Bling of War

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
The enemy will cower before General Ange d'Hautpoul's gold brocade!

Merrill: Your armor is very shiny, Sebastian. Doesn't that make you an easier target?
Sebastian: The Light of the Maker is my armor, Merrill. I am not afraid.

Merrill: Maybe you could ask Him to make His Light less shiny? Then you wouldn't need as much armor.

You've just entered your country's military force. And everyone seems to have great dress uniforms. Really fancy, with actual silk and gold.

What? Those are combat uniforms?

Yes, some fiction has characters wearing combat uniforms that are more appropriate for dress uniforms.

Okay, history does make this Truth in Television, like the Prussian military uniforms (and God help us all the WWI Minor Powers), but in combat it still counts as an Impractically Fancy Outfit. But they look nice, so artists love to use them whenever they can, especially in Anime, Manga, and Video Games. The design of the clothes determines if it falls into Impractically Fancy Outfit or Impossibly Cool Clothes.

In literary genres, where we do not actually get to look at them, these are generally the mark of aristocrats, the Miles Gloriosus, the Armchair Military, and the Glory Hound. On the other hand, the serious soldiers are more practical and drably dressed, and certainly regard looking splendid as a much lower priority. Only their dress uniforms embody the trope—if then.

Their personal weapons may or may not involve Bling Bling Bang. The hat is often a Commissar Cap. Officers and senior enlisted may carry some stick or baton indicating their rank, and expect their chests to be covered in various jangling medals. Futuristic settings can even have Powered Armor in this style.

This can overlap with Impossibly Tacky Clothes, when the work is making a Take That to this trope.

A Sub-Trope of Costume Porn.

Compare Ermine Cape Effect, Costume Porn, Pimped-Out Dress, Stylish Protection Gear, Highly-Conspicuous Uniform, Gold Makes Everything Shiny, Kicking Ass in All Her Finery.

See also Custom Uniform, Modest Royalty.

