An "evil" character, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary character, can always be identified (by the observant audience anyway) by the fact that he wears a concealing trenchcoat, fedora and occasionally dark glasses that are in no way seen as suspicious by any passers-by.
This one started out as Truth in Television. From the late 1930s to late 1950s, a trenchcoat and fedora were the standard outerwear for a man who was neither upper-class nor extreme lower-class. Consequently, they were the natural choice for spies, detectives and anyone wanting to blend in with the added bonus of easily concealing weapons. But as this style fell out of fashion with the general public, it came to be exclusively associated with said spies and detectives, whose continued use of this fashion would make them more conspicuous if anyone were paying attention.
With all the concern with terrorists and flashers, this is likely on its way to becoming a Dead Horse Trope.
Anime and Manga
- The Team Rocket trio have started doing this in the Unova saga. They most likely switched from a Paper-Thin Disguise to this now that they're competent.
- In retrospect, Kotomi's handler in Clannad probably shouldn't have chosen this as his everyday clothing, since it made practically everyone think that he's a bad guy and generally made him look really, really suspicious.
- Trenchcoat and sunglasses was the disguise Shamal went for in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's when she was spying on the heroines. She was immediately recognized by the first person who knew her.
- Heroic example in the first chapter of Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Roji (who also thinks mobile pottery is an effective stealth tactic) wears a trenchcoat and he and Muhyo wear sunglasses while staking out a client in order to locate the ghost of one of her dead friends. Muhyo notices that they "stick out like sore thumbs."
- Detective Conan has members of the Black Organization frequently showing up in conspiciously sinister black trenchcoats.
- This style of dress creates some humorous confusion in an episode of Darker than Black. The character Guy Kurosawa apes hardboiled detective tropes, and as such, wears the full "costume" of a Private Detective, including a trenchcoat. In the same episode, there is a Contractor who is an industrial spy and who has the same style of dress. Kurosawa accidentally takes the Contractor's trenchcoat, thinking that it's his own. Hilarity Ensues.
- Spy D in Project A-ko wore this outfit at least until the big reveal of... her... gender...
- Recorder and Randsell: Atsushi's trenchcoat gets him mistaken for either an exhibitionist or a pedophile a lot.
- Seen It a Million Times, mostly in older comic books. Many a Super Villain wears this over their costume to gain access to the City Bank.
- Ben Grimm, The Thing, in the Silver Age, would routinely put on a trenchcoat and fedora, which was sufficient to disguise being an orange rock monster. Later comics justify this by presenting it more as a matter of self-consciousness - the disguise doesn't really work that well, but it makes Ben feel more comfortable when stepping outside.
- In one issue of Fantastic Four, when the FF testify at a congressional hearing, a bunch of mentally-manipulated D-grade villains enter the room, dressed in trenchcoats and hats, and attack them.
- Hilariously, Iron Man used this disguise once in an early adventure, in about the most implausible scenario one can imagine for maintaining this ruse. Clad in his original, bulky grey armor, his trenchcoat-and-fedora disguise is evidently sufficient to elude all suspicion while travelling to Asia to take on the Mandarin on a commercial airline flight from New York! He opens the door and bails out of the plane over China. (Admittedly, this was before Iron Man's armor was shown as capable of long-range flight, but you'd think Tony Stark would own an airplane or two, at least.)
- Namor, the Sub-Mariner, liked to wear these, both as villain and hero. Even more conspicuous for his taste in high quality fabric and tailoring.
- The Silver Surfer also manages to look less conspicuous with the trenchcoat-and-hat look.
- In Uncanny X-Men #111, the new furry Beast uses this disguise to enter a crowded carnival. Jean Grey lampshades how strange his outfit looks.
- A Marvel Civil War tie-in issue of Sensational Spider-Man features a story where both The Chameleon and Electro are dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora stalking Mark Raxton's son at a little league game full of children and their parents, in the heat of the summer and no seems at all concerned or suspicious.
- Made especially 'wha?' when you consider that the Chameleon's whole hat is incredibly effective disguises.
- Almost every main character in Frank Miller's Sin City dons a trench coat at some point. Marv especially likes them and often takes them off of the bad guys he kills. Usually, they are packing guns, spying, sneaking around, or otherwise being conspicuous.
- Makes sense, mind you, as the climate of Basin City is driven entirely by dramatic convenience. The winds blow cold and hard to keep all those long coats billowing dramatically, and the slick blackness of the asphalt is reliably maintained by constant rain.
