joke, and it was only with the advent of Carrot that they tried to stop living up to it. Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke specifically, however, is very much this trope; he's very in favor of anything that allows him to behave like a pompous asshole, and Men At Arms states that he has a natural inclination to "pronounce the word 'negro' with two g's."
- PG Wodehouse created a rather merciless (and contemporary-to-the-original) savage parody of the Blackshirts—that, of course, being Sir Roderick Spode and his Blackshorts.
- From The Lord of the Rings: Bill Ferny, Harry Goatleaf, and the rest of the "ruffians" from Bree, plus the malcontent hobbit Ted Sandyman, who are more than happy to join Lotho Sackville-Baggins as hired thugs when he takes over the Shire with Saruman's help.
- Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here chronicles the rise of American fascism based on religious fundamentalists (duped, more or less), economic discontent, and hatred of Communists and socialists. President Buzz Windrip's supporters organize themselves into paramilitary Minute Men units complete with blue uniforms
- In S.M. Stirling's Terminator 2 series (on which no Terminator movies were based), "Luddite" environmental extremists work for SkyNet because wiping out humanity is a good thing. Even Skynet thinks they're crazy.
- Timeline-191: Being an Alternate History, Harry Turtledove's series features the SS-counterparts in the form of the Freedom Party Stalwarts. The series also mentions the Silver Shirts, who were organised by Oswald Mosley and Evil Churchill in 1920s Britain (which had lost the First World War).
- There were real-life Silver Shirts, too.
- Everworld: The Sennites. They have a certain gray-eyed witch in mind for the throne of Everworld, and if you get in the way, you'll eat lead.
- The Grey Stormtroopers from Hard to Be A God by Strugatsky Brothers.
- The various Kuinsits from The Chronoliths are just waiting for the day when prophecied world conqueror Kuin will arrive and lead them to victory. One of them, Adam Mills, serves as the de facto Big Bad in Kuin's absence.
- Babylon 5: The Night Watch appears to have been almost entirely composed of Black Shirts.
- The two V miniseries had a youth group that followed the Visitors and helped them in their "we're only taking over for your own good, really" approach to humanity. Loosely based on the Real Life Hitler Youth. There is such a group in the re-imagined series as well.
- One episode of Lois and Clark, "Super Mann", featured a group of deep-cover Nazis, who had created "all-American" cover personas as a footballer, a model and a country singer. The Daily Planet's new copyboy, in addition to being a rather bitter figure who even Jimmy thought was a bit of a dweeb, was a huge fan of theirs. When they revealed their true colours, of course, he was the first to get a black leather uniform and took over the Planet building.
- MAG-ISA -- The cult members wear black...
- Concerned: Gordon Frohman (not Freeman, common mistake) in the Half Life parody comic is the dumbest blackest Black Shirt imaginable. Though not malicious, he is a dim-witted thoroughly pro-Breen and anti-Freeman advocate, doing everything he can to stop the hero and his allies. Thankfully, he's more of a Spanner in the Works who inadvertently helps Freeman at Breen's expense (though he is at least responsible for transforming Ravenholm into the Zombie-infested hellhole it is). He buys into the flimsy propaganda and he can't tell how awful the Combine is, so much so that when he accidentally escapes to Ravenholm he misses living in the oppressive Dystopia so much he makes a spare parts Evil Tower of Ominousness and (inert) Strider.
- In Homestuck, Guy Fieri and Insane Clown Posse works for the Condense when she invades the Earth.
- Decades of Darkness: New England has a group of them. For fun, they're called Redshirts. An Anglo-Saxon revival group in Great Britain, in a Shout-Out to PG Wodehouse (see above) is called the Blackshorts.
- Chaos Timeline: The fascisti.
- Whateley Universe: Similar to that is the huge throng of people in the continuity who are supporters of "Humanity First!", an organization opposed to the mutant scourge. Of course, there are Black Shirt types on the other extreme, since there's an extreme mutant organization called "Evolution Rocks". Their most famous poster is of a hand-drawn superman-type dropping said rocks (the size of cars) on baselines below. Sort of polarizes the argument.
- Also note that it sounds exactly like "Humanity First", an anti-mutant hate group in Marvel Comics.
- It gets hilarious when one PC has information about both dropped on his doorstep. Also, in a possible subversion... Humanity first is right about mutants overcoming humankind. They're just wrong about it being violent. See the Braeburn Report.
- For those who don't want to: The current running theory listed in the Braeburn Report is that mutants are just going to out-breed humanity, which is why there are more female mutants than male, why mutants tend to be attractive, etc etc. There won't be a violent mutant uprising, there doesn't need to be -- in 5, 10, 15, 100, etc generations there will simply be more mutant children than normal human children.
- ReBoot: Megabyte's defeat by Matrix frees hundreds of Binomes whom he had infected and forced to be his slaves. However, in the film "My Two Bobs," we see a group of former Viral Binomes who actually liked serving Megabyte, since it gave them free rein to bully people. (Plus, it impressed the ladies.) These Black Shirts are reduced to being minor nuisances in the era of prosperity following Megabyte's defeat until said villain returns. They whip themselves into a fairly impressive fighting force despite their limited numbers and ultimately aid Megabyte in gaining control of the Core, which is unfortunately the cliffhanger the series ends on.
- Aside from the Trope Namer from Italy, the Nazis had the support of any number of Fascist groups across Europe, most of whom quickly became local Quislings after their countries were overrun. Many of the younger supporters went on to enlist in the Waffen SS, believing the Nazis were fighting to defend Europe against Communism. Ironically the British Union of Facists, the Black Shirts that actually did wear black shirts, were singularly ineffective, at one point being ambushed on a march by various of their opponents and beaten to a pulp.
- American Fascists actually had a sketchy plan to take over the United States in the 1930s (the Business Plot) and go into the war on the Axis/anticommunist side, which in Real Life never came anywhere near to succeeding or even getting off the ground; but in an Alternate History...
- In a deliberate parody of fascist paramilitary organizations, Doctor Steel's Army of Toy Soldiers (his fan club base) wear black uniforms.
- Before the Bosnian War, Serbian ultranationalists were just your run of the mill right-wing loons and hoods, then Milosevic and Karadzic came along to unite them. Suddenly thousands of elementary school dropouts, football hooligans and small time crooks found themselves as pillagers, death squad members and concentration camp guards. Suffice to say, what happened afterwards would make even the SS blush.