Examples of Bling of War include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Last Exile does reserve them for officers.
  • As just about all the Gundam shows.
    • There are even a few Humongous Mecha examples from Gundam, like Dozle Zabi's Zaku II or M'Quve's Gouf. Taken to an extreme with the Zabi Family Custom Big Zam, which is basically a Big Zam with the same gold etching as Dozle's Zaku.
      • However, it should be noted that these are not actual combat models but more of a ceremonial design. It also did not appear in any of the anime or manga, just All There in the Manual.
    • There is also the higher-ranking officers of "The Sleeves" that have the nice uniforms and rather decorative embellishments on their mobile suits, especially the Sinanju.
      • This is what you get if you have lots of gold but no one willing to sell you actual military supplies.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has the mobile armor Alvatore; its gold plating may be plain compared to the aforementioned designs from the other series, but it also has lavish pop-up window designs in its cockpit viewscreens! Also, it has been noted that the Alvatore's mobile suit component, the Alvaaron, has the Corner family crest on its chest. Strangely it does not show on any of its depictions.
  • The Black Order uniforms from D.Gray-man. Fanciness partially justified though, as the Exorcists intentionally make themselves targets.
  • The Britannian military in Code Geass probably counts -- Cornelia and the Knights of Rounds' uniforms in particular. To be fair, though, most of the time they fight inside mecha, and wear appropriate suits while doing so. Footsoldiers have appropriately helpful attire.
  • Haruhi and the SOS-Brigade wore those in the Deep-Immersion Gaming scenes of "Day Of Sagittarius". Fancy!
    • That's relatively tame for the high-ranked naval officers they were played as. On the other hand, it would still be more practical to wear a spacesuit, battle damage and all.
  • The Headliners of The Five Star Stories wear fairly elaborate costumes, unsurprising considering the manga is basically Mamoru Nagano's giant love letter to weaponized bling. No as crazy as some of the other examples, though as the Headdliners mainly serve as pilots for Humongous Mecha. The ordinary ground troops typically wear more sensible uniforms with design elements borrowed from recent real-life military gear.
    • In his and (of all people) Kunihiko Ikuhara's collaborative two-volume light novel Schell Bullet, however, his love of bling manifested itself rather more spectacularly (it helps when your co-author is also a fashion model). Junior Navy officers wearing capes as a part of an everyday uniform? Infantry grunts with an Italian Renaissance-inspired headgear? Quilted body armor? True, modern body armor has quilted layers, but they are usually concealed, as quilts present a weak points. Knee-high boots? Two-inch heels (for men, mind you)? What are you smoking, man, really?
  • Averted—barely—in Trinity Blood, by virtue of the fact that the members of the AX are not technically soldiers (although they are a paramilitary organization. Some of the female members of the team might better qualify as wearing Impractically Fancy Habits (see also Nuns Are Mikos and Girls with Guns).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, even the lowliest foot soldier apparently gets outfitted with one of those snazzy uniforms, and they're not just for show—in the 2003 anime adaptation, we see Amestris soldiers going into battle wearing them.
  • What about France from Axis Powers Hetalia? Even his own allies tell him "you're too flashy, moron!"
  • Apparently the guiding principle of The Empire in Legend of the Galactic Heroes; its highest-ranking admirals sport full capes (in unique colors!) and field marshals' batons.
    • Their insignia is literally embroidered on the uniforms. In real silver thread. It goes from rather simple patterns for junior officers to the ornate tapestries just short of the flak vest for admirals. You see, the Empire really dug that ceremony thing.
  • Just about every important military character in Glass Fleet, though Michel and Vetti's are the most noticeable. Justified in that Glass Fleet is the French Revolution in space!
  • Not exactly war, but Revolutionary Girl Utena clearly has this in mind with the duelist outfits. Hell, half of the time Anthy uses her powers is to add frills and tassels to Utena's Custom Uniform and just generally make her look more awesome.
  • In line with historical practice around the time of the French Revolution, Rose of Versailles features some fancy uniforms, especially on the lead character. Even the 'dregs of the army' (the French Guard, which Oscar commands at the end of the series) gets their share of bling.
  • Somewhat justified in One Piece. A lot of the really blinged out Marines in the series have Devil Fruit powers which turn both them and their clothes into some kind of element. The one that doesn't, Sengoku, drops the bling when using his powers.
  • Played both straight and subverted among the Time-Space Administration Bureau aces and specialists. While their personal Barrier Jacket occasionally has blings, frills or spikes, they also have modestly designed regular military uniforms.
  • Takuto from Star Driver really knows how to dress in combat, as demonstrated here. Please note, that's not an exaggeration, that's really what he wears during combat.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Squaring the Circle, the true story of the Polish uprising of the 1980s, had a Polish general trying on an ornate dress uniform and asking his secretary, "Do you think it looks too... South American?"
  • Most of the Star Trek: The Original Series movies featured a relatively restrained form of this, a tailored and padded maroon-and-black uniform with gold and silver insignia, adding up to a vaguely nineteenth-century look. Again, this wasn't handled too crazily—enlisted personnel wear an eminently functional jumpsuit, Starfleet is overwhelmingly a "naval" force, and the few times we see authorized ground combat, officers exchange the heavy, stiff jackets for a black sweater similar to some Real Life military cold-weather gear (specifically, the much-missed "wooly pully" of the British Army). In an amusing postscript, Star Trek: The Next Generation reveals that the "monster maroons" lasted for over seventy years, while most Starfleet uniform designs are only in service for ten to twenty. Perhaps they were good for pulling Green Skinned Space Babes?
    • TOS' dress uniforms are in the three primary colors but lavishly trimmed with gold braid and cute little triangular decoration ribbons for extra bling.
  • Parodied in the Three Stooges short "You Nazty Spy!" where Curly, playing Field Marshal Gallstone, is covered in medals, including one on the back of his pants.