- In Desert Peach, a Gefeldtpolizei casing a Parisian cafe appearently thought he counted as "plainclothes" despite wearing his usual coat and hat, because he was walking a poodle at the same time. This was what convinced Rosen the place was under surveillance. ("No one but a Gefepo would think walking a poodle automatically makes you French!")
- Even Godzilla used this trope once, in Marvel's licensed series. To evade pursuers, the Kenny of this series dresses the temporarily-shrunken Godzilla in a hat and trenchcoat. Admittedly, it only works for about two minutes, at night, but it was enough to fool two criminals, who attempt to mug Godzilla (yeah, that goes about as well as you'd expect.)
- PS238 has Cecil Holmes, a student of the "normal" school used as cover-up, who's into alien investigation. PS238 staff somehow missed this.
- The Sailor Moon Expanded Fan Verse has two examples of this trope:
- Magnesite the alien/youma, a fanfiction creation of one of Beryl's generals from the first Sailor Moon season, becomes so enamored of Humphrey Bogart movies that when he is imprisioned he keeps reviewing them in his mind to avoid death by boredom. The result several hundred years later is a person who uncontrollably acts like the Bogey, spending his (unlife) trying to bring private detective work and noir to sparkling-white Crystal Tokyo. His trenchcoat is his trademark, something all the Senshi know.
- Ferrite, also a fanfiction creation, is a cursed human from the Silver Millennium who keeps being reincarnated throughout history until he finally meets up with the Sailors in Sailor Moon. His former Guardian powers change into a trenchcoat with infinite pockets, the ability to throw yellow roses from the trenchcoat similar to Tuxedo Mask, and he uses an ancient blunderbuss that can kill with one shot. Ferrite's alter ego calls himself Trenchcoat Mask in the modern day.
Films -- Animated
- Megamind: Megamind's Brain Bot's hide under a trench coat and fedora in a crowd during the opening. It is bookended in the conclusion when we see Metro Man using the same tactic.
Films -- Live-Action
- Never Say Never Again: Lampshaded by James Bond, when Nigel Small-Fawcett is yelling Bond's name to attract his attention, then acts furtively when talking to Bond. The fact Nigel is played by Mr. Bean makes it funnier.
Nigel Small-Fawcett: (yelling) Mr Bond! I say Mr Bond! Nigel Small-Fawcett British Embassy Nassau."
James Bond: Nice to meet you Nigel.
Nigel Small-Fawcett: Sorry I'm late but as your one of these undercover jollies I took the precaution of not being followed.
James Bond: And that's why you shouted my name across a harbor?
Nigel Small-Fawcett: Oh god did I? Oh I'm sorry! Damm! Damm! Sorry I'm rather new to all this!
- X 2 X Men United: Nightcrawler uses a trenchcoat, cap and dark glasses to sneak into the White House. Remember, your taxpayer dollars go to the guys whose job it is to stop suspicious threats like this.
- It does help that he can, ya know, teleport past any checkpoint.
- Spider-Man: Doc Ock walks into a bank using this technique. It actually made sense though, as a trench coat would be about the only way to hide his mechanical arms and maintain the element of surprise.
- The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Lampshaded.
- Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? wears a trenchcoat and fedora with sunglasses and a rubber mask, to hide the fact that he is actually a Toon himself.
- Roger Rabbit tries the same thing in Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the book the movie is based on. Of course, 'toon sensibilities of "discreet" tend to differ greatly from the human norm...
- The Highlander universe has heroes who walk around in Trenchcoats of Holding that hide their very large swords.
- The aliens in Space Jam employ this technique. The wife from Everybody Loves Raymond is the only one to notice because Homer's too busy watching the game.
- Used as a Visual Pun in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie. The title cards announce an upcoming Sneak Preview of Mel Funn's film. Cut to the theater, and the entire audience is sneaking in, dressed in trenchcoats and fedoras.
- Used by Wrong Genre Savvy hero Woody in the Disney film Condorman after he persuades his friend Harry to let him go on a CIA courier mission despite the fact that he's a comic book writer, not a spy. Hilarity Ensues.
- Knowing features the creepy Trenchcoat duo, who follow around the kids. Nothing suspicious about that...
- Back to The Future Part II gets a quick shot in at this. Doc and Marty arrive in the past trying to keep Biff from getting the sports almanac, Doc hands Marty some age-appropriate money saying, "Get yourself some fifties clothes." As Marty runs off, he screams, "Something inconspicuous!" Cut to Marty wearing a leather jacket, fedora, and sunglasses.
- Never mind that this makes him look more like a Michael Jackson impersonator than anything else....