  • Just before the Battle of Cowpens in The Patriot, the French Major Villeneuve puts on his elaborate white, sky blue and gold uniform (which we had never seen before). Benjamin Martin gives him a look, and Major Villeneuve says, "If I die, I will die well-dressed."
  • When making a movie based on historic events and faced with the choice of simple and somber or elaborate and flashy, movie directors tend to go for the latter. So if you watch a film set during the Napoleonic Wars, don't hold your breath waiting for French line dragoons or chasseurs à cheval to appear, even though these were by far the most numerous type of cavalry. Their relatively simple dark green uniforms simply were not as flashy as those of the cuirassiers with their shiny steel breastplates (see the illustration at the top) or the brightly-coloured, lace-covered jackets of many hussar regiments. Perhaps taken to an extreme in Sergey Bondarchuk's Waterloo (1970), where all French lancers are Polish Lancers of the Guard (actual strength in 1815: one squadron), the carabiners in their white and sky blue coats, brass breastplates and red-crested helmets (of whom there were merely two regiments in the entire French army) get quite a bit of screen time while the dark green dragoons, chasseurs and line lancers are nowhere to be seen. To top things off, the Prussian cavalrymen shown most prominently in Waterloo, the Leibhusaren (black jackets, white lacing, shakos with death's heads) were not even present at the real campaign and battle. The film also shows a sub-trope of this in that there are a lot more flags (colours, standards and guidons) in evidence than at the actual battle. For instance, in reality the Scots Greys did not have their guidon with them, and most of the Prussian infantry, being fairly newly raised, had not yet been issued with colours.
    • The trope image is of General Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul - who appears to always be well-dressed.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Song of Roland features golden armor, a trope as old as The Iliad. Where the Roland poet goes above and beyond, though, is when Moorish lords charge into battle in golden helmets encrusted in gems and decorated in flowers, both of which go rolling to the ground with each sword blow to the head. Roland also carries a gilded and bejeweled horn, Oliphant.
  • While more subdued and practical that most, Honor Harrington's Manticoran naval uniforms (especially officers' ones) still have more than enough gold braid, buttons and other bling for others to comment on in the books themselves. Havenites' uniforms were (in contrast to Manticoran black and gold), rather nondescript grey, and those of Grayson were copies of modern US Air Force blues. None of these, however, are worn in an actual combat situation outside of unforseen events, with the standard uniform being skinsuits.
  • In Going Under, the third book of Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity series, the protagonist Lila Black is given a set of tailored combat armor from a famous demonic fashion designer. The description in the book must be read to be believed, but it features every color in the rainbow, lots of intricate decorations, magical amulets covering every surface, and a stylishly form-fitting bodice.
  • While the majority of Imperial officer uniforms look like this guy, with a few more colors and some different rank cylinders, the Star Wars Expanded Universe introduced the Grand Admirals, whose gear is... a bit fancier. The most infamous of them, Thrawn, apparently preferred this uniform without the epaulets and fancy trim, at least when he wasn't in the Emperor's presence.
    • As of the X Wing Series, pilots endlessly complain about their dress uniform, which was designed without actually consulting said pilots. It's actually said to be fairly attractive, but the lack of decent pockets and the fact that it shows off any excess body weight—pilots being image-conscious—are detriments.
    • Darksaber featured one Imperial warlord who had so many medals (some likely concocted for prestige) that he cobbled them together into a makeshift dagger. He still died.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, the Dev Hetra, being New Meat and Blue Bloods, are very fancifully dressed. They in fact scorn Ludd because his clothing is rumpled after running over a battlefield to reach them.
    • Earlier in the series, contrasting the Ghosts' uniforms to those of aristocratic units always shows the Ghosts' as more subdued. (Better for subterfuge at any rate.) Conversely, one mark that they can integrate with the Belladon soldiers is that the Belladons take their advice about darkening their insignia so it doesn't show up on the battlefield.
    • Also, the first novel features a regiment with very shiny armor, that can be made unshiny when required.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Red Fury, when the Blood Angels and Flesh Tearers meet, one of the Blood Angels suspects that—with the Flesh Tearers' unadorned power armor and the gold filigree, rubies, votive chains and other adornment on the Blood Angels' -- the Flesh Tearers take them for peacocks.
  • The Inheritance Cycle has Fadawar, who wears golden armour, although this may simply be a ceremonial dress uniform (although, it says a lot for his strength that he can walk about in it).
  • Heavily averted in the Lensman novels. Most of the Galactic Patrol wears flashy dress uniforms, but the uniform of an Unattached Lensman is plain gray leather with no ornamentation at all.
  • Ras the Exhorter in Invisible Man applies this trope heavily after becoming Ras the Destroyer, though rather than using gold and such, he wears "the costume of an Abyssinian chieftain." The narrator mocks him for it, but at least the spear comes in handy.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, combat takes place in the normal spacesuit/armored suit, but the noncombat uniforms are impressive. Barrayar has "undress greens" (typical daily wear), "dress greens" (fancier, for formal occasions such as parties or weddings), and most formal of all, "parade red-and-blues" (for major governmental functions such as the Emperor's Birthday; high collar, tall boots, and two ceremonial swords). Plus, Vor are allowed to wear their medals with their House colors. In Memory, Miles Vorkosigan, off to talk to the Emperor, pulls out all of his medals and puts them on with his House colors, for effectively the first time. Even he hadn't realized what a collection he had.
    • The "House colors" are a riot. Sixty districts, each with a different pair of heraldic colors, and wearing them at major occasions. Vorkosigans are lucky, with a restrained brown and silver, and some (such as the Vorpatril blue and gold) are bona fide impressive, but some...

Kareen: "How do you think you'd look in a House cadet's uniform of chartreuse and scarlet, like poor Vorharopulos, Mark?"
Mark: "Like a traffic signal in boots."

  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Chessmen of Mars, Tara says of the warriors of Gathol, "You fight in platinum and diamonds?" and while Gahan of Gathol does his best, she is left less than impressed; he must disguise himself as a mercenary in plain clothing to win her favor. In fact, as he'd told her, Gatholians avert this trope, and the platinum and diamonds are only for non-combat wear. Not meant as a disguise, his plain outfit was just what a warrior of Gathol, even the highest-ranked, wears when he expects battle or other rough work.
  • Commander Vimes of Discworld fame hates this trope; he refers to it as "Gilt by association." The "traditional" uniforms for the Commander of the Watch and the Duke of Ankh-Morpork, His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes (Blackboard Monitor) are shiny and feathered and have tights—there is basically nothing in that description that he does not object to.
  • In Neil Rutledge's Warhammer 40,000 story Small Cog—played with, with enthusiasm. The forces were on a ceremonial duty when the attack came. On one hand, this let them get to their current position in time to defend. On the other hand, they were in ceremonial uniforms. The colonel is not pleased with the latter fact.
  • As a subversion, in David Gunn's The Aux series, uniforms in Sven's regiment get less bling as rank increases.
  • Subverted in the second book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, where Bartimaeus points out that "as a rough rule of thumb, the jazzier the uniform, the less powerful the army."
  • Also subverted in Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet. Both cadets and officers in the Patrol wear extremely plain uniforms. Heinlein briefly discusses the psychology behind plain and jazzy uniforms.
  • Wealthy knights in A Song of Ice and Fire love to wear extremely ornate armor, especially during jousts, but often into actual battle as well. Various knights wear gem-encrusted breastplates, laquered armor, cloth-of-gold capes, capes made of woven flowers, and so on and so forth. Even knights without money to burn will get themselves sculpted helmets—Sandor Clegane, for example, has a helm shaped like the head of a snarling dog.
    • When Jaime Lannister competes in tourneys, his armor is steel plate covered in gold from head to toe, and he carries a gilded sword. He also occasionally wears a golden helm shaped like a lion's head. This makes him one of the more subtle and understated knights in the novels.
      • His father, Lord Tywin, provides a good example of the other end of the scale; when riding into battle, he wears a greatcloak made of several layers of cloth-of-gold, large enough to entirely cover his horse's hindquarters and so heavy the breeze doesn't even stir it when the aforementioned horse is galloping. The weight of the cloak requires that it be held onto his shoulders by a pair of solid gold lionesses with rubies for eyes. His helmet is also gold, shaped like a lion—not a lion's head, an entire lion—again with ruby eyes. His armour is enamelled in red with elaborate gold inlay, gold rondels in the shape of sunbursts, and golden buckles, and all of his weapons have solid gold lions on the hilt. Although he explicitly leads his army from the back, so he doesn't expect to do any fighting.
    • Loras Tyrell wears armour covered in silver, filigreed with black vines and blue forget-me-nots made out of sapphires; he's also the owner of the aforementioned cape of flowers, specifically fresh forget-me-knots woven together and then sewn onto a woolen cape. His horse also gets a woven flower cape—red and white roses, which he hands out to pretty girls between jousts.
    • Renly Baratheon wears armour enamelled in forest green, and a green helm with two feet of solid gold antlers attached to it.
    • Rhaeger Targaryen went to war in black plate armour with a three-headed dragon made of rubies on his chest. When he died, a large number of the rubies fell into the river, and people have been scavenging for them ever since.
  • In the RCN Series, when Daniel Leary wears his Dress Whites with all decorations, including the gaudy ones from friendly foreign worlds, he comments that he feels like a clown. But it impresses pretty girls and civilians in general—as well as anyone who knows what he did to earn those awards.
  • Deconstructed in The Belgariad. Ce'Nedra leads an army into battle wearing a suit of armor made entirely of pure gold but knows exactly how impractical it is in an actual fight. She uses it entirely to serve as an inspirational figure to bolster the troops morale.
  • Also deconstructed in The Elenium by the same author. Martel, who has been The Dragon for the entire trilogy, gets a fancy suit of gold-embossed armor in the third book. In the penultimate battle, the weight of the armor slows him down, which gets him killed.
  • Subverted in The Castle of the Winds by Michael Scott Rohan. The magnificent armor Mastersmith Kunrad made is beautiful and sparkly, yes ... but that sparkling is because he lined the mail-rings with gemstone dust for lubricant purposes as well as coating them with a glossy enamel to shield against corrosion. Nothing about that armor is intended for ornamentation -- it just happens to be gorgeous anyway. And it's light in weight, but practically impenetrable.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Jaffa on Stargate SG-1. Lampshaded when an actor on Show Within a Show Wormhole Extreme asked why the good guys wore camouflage but the bad guys didn't. O'Neill's response: "Maybe that's why they're dead."
    • A few episodes later in the series, it was specifically noted that Jaffa weapons and armor are designed more for psychological intimidation than actual effectiveness, the better to cow primitive populations into accepting their new "gods". If you're trying to impress people, you don't want to hide your troops with camo...
    • Also worth noting is that their uniforms were armor effective against just about anything they'd face short of their own weapons (steel plates and chain mail will stop most bladed weapons that resisting peasants will have). When they first came to Earth in the pilot, small arms fire just bounced off—one Jaffa was killed, but that was after a considerable amount of gunfire. It wasn't until the SGC became a recognized defensive asset that needed better weapons and got them that the armor became obsolete.
      • Those were Serpent Guards, not Jaffa, those guys are elite troops and thus get the best armour.