- Batman the Movie : During the opening credits we see a man in long trenchcoat and face concealing fedora running down a dark alley. The shot is tinted green so that we know he's supposed to be a bad guy.
- Three Days of the Condor: G. Joubert finds himself rather guilty of this trope.
- The Tiger Makes Out: Eli Wallach's character, preparing his campaign to disrupt the indifferent, sheeplike world around him, picks up a trenchcoat and fedora at a pawn shop. As the owner anxiously watches him suiting up, he points out that he has a sawed-off shotgun for sale.
- Rodney Skinner, the Invisible Streaker from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, wears a black ankle-length trenchcoat, a matching fedora, and pince-nez sunglasses. The conspicuous part comes in when he doesn't put on his greasepaint makeup, and thus the ensemble appears to be floating along all by itself.
- The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Lampshaded by The Nostalgia Critic:
"How come in movies no one can ever see past a trenchcoat and a fedora hat? Is it like Clark Kent's hypnotizing glasses or something? Do they just make people stupider?
- Le Samourai: The main character's choice of unsuspicious-looking clothes is a trenchcoat and fedora. It makes sense in the setting, but even if it didn't, Rule of Cool would turn this trope into something more like a Badass Longcoat situation.
- H. G. Wells' Invisible Man favors this kind of appearance aid. May be the Trope Maker.
- There's a medieval parody of this in the Terry Pratchett book Going Postal- one of the main antagonist's less reliable partners gets drunk one night and comes to unburden himself to the Big Bad. Upon the partner's arrival, the villain's servant asks something like "May I take your highly conspicuous hooded cloak, sir?"
- One of Geronimo Stilton's old friends is described as always wearing a trenchcoat and dark glasses; quite naturally, he's a secret agent. Oddly, Geronimo reveals that his friend has always worn a trenchcoat and dark glasses since the first grade.
- The ducks in St. James's Park in Good Omens have gotten very good at identifying the many, many secret agents who meet there by their conspicuous "disguises."
"The ducks in St James's Park are so used to being fed bread by secret agents meeting clandestinely that they have developed their own Pavlovian reaction. Put a St James's Park duck in a laboratory cage and show it a picture of two men -- one usually wearing a coat with a fur collar, the other something sombre with a scarf -- and it'll look up expectantly."
- Subverted in Lemmony Snicket: The Uunauthorized Autobiography. After giving a lengthy description of the contents of the VFD disguise kit, the narrator mentions that the only piece they haven't figured out how to use in a disguise is the medium length beige trenchcoat.
- Lampshaded, if not played straight, in The Dresden Files. Harry is often wearing his long leather duster, and notes that it makes him look odd and conspicuous, especially when he wears it in the summer. Of course, his leather duster is enchanted to withstand magical and ballistic assaults, so when he's on a case (and thus runs the risk of someone trying to shoot him), he's going to wear the damn thing even if it's 95 degrees out.
- When Susan on Desperate Housewives tries to be sneaky, she wears a trenchcoat, hat and sunglasses. This prompted one reviewer on Television Without Pity to ask, "What, no rubber nose and attached 'stache?"
- Kids Incorporated: "The Bully" - After angering a local bully, the Kid sneaks into the P*lace wearing a trenchcoat and fedora, which effectively hides him in a crowd whose median age is 13.
- Recycled five years later, only this time, it's newcomer Robin sporting the trenchcoat for the same reason.
- Chuck vs. The Third Dimension A man in a dark trenchcoat, hat and dark glasses carrying a suspicious package plants a bomb in the BuyMore. Chuck is the only one to notice that this is an odd way to dress in a Burbank summer.
- Somewhat toying with the trope is at the end of the episode, the bomber tries again at a crowded concert, only this time he's paid several people to dress in matching trenchcoats to lure Sarah and Casey while he wanders around undetected in a business suit.
- Ze Resistance from Allo Allo all wore a conspicuous macintosh and beret combo.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer once wore sunglasses and a trendy short trenchcoat while tailing a suspect ("I Robot, You Jane").
- Made even funnier by the Gilligan Cut a moment before when she derides the idea of tailing someone this way.
- Angel and Spike sometimes hide underneath their trenchcoats so they walk around in the sun.
- Lampshaded on Angel where Gwen immediately spots her secret informant by the fact that he's the only person in LA wearing a trenchcoat.
- Subverted in the NCIS season six two parter, "Cloak and Dagger". The pickup man for an espionage operation shows up as pictured above, and is instantly made. However, his inept attempt at being inconspicuous manages to help convince them that he was an innocent pawn rather than the mastermind behind the operation.