  • The Centauri in Babylon 5: sort of Roman meets Napoleonic. Initially you think that those are just the palace guards, but then some guy on a covert mission to grab G'Kar shows up dressed like that...
    • In a later mission they wore obscuring robes to hide their identity. They were found out because they had the full uniform, including unit insignia, underneath.
    • The human officers on B5 have fancy grey dress uniforms with braid on the shoulders for ceremonial occasions, and boring blue-and-brown uniforms for everyday use. However, when B5 breaks away from Earth Alliance and Delenn produces spiffy new black uniforms for everybody, those uniforms appear to be used for both dress and combat... though, to be fair, it would be asking a lot of poor Delenn to supply two separate uniform designs on such short notice.
      • The separatist uniforms are an aversion, as they aren't inherently impractical for what the characters are doing.
    • Minbari have robes and carve their headbones according to a system of heraldry associated with their culture(which justifies Delenn's headbone looking like a circlet). Delenn has really fancy robes and being the proper Lady of War that she is, goes through Space Battles without causing a wrinkle.
  • Goldar and Scorpina of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wear gold-coloured plate mail.
  • In Game of Thrones, The King's Guard uniform is incredibly fancy, in striking contrast to the utilitarian armour worn by the Stark household guard. Lampshaded by Ned Stark, who comments dryly to a member of the King's Guard, "Very handsome armor. Not a scratch on it."
    • Ser Loras Tyrell has even more glorious armor, with small flowery patterns covering every inch of it.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Both played straight and subverted in Warhammer 40,000.
    • The Imperium of Man (or should I say PIMPerium) pretty much defines this trope. See for yourself: The God Emperor of Mankind, who might just as well be the avatar of Bling, his own Adeptus Custodes Terminators, and a Space Marine Venerable Dreadnought, which is basically enshrinement taken literally. The SpaceMarines and Grey Knights have all kind of skulls, eagles and junk on their Powered Armor. Supposedly, some of them are "blessed" to be useful. And the Chaos Space Marines seem to have a spike fetish, but they kinda use them, at least. Sanguinius excels all others in this respect as he is described in the Horus Heresy series, wearing his fancy armour with a web of jewelled chains on his head and wings.
        • At first glance, the model of Ultramarines Second Company Captain Cato Sicarius makes you think, "Wow, that's a lot of bling, looks pretty gaudy to me." Then you read his fluff, and you realize that he earned every single piece of that bling on the battlefield. Then suddenly his bling is less gaudy and more badass.
        • Parodied with Marneus Calgar of Ultramarines aka Papa Smurf, the biggest pimp in the galaxy as can be seen here.
    • With the Imperial Guard, it tends to be a mishmash. Take the Cadians for example. They wear practical body armour in camouflage colours, and tend to resemble contemporary soldiers. But they're quite likely to be fighting alongside a chap looking like this or this.
    • Done by the Mordian Iron Guard regiment, who wear fantastically gaudy dress uniforms into war. Many enemies have been fatally surprised to discover that the flashy uniforms are being worn by fiercely disciplined and competent soldiers. The concepts of coloured uniforms helping morale similar to their use in Napoleanic Warfare's smoky battlefields likely applies to the Mordians as well, amplified by them frequently fighting the bowel-voidingly disturbing forces of Chaos and how the side of the planet Mordia everyone lives on (the other side being burning and over-lit) is without sunlight.
    • It's not limited to armor either: Commissar Yarrick owns a pimped-up Baneblade called the Fortress of Arrogance.
    • Orks bling it up, too. It's just that instead of skull moldings and gold, they go for...skulls. And helmets. On sticks. As a way of honoring a worthy opponent.
      • Of course, defined by the Bad Moons clan, and the Flash Gitz in particular, who believe the richer and flashier they are, the more powerful they are. They even have their gretchin talk big about them just to make other, less fortunate orks jealous. Of course, instead of rising to any kind of position of power in their clans, they instead get booted out for being too self-absorbed in their wealth. They usually end up as mercenaries for various xenos species in the galaxy... or as Korsairs.
    • Eldar are mostly relatively restrained, just going for functional bling like magic gems that increase their magic power, but Eldrad goes a bit over the top.
    • All high level commanders in the 40k universe are guilty of this trope. This is made especially apparent in the Dawn of War series, particularly in Dark Crusade when your respective commander gains all of the available wargear. That's when they look REALLY fancy.
      • Except Tau, who are more pragmatic and whose commanders look little different from their other mecha, and the Tyranids, whose commanders' bling is Squick.
  • The Sun Armor artifact from GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy glows brightly, is made of orichalcum and decorated to look like a sunrise. But it's as functional as it is gaudy, the cosmic armor cannot be bypassed by anything short of a God.
  • In Exalted, If it is an Solar artifact, It will by blingy, From Power Armor and Weapons to Warstiders and the Solars themself.
  • Magic: The Gathering has the plane of Bant, where this is standard dress for soldiers. It's justified in that war in Bant is so heavily tied to a code of honour that no one uses ambushes or sneak attacks - Bant soldiers don't even wear armour on the back of their bodies because no one ever dares to sneak up on them from behind.
  • The Glitter Boys from Rifts have this for a practical reason: The ultra-bright mirror finish of their chrome-plated armour is an unmatched defence against laser weaponry.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • The better to go with all the Gorgeous Period Dress, some productions of Elisabeth have this for the male royalty. (Especially Takarazuka productions—Rudolf looks alarmingly like a Disney Prince. In a good way.)
  • In a similar gag to the Three Stooges one above, a production of The Pirates of Penzance had the Modern Major-General bragging about the medals on his chest: "Yes, I got these on the frontier. I had a couple on the back 'ere * indicates coattails* but they fell off."


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The formal SeeD uniforms in Final Fantasy VIII were decorated with brocade, the female version involves a rather impractical-looking skirt, and generally look like what would happen if a member of The Ginyu Force traded fashion tips with Hugo Boss. The student uniforms, on the other hand, are a practical-looking ensemble that can be best described as combat fatigues crossed with a Japanese school uniform. Of course, it's also worth noting that the uniforms are apparently only worn either on-campus or when necessary to "show the flag," and indeed the protagonists never wear the uniforms at all after two sequences in the beginning.
  • The enemy generals in the Akaneia and Jugdral series of Fire Emblem games often wear a long extravagant Black Badass Longcoat complete with a High Collar of Doom.
  • From the Custom Robo series, the A.I.R.S. robo. It's an Army-Issue Ray Sky model, whose specs and equipment have been drastically increased for military use. It is also gold-plated from head to toe.
    • Also, the aptly named Carat robo from Custom Robo Arena. It's an enhanced Little Sprinter model with military-grade specs and parts, but extremely gaudy and diamond-encrusted. Something of a subversion though, as it is a Rich Bitch's custom design for her personal use (see Screw the Rules, I Have Money).
  • The Nemesis Army in City of Heroes work for a 200-year-old Mad Scientist, and dress like they're about to fight Napoleon. With their blunderbuss-like (but very effective) rifles and bright-colored uniforms, the fans have nicknamed them "The Marching Band from Hell".
  • The Imperial Legion's armour in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. You really can understand why they tuned it down for Oblivion.
    • The scary part: that's the grunt's uniform. Higher ranking soldiers have an even fancier getup, while the leader wears the Lord's Mail, a rather tricked-out breastplate originally worn by a founder of the Empire, and wields a Flaming Sword.
    • Oblivion's Legionnaires are genuinely pretty subdued, but some of the city guard outfits are less so, like Bruma's bright yellow. This trope is played entirely straight, however, by the big pimpin' Watch Captains in the Imperial City.
  • Lyude from Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is an ambassador connected to the Imperial Army, so he can be somewhat forgiven for his extravagant military-esque outfit and apparently brass-plated gun-horn - although his brother and sister, actual soldiers, have no such excuse.
  • Players of Battlefield Play4Free who pre-ordered Battlefield 3 were rewarded with a fancy beret for one of their player-characters which was unavailable any other way.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed features the 1st and 2nd division, led by an officer in fancy dress - complete with so many medals that he's bulletproof from frontal attacks.
  • The Terran representative from Space Empires V.
  • The Imperial Generals of Valkyria Chronicles wear them in combat; gold trim, cords, epaulettes and an ocean of gold buttons abound. Gallia's military officers wear a much more modest (if not less elaborate) uniform. Imperial Prince Maximillian, while not wearing a uniform, wears an entire suit of elaborately decorative silver plate mail with gold accents, including a golden laurel crown, as part of his garb of station, even when just sitting around.
  • King Cailan Theirin from Dragon Age Origins is decked out in massive gold armor. Sophia Dryden's armor might count as well, considering how fancy and decorative it looks.
  • Sebastian Vael, from Dragon Age II's "The Exiled Prince" Downloadable Content, is a Prince who wears bright white chain-mail with lots of gold. It was custom made for him when he was shipped off to join the clergy, both for being a troublemaker, and being Spare to the Throne. His codpiece is a golden emblem of Andraste's face (think Jesus crossed with Joan of Arc).
  • Link's Magic Armour in Twilight Princess features golden armour that requires a constant supply of rupees or it will change to iron and become too heavy to move around in.
  • The Mass Effect universe is generally very restrained, but some of the Krogan armour certainly qualifies, especially the Warlord-class and Battlemaster-class lines. A Justified Trope in this case - the krogan don't really care about cover, and they certainly want their enemies to see them before they die.
  • In Spore: Galactic Adventures you can design your own captain to play in adventures. The most expensive and powerful armour you can attach to your captain are covered in gold and sparkly gems.
  • In Minecraft, you can forge gold armor and weapons, but in a subversion, they're nearly useless as anything other than a display of wealth, since iron is much easier to find and the resulting equipment is twice as strong.
    • Diamonds can also be used to make armor and swords, but unlike gold, anything crafted with diamonds not only looks pretty, but they are also extremely durable, requiring at least over 1000 uses before the tools break.
  • Protoss in StarCraft II suddenly developed a taste for flashy decorations, and that is after they were shown walking around almost naked in Brood War.
  • While Gears of War is a little too Grimdark to get into this full-tilt, elements appear, especially in the third game. All the Gears have uniforms adorned in strangely useless blue LED lights that serve little point other than to make it impossible to hide in dark corners (particularly odd, since most of the fighting in Gears 2 takes place either underground or in decaying buildings). Gears 3 ups the ante by adding in a whole host of cosmetic weapon skins for multiplayer, including bright pink, a glowing aura in appropriate colors (blue for COG, red for Locust) that changes appropriately if an enemy picks the weapon up, and even a liquid metal skin. A few are unlocked by in-game achievements, but most are bought a la carte—getting all of them costs about $40, 2/3 the price of the entire game.
    • The Palace Guards of Gears of War 3 play this trope completely straight, having counterintuitively ornate (and heavy) helmets and coats. They're not quite on the level of bling found in most of these examples, but Locust designs tend toward brown, being an underground species.
  • While there's a bit of this all over the Assassin's Creed series, Cesare Borgia of the Papal Army is pretty notable. His silver breast-plate has cherubs on it.
  • Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow has Joyeuse, a sword made of pure gold. When Reality Ensues the player will notice that being made of gold it's very weak and best for either showing off or being sold.
  • World of Warcraft justifies this, to an extent, with the gems and glowy enchantments that both add bling and magically increase an item's power.
  • Unique armors in Neverwinter Nights 2 fall into this quite a bit.
  • Prince Tolten from Lost Odyssey is completely kitted out in gold armour (with gold sword). Not only that, the armour is encrusted with diamonds.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • The various military forces in Girl Genius are generally practical—by the standards of the mid-19th century. And they usually include a Nice Hat.
  • The uniforms worn in Schlock Mercenary are quite modest compared to a lot of these other examples, though they're definitely not camouflaged and the floating epaulets (shaped like stars, lightning bolts, planets, or simple metal plates depending on rank) are kind of conspicuous. Even if the epaulets are concealed grenades (or antimatter bombs in Commander Kevyn Andreyason's case).
  • This Hark! A Vagrant illustrates the lack of practicality in this form of battle dress.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • According to Groundskeeper Willie in The Simpsons, the Scottish highlanders donned full-length sequined evening gowns in battle, in order to "blind your opponent with luxury".