- Dom Joly had a few sketches that involved trenchcoat-and-fedora wearing "spies" in Trigger Happy TV, whether it was spouting generic spy code phrases at ususpecting members of the public, or watching ordinary people while pretending to read the paper, complete with extremely obvious eyeholes.
- The villain in the Live Action Adaptation Movie Ben 10: Alien Swarm seems to admire this attire.
- Played with in Spaced when Tim accidentally runs into a man dressed like this, who tells him to watch where he's going. Tim says that he's not used to an evil, suspicious looking man wandering around, prompting the man to say "What makes you think I'm evil and suspicious looking?"
- When Dexter is training Miguel in how to murder people, he notes that he told him to be inconspicuous. Instead he "turns up looking like the Unabomber" (with baseball cap, black sweater and sunglasses), especially conspicuous since they're in a casino at the time. In contrast, Dexter always wears a beige sweater and pants when on the hunt.
- When Joey Snake and Wheels try to use a fake ID to buy beer they try putting a trench coat on Snake the tallest of the three in an attempt to make him look older. It fails partially due to the ID being especially fake but mostly due to the fact that they were only fourteen and while they were closer to the legal drinking age of 18 at the time it was still quite a stretch.
- Lampshaded on Yes Minister when Bernard, after saying too much to the press, attempted to sneak past reporters in a trenchcoat, hat, and shades. On the hottest day of the year, according to the novelisation. Needless to say, the press were very interested in this strange man entering a government building.
- Adventures in Odyssey "Heatwave" Jack tries to follow the "mystery kid" for the better part of the episode, but Mr. Watson points out that rather than appearing casual,he in fact really sticks out because of the trenchcoat that he's wearing in the middle of a heat wave.
- The G-Men in the Milkman Conspiracy level of Psychonauts.
- In the Eastern Europe level of Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake dons a trench coat and face camo to get past Raven Sword's station check point. In a subversion, his face is immediately added to the PMC's blacklist, rendering that disguise useless. This is played even straighter if you notice someone (later revealed to be Scarabs) in a trench coat and hat following Snake, who immediately disappears every time you investigate.
- Carmen Sandiego not only wears a trenchcoat and fedora, but a fire engine red trenchcoat and fedora. On the other hand, she is motivated by showing off.
- The Spy in Chip's Challenge, who steals all your tools if you run into him, wears sunglasses with a blue fedora and trenchcoat.
- The cyborg agents of Syndicate, who can hide a arsenal of artillery-level weaponry in their coats.
- The graphical report for the success of certain espionage or sabotage missions in Space Empires IV shows an alien wearing a trenchcoat and fedora.
- Veronica from Fallout: New Vegas wears a thick, hooded cloak. It would work as a disguise in a fantasy game, but it's pointless in a sci-fi. Set in a desert. And people still recognise her.
- Albert Wesker of Resident Evil fame dons a trenchcoat in the fifth game of the series. But by then he's far less "conspicuous" and more of a darwinistic Card-Carrying Villain.
- MAG-ISA—We got four people with guns and trenchcoats enter a school. It seems nobody even noticed them. Otherwise, don't you think the cops should be called to stop them before they do a shooting rampage?
- Schlock Mercenary: Somewhere far, far short of "inconspicuous", you may be lucky to find trenchcoats of "incongruity", and dark sunglasses of "incompetency". Our heroes found them on their first attempt.
- While Trudy of General Protection Fault was making anonymous calls to Clifford Myers of Funny Farm in a crossover, she wore a trenchcoat to disguise herself, the brand name of which lampshades this. Oddly enough, The German, an expert at impersonating people who works for CRUDE, uses this in his first appearance while stalking Sharon and Craig.
- The Call of Whatever in this comic points out that a tentacle-faced alien in normal clothes looks much less suspicious than a guy in trenchcoat and fedora during summer - and that's even before the latter starts feeding ducks.
- Used in The Wotch here.
- Sluggy Freelance: Agent Hong mistakenly sees this trope (minus the fedora) in the chapter "Aylee". "You have a surveillance photo from the military jet showing this guy leaving the scene where radar had tracked the entity moments before. You can't tell what he's carrying. You can't even tell it's a he. A long blond wig and a trenchcoat in a grainy photo? It could be anyone!" ...Except that it's Riff, who always looks like that, rather than here being in disguise. And they can't even see he's also got sunglasses.
- Vampire Cheerleaders, when Leo thought he's Van Helsing or something and dropped on the A-team... in a longcoat and shades.
Heather: (amused) Leonard, uh... what are you dressed as?!
Suki: (snickering) Yeah, it's a little early for Halloween.