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • 'The side with the best uniforms always loses.'
  • In the age of "gentlemanly" warfare, bright uniforms were used to actually help soldiers stand out amid all the smoke (it wasn't until just over a century ago that smokeless gunpowder was invented). This was actually a morale booster, as soldiers were assured that their fellows were still around amid the chaos. And the bright colors didn't hinder that much in the days of inaccurate muskets. But they were still needlessly loaded with fancy trimmings.
    • That is "needlessly loaded" compared to modern combat uniforms. Compared to the type of civilian clothes worn by the upper classes (gentry and aristocracy) of the era, an 18th century officer's uniform appeared less remarkable. When King Frederick William I of Prussia and his son began the fashion for monarchs to wear military uniform all the time in the 18th century, they appeared downright scruffy compared to their colleagues.
    • Even in the age of muskets, you could aim if they got close enough. During the American Revolution and the War of 1812, many American soldiers had learned to hunt first. As a consequence, battles tended to be hard on the British officers, who wore even blingier uniforms. After both the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battle of New Orleans, British regiments were commanded by their senior private.
      • These were very exceptional situations (advancing on a well-covered enemy across an open field) and the effect tends to be exaggerated in folklore. The reason why officers in particular were picked off had less to do with the "bling differential" to privates - on average it was no bigger for the the British army during the American War of Independence than for their American opposite numbers and may actually have been less than for the Confederate Army of the American Civil War - than other reasons, such as even company officers of 18th century infantry going into battle mounted on horses and the factor that an officer would be holding a sword or pistol, not a musket or rifle. As Robert Graves noted in Goodbye to All That, British officers on the 1914-1918 Western Front suffered disproportionately high losses - even though their uniforms were very drab and not easy to distinguish from those of other ranks - until they learned to carry rifles when they went over the top.
    • In the age before communication by telephone and radio, blingy uniforms could help to show troops, subordinate officers and couriers where the commanders were. This did not necessarily have to be the uniform of the commander himself, often they were dressed relatively plainly, but the officers belonging to their entourage - aides-de-camps etc. - wore glittering uniforms. During the American Civil War, where generals tended to wear uniforms that were as plain as those of a subaltern, a general would often be accompanied by an orderly bearing a brightly coloured flag to indicate where they were, which could of course invite artillery or small arms fire.
  • In the eighteenth century it was one of the dearest wishes of any regiment to get a rich man as colonel. The reason was that the regiment was his trophy and he was likely to take good care of it. If he was a soldier himself he might do something to improve it's performance by giving it better equipment, medical supplies, or rations. Even if he was a courtier and an absentee colonel, at the least he would provide silverware for the officers mess, a good band(which doubled as medevac as well as signals corps besides playing cool music), or if nothing else some great looking uniforms.
  • Not that America was immune to this. The U.S. Army had a problem with impractical clothing during the Spanish-American War. Wearing wool uniforms in Cuba is not such a great idea.[1]
    • The American forces of the War of Independence included regiments dressed in red (e. g. Colonel Henley's and Colonel Webb's Regiments, also the 1st Connecticut) or white (e. g. the 18th Infantry Regiment of the Continental Army and the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons).
  • The logical extreme would likely be the uniforms worn by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which he had to be sewn into in order to get the right fit. This fact is often credited as being one of the reasons doctors were unable to save his life after he was shot in 1914.
  • One of the things the 'Sharpe' series got right. Most of the time, the French troops are fighting in their marching gear (with water-proof covers on their hats). Unless battle was almost certain, troops tended to keep their fancier items in their packs.
    • Although some units would take their full-dress uniforms into the field in order to put them on (white gloves and all) on the day of a battle. This was most notably the case with Napoleon's Old Guard. Also, some commanders would put on extremely fancy uniforms and often dress their aides-de-camp in specially designed ones. Joachim Murat, one of Napoleon's marshals and king of Naples, was famous for gaudy, brightly coloured get-ups which to some seemed more appropriate for an opera production than the battlefield. With all that bling among his marshals and generals, the best way for Napoleon to stand out was to dress very plainly, usually in an undecorated bicorne hat, an undress uniform and over that a simple grey greatcoat.
    • British liaison officers working with the Spanish irregulars would ride around through the war-torn Spanish countryside in full dress uniform with all the trimmings they were entitled to. There was a very good, practical reason for this---the French had an unpleasant habit of hanging civilians playing at war (depending on the individual unit commanders, it could be much worse than that), so this established that our officer was a real soldier and entitled to gentlemanly treatment upon capture, and the Spanish guerrillas themselves had extremely unpleasant treatment waiting for any enemy falling into their hands, so clearly marking oneself as British, and therefore friendly, was vital to survival. Luckily, neither Napoleon's own men or any of his allied forces wore red uniforms.
    • One British exploring officer in the Peninsular War, Colquhoun Grant, was captured by the French. He escaped from detention in Paris, spent several weeks walking around the city in his uniform, telling any suspicious Frenchmen that he was American. They believed him, and he spent several weeks cataloging the French military. When he was done, he escaped to England on an American ship (the fact that America and Britain were at war at the time seems not to have mattered), went back to Portugal, and started working again.
  • The most extreme example would be Hussar uniforms (the cavalry uniform with the cross-bands on the chest, short fur hat, and jacket on one shoulder). Originally worn by Hungarian units. EVERYONE copied the look (especially officers) for most of the 19th century, despite being an absolute pain to wear (something like 78 buttons holding it together). Chicks dug it. What can we say.
    • And giant metal wings strapped to the back in the case of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's winged hussars, which were heavy cavalry in contrast to everyone else's light cavalry hussars, and proof that the Rule of Cool is Older Than They Think.
      • The wings may have been bling enough for the rank-and-file, but a Hussar commander would add a leopard skin. And that's not over. Polish-Lithuanian nobility, who claimed a descent from the ancient Sarmatians, also liked a good scale armour. It was more expensive, heavier, and offered worse protection than regular armour, so it was good only for parades - but it just looked so Sarmatian.
  • Swiss mercenaries had a reputation so Badass that they wore outrageously multicolored outfits to make sure everyone on the battlefield knew who they were dealing with. To this day, the Swiss Guard wear brightly colored uniforms when performing ceremonial duties as the Papal bodyguard. Guardsmen wear more practical uniforms when they are actually working, however.
  • The Nazis. Let's face it, despite the notoriety of their deeds, those dudes were fashionable.
    • Dress uniforms, especially that famous black SS uniforms with lots of leather and silver braid—yes. But common feldgrau was usually as ill-fitting, baggy, stained, torn and generally unappealing as most combat fatigues in the world.
    • Subverted, interestingly enough, by Hitler himself, who wore a modest corporal's uniform, in part to portray himself as a man of the people, in part because that was his actual rank, which he achieved in WW 1. Even though he could cover his chest in medals, he made a point of only wearing what he legitimately won in battle.
    • Oh, the uniforms of Reichsmarschall Göring. They couldn't even be called "uniforms" because they, well, weren't uniform. Perfectly tailored and designed by him, to reflect his unique position, self-aggrandizing titles, and the amount of loot he stole along the way.
      • That's nothing to say of his medals. The man loved his shiny pieces of metal to the point where he basically had Hitler re-institute the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, which was the next rank of the Knight's Cross and was basically the same thing, only bigger and outlined in silver, just so he could have it. This still wasn't blingy enough for him, though, so he wore copies that he'd had made in platinum instead. Despite the fact that the award was supposed to replace the Knight's Cross, Göring had a habit of wearing the Knight's Cross and the Grand Cross and his Blue Max all at once.
        • Actually all classes of the Iron Cross were edged in silver and the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross had been instituted along with the (old) 2nd and 1st class and the (new) Knight's Cross in September 1939 (it was only the higher grades of the Knight's cross that were added later). The difference was that in World War 2, unlike the three previous wars in which the Iron Cross was awarded, the Grand Cross was awarded to just one commander, and not several. Also it was possible to wear several grades of the Iron Cross at once (just look at old officers' portraits), and it was not inappropriate as the Knight's Cross was awarded purely for gallantry while the Grand Cross was an award specifically for successful, independent command.
      • His Staff of Authority was also superior to the regular officer's baton.
      • There was a joke in Nazi Germany: "What is one gör? It's the maximum amount of metal a man can wear on his chest without tipping over."
      • Another joke from the time: Hitler and Goering were to inspect a new battleship. Goering got there first, and the captain gave him a grand tour of the ship. When Hitler arrived, Goering had his head sticking out of one of the portholes. Hitler shouted, "I know he likes flashy medals, but wearing a battleship around his neck is going too far!"
  • Golden-Age of Piracy pirates. Oh, sure, they didn't * technically* wear uniforms, but there are reports of pirates keeping their pistols super-shiny, and with Bartholomew Roberts wandering around with a giant, diamond-studded cross on a chain around his neck...
    • There's a practical reason for this, surprisingly: if you wear your treasure, it's less likely to disappear (by accident or by other means).
  • Real-Life Inspiration for the page pic Fleet Admiral Togo Heihachiro.
  • In the William Manchester's biography of Douglas Mac Arthur American Caesar, MacArthur regularly wore all of his medals on his uniform, even in combat. Given that this was MacArthur, it was a lot. And he didn't wear those little ribbons, either. He wore the whole mess of dangly bits and metal too. He only stopped the practice when he learned that General Joseph Stilwell didn't wear any medals or decorations at all, except for the tiniest rank insignia. Annoyed that Stilwell was showing him up in the "Less is More" department (as well as the Glamour 12-Point Accessory Guide) Mac Arthur soon switched to the minimalist look that he had for the landings at Leyte.
    • A number of generals are known for subverting this trope—Stilwell, U.S. Grant and William Slim all preferred private's blouses and common slouch-hats, with minimal rank insignia being the only concession to their status. During the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, someone suggested that it looked as if Grant (in wrinkled and worn fatigues) was surrendering to Lee (dressed to the nines).
  • General Winfield Scott ("Old Fuss And Feathers") lost the Whig nomination for President to Zachary Taylor ("Old Rough And Ready") due to an image problem related (in part) to the care taken with his uniform. In fact his clothing alone took up six horse-drawn carriages. General Ulysses S. Grant, on the other hand, took to the field with the clothes on his back, a hairbrush and a toothbrush.
  • Leonid Brezhnev was so fond of the Bling of War that he awarded himself loads of improbable awards, including WWII awards as late as the 1970s (including the Order of Victory, a diamond-and-ruby affair awarded only in the single-digit range to a few top commanders, which Brezhnev could hardly count himself among), and the coveted Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Socialist Labour awards for such momentous achievements as his birthday (Brezhnev was one of only two individuals—the other being Marshal Zhukov, the conqueror of Berlin—to receive four Hero of the Soviet Union medals). After his death, a number of award regulations were changed to specifically exclude the awards being granted for things such as birthdays, and his Order of Victory was outright revoked. Another noteworthy example would be Idi Amin, who, like Brezhnev, had to have the length of his tunics extended to accommodate his absurdly large collection of awards.
  • In communist and single-party nation-states the Bling of War often overlaps with Medal of Dishonor. While every society can fall victim to political awards, non-democratic nations are more likely to give medals and orders that promote loyalty to the state. Compare the amount and type of military and civilian medals between nations here: [1].
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.".
  • Samurai armor and helmets. Some examples can be seen here.
    • It should be noted that, of the examples shown, the extravagant ones all come from the Edo period—with its absence of wars—and are the equivalent of European Parade Armour, such as this example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Among modern militaries, the Israelis arguably have the least blingy uniforms.
    • The United States Air Force wanted to cut down on a bit of bling. It directed that the Good Conduct medal would no longer be awarded after 2006, since, in their view, it was silly to award a medal for something that was to be expected of all Air Force personnel. It gave up after mild outcry and started awarding it again as of 2009.
    • In fact, minimizing decoration on uniforms is an ongoing trend for the Air Force. Compare The Air Force Service Dress Uniform with the US Army equivalent, The Army Service Uniform, and consider that the Air Force branched off from the army in the 1940's.
  • Let us not forget Muammar/Moammar Qaddafi/Gaddafi/Kazzafi (may his spellings be many), the real Liberace among Northern-African dictators. On the other hand, he's taken to wearing Bedouin dress lately, so make of that what you will.
  • During World War I, the German army was distinctive in that its combat uniforms were (at least at the start of the war) just camouflaged versions of dress uniforms. Hence all the spiked helmets: those were part of the dress uniform of all German armies, and so they kept those in the combat version; same for double-breasted cavalry outfits and so forth.
    • Technically they were field-grey versions of the coloured (mainly blue) uniforms that were worn for peacetime service, which however had come in different grades of "bling" depending on whether it was worn e. g. for garrison drill or parades. And the spiked leather helmets at least could be said to have provided a little more protection than the cloth caps and hats worn by the other armies before the introduction of steel helmets.
  • While the Aztec jaguar warriors actually had quite useful armor for their climate and time period, they probably didn't need it to be covered in feathers, gems, and war paint as well.
  • From the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade, compare the uniforms of the soldiers from Turkmenistan and Armenia. The Turkmen general even wore a Custom Uniform and rode on a white horse, while all the Armenians, even the leaders of the column, wore regular uniforms and simply put their medals on. (Turkmenistan, of course, is the country that was ruled by Saparmurat Niyazov, a crazy dictator if there ever was one.)
    • Said horse is actually offspring of the horse ridden by Marshal Zhukov in the first Victory Parade. If any horse could count as military bling, that would be it.
  • The Mess Dress uniform (the one worn for dinners, parties and balls) for the Honourable Artillery Company (UK), to the point where privates from those unit get more bling than a lot of commissioned officers from other units.
  • The landsknechte, German mercenaries from the 16th century, lived this trope. Exempt from the sumptuary laws of the time by imperial decree, they proceeded to blow their money on the finest clothes they could get their hands on - at minimum, a Nice Hat with lots of feathers, puffed-and-slashed clothes in several colours and socks that were also in several colours. Mix with some Fashionable Asymmetry, a little plate armor, some serious BFS and/or Blade on a Stick, and voila.
    • Compare to the Swiss mercenaries previously mentioned, with whom the landsknechte had an intense rivalry.
  • Since the late 18th century the number of orders and decorations increased dramatically as many countries instituted new ones; the 1780s and 1790s also saw the introduction of decorations for combattants below officer rank and the end of the Napoleonic Wars that of campaign medals, i. e. decorations not just for those who performed deeds of valour or that were exceptional in other ways, but to everybody who had been part of the forces in the field. Thus the chests of military men became decorated with a lot more ribbons and pieces of enameled metal than before. This was also reflected in painted portraits, where an officer usually would be shown wearing all his decorations to the point that it was quite common that orders or medals awarded after an officer had sat for his portrait would be painted in additionally later. How many of his decorations an officer would actually wear every day was an entirely different matter, but of course these portraits often were used as reference by the makers of historical movies and television series, leading to slip-ups where people are shown wearing decorations that they only were awarded long after the year a film is set in.
    • This becomes particularly glaring when not only the decoration is shown too early in time for that particular person, but becomes "impossible" in general terms. This troper for instance recalls a British TV series about the life of Edward VII in which Otto von Bismarck (born 1815) was shown wearing an Iron Cross in the 1860s and Wilhelm II (born 1859) was shown wearing in the late 19th century. The original Iron Cross was awarded exclusively during the Wars of Liberation (1813-1815), its second incarnation exclusively during the Franco-German War (1870/71) and the third one exclusively during World War 1 (1914-1918).
  • US World War 2 naval blues and whites have an attractively spartan look to them that screams Badass In A Nice Suit. It looks especially good when you realize how many honest to goodness badasses fitted inside.
  • At the Peace Conference to finish the Polish Soviet War the Russians showed up in dingy dress to emphasize their supposed egalitarianism while the Poles showed up in full nineteenth century bling.
  1. Much of the supplies used for the Spanish-American War were surplus from the Civil War. The fighting in Cuba and the Philippines forced the U.S. Army to redesign its uniforms accordingly.