Zoe: (with round eyes and clearly struggling against Jaw Drop reflex) Definitely.
- Dangerously Chloe had Abby and Teddy followed by a mysterious figure in trenchcoat and hat. Of course, given how well this particular outfit blends in a modern town at summer, the figure didn't remain mysterious for very long (to complete the picture, she ended up tripping on her own coat).
- Questionable Content has a combat android wearing a coat.
Bubbles: I had been... considering a possibility that an outer garment might make me less threatening to the general populace.
Bubbles: You are maintaining a careful neutrality about my appearance. This suggests that I look ridiculous.
- As a Cold War satire, Rocky and Bullwinkle has numerous coat/fedora/glasses examples.
- Many a colorful villain in Ben 10. Even more odd since it's the middle of the summer.
- Green Goblin in The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Subtext", while trying to avoid suspicion.
- One of the Gargoyles, Broadway, wore a trenchcoat and fedora when playing detective, largely because he'd been watching an old detective movie.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too, on more than one occasion.
- The Scorpion, unable to remove his suit, uses this as a disguise in Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
- In fact, most of the colorful villains in this series use this technique to stay under the radar.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command uses such a coat to disguise his colorful space suit in order to infiltrate a Bad Guy Bar, were everyone is dressed like this.
- The question is, can he really not take the suit off, or is it just against his training and unsafe going into a potential firefight and stuff? Because the original Buzz being an action figure makes the 'in-universe' Buzz character really easy to see as a cyborg.
- You never do see him without that purple hood thing, though you do see him out of the space suit... Oh my God, Buzz is a cyborg!
- My Life as a Teenage Robot "Mama Drama"; Jenny, Brad and Sheldon follow Marty into a bank wearing trenchcoats and fedoras in an attempt to evade suspicion. Tuck tags along wearing a pink bunny mask. Their attempts at remaining hidden don't exactly evade notice.
- League of Super Evil: the titular team is trying to get into a restaurant. A man who looks exactly like the team in a trenchcoat walks in, and the maitre'd lets him through. Then, per trope, comes another guy who looks exactly the same except for a slightly different visor, giving the same name. And he's the actual League, wearing goggles.
- Captain Planet "A Formula for Hate" (The famed AIDS awareness episode) Verminous Skumm wears this outfit so as to hide his rodent-esque appearance, despite the fact that he's hiding in the closet.
- Wolverine and the X-Men Beast uses a hat and long gray trenchcoat to conceal his blue furry form.
- X-Men has a very notable example from a fifth season episode; Mr. Sinister is seen leaving a restaurant wearing a trenchcoat, a hat, and a bandana.
- X-Men: Evolution Magneto employs this guise to stalk Angel.
- In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne uses this to hide his BatMech while rescuing Terry.
- On an episode of Pound Puppies (the new one on the Hub), Niblet uses this to sneak into a basketball stadium, and he's hiding three puppies (out of five that the crew is trying to get adopted) in his coat. Lucky and Cookie wear disguises of their own in this case. Lucky hides the other two puppies in his coat, while Cookie hides Squirt and Strudel in her dress.
- In Hey Arnold!, Helga attempted to sneak into her therapist's office wearing a trenchcoat and a fedora, only for Phoebe to spot her out.
- Boris the Burglar, the image used in Neighborhood Watch signs is a silhouette of a man wearing a trench coat and fedora.
- From a child's perspective: "Mom! That sign says 'No Cowboys!'"
- From this (NSFW) Everything2 node: "Now, as everyone who has worked an ER knows, trenchcoats are bad, especially in the summer. This trenchcoat was especially bad, since it was moving and hissing."
- When not on stage, Malice Mizer/Moi dix Mois guitarist Mana shows mild to moderate symptoms of this. Most pictures of him in public show him with a large hat and sunglasses, combined with, at various points, large, dark scarves, tops, skirts, boots and- yes- trenchcoats. Due to his habit of Alter Ego Acting, it isn't publically known whether he dresses like this to try to avoid attention or whether he just likes the style, but it's most likely to be the latter, because his clothes do a pretty pants job at masking his identity. If anything, they make him more recognizable offstage.
- Victor Suvorov, a former Soviet GRU agent, says that among the first rules they were taught was - no sunshades, no raised collars, no hands in the pockets. After all, why should they look like spies if they are not spies but Soviet Intelligence Agents?
- Trenchcoats, if seen in real-life and not used for obvious comedic effect, are often associated with exhibitionism.
- The icon for Google Chrome's incognito mode is a guy in a trenchcoat.
- Godzilla, King of the Monsters #19 (1978)