Unkempt Beauty

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Don't mess with perfection.

"Go upstairs, take off your makeup
Fold your clothes neatly away"

Jethro Tull"Fire At Midnight"

The fashion industry would have you believe that without make-up, expensive designer clothes, and fancy hair-care, we all look like trolls. And Hollywood is all too willing to pass that message along. Some people, though, are always gorgeous, even when they first wake up in the morning, and are walking around their breakfast nook in their sweatpants, all bleary-eyed, their hair in disarray, scratching their-- Well, you get the idea. In fact, sometimes they're even hotter that way.

For men this trope has slightly more mainstream recognition, probably because personal grooming is often seen as unmanly - this is the reason for "bedhead" hairstyles, the déshabillé look (which, while the English use it to mean "dishevelled", actually means "undressed" in French), and Perma-Stubble. The fact that there are haircare products and grooming tips to maintain this look misses the point.

It may also stem from the line of thought that a person who seriously puts a great deal of effort into fixing themselves up, on a regular basis no less, could be seen as shallow and superficial, only caring about their looks.

This trope is the inversion of She Cleans Up Nicely, where a woman (or man) is equally sexually appealing dressed down and casual as when they're actually trying to be sexy. It can also be an audience's reaction to Hollywood Homely, in which case an attempt at SCUN will likely be seen as an Unnecessary Makeover.

Somewhat of a sister trope to Wrench Wench, Tomboy, One of the Boys, Girl Next Door, and When She Smiles. Also, tangentially related to Meganekko and Nerds Are Sexy.

Examples of Unkempt Beauty include:


  • There's an ad for Five Hour Energy, where a guy gets up, grumbling about how he hates mornings, until he pulls out the product, then the next we see him, he's dressed and shaved, saying "Let's do this!" If you watch the commercial beginning to end, you may notice he looks about ten years older when cleaned up.

Anime and Manga

  • Cher from Wolf's Rain usually has disheveled hair because of her hectic working conditions.
  • Greece from Axis Powers Hetalia. He says in one strip that he doesn't want Japan to see his hair getting frizzy in the rain, but Japan honestly doesn't see any difference from the way his hair looks normally. And him having 'bed hair' all the time doesn't stop Japan from implicitly finding him attractive enough to sleep with.
    • England has frizzy hair (well, as frizzy as the series allows) and has bushy eyebrows and is still very attractive. However, Word of God did say that his eyebrows are plucked.
    • America has messy-looking hair.
    • There's also France, who's hair England envied when he was young but was described by Canada as unkempt.
  • L from Death Note looks like he just crawled out from under the bed with hair that he probably never brushes, solid black eyes, extreme bags under said eyes, wears the same plain, baggy clothing every single day, is extremely pale/thin, and Does Not Like Shoes. That doesn't stop him from being Mr. Fanservice.
  • Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion is often considered this by fans. Not that she would need a makeover to look nice...
    • For that matter, whenever Asuka gets rid of those ridiculous signature hair clips of hers, but especially near the end, when she just stops cares, manages to look infinitely more mature.
  • Yuki from Wandering Son used to wear a lot of makeup and wore a wig whenever she was outside; she honestly looked more like a drag-queen then a woman. In recent volumes she's ditched the makeup and grown her hair out. Her hair is apparently not all that combed either, and she's switches between casual and feminine attire often.
    • Takatsuki's hair is often unkempt, though she does also tend to comb it into a very tidy look.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: As shown in episode 17, Kyouya still looks good even when he's literally dragged out of bed in frumpy clothes and bed hair.
  • Misty of Pokémon considers herself a great beauty despite not wearing any sort of makeup, pretty hairstyles, or fancy clothes. Of course, this didn't stop her from trying for a makeover in the episode "Pokemon Fashion Flash." Big mistake, Misty.



  • In the Fearless books, Gaia Moore is often described as beautiful, despite the fact that she usually just wears whatever clean thing she can pull out from under her bed.
  • In the Symphony of Ages Rhapsody gains an unearthly beauty after traveling through the pure flame at the center of the world. Virtually every man she encounters after that are dumbstruck by her beauty, even though she's usually wearing highly practical clothing. Even when she was clad in rags, mud, and various pieces of debris from bushes, her beauty was enough that many locals mistook her for a nature spirit.
  • Piper from The Heroes of Olympus is described as looking beautiful to Jason, even though her hair is cut choppily, she's wearing a jeans and a parka, and her t-shirt is all torn up.
  • Eponine from Les Misérables. We're told that a life of poverty has been horrible to her, and now she's skin and bones with stringy hair, probably smudges of dirt, an unhealthy mind, even missing teeth. Despite all of this, she still looks good enough to be described with a star metaphor at one point.

Live Action TV

  • In Firefly, River Tam has long tangly hair, pale, unhealthy skin, bags under her eyes, and minimal makeup; this does not stop the fandom from adoring her, and several characters in-series remark upon her attractiveness. It helps that she's played by Summer Glau, see below.
    • Summer Glau, of course, being one of the few people that can successfully pull off the look of being so adorable, yet kinda creepy at the same time.
    • On the same note, Firefly usually had Jewel Staite in homey overalls and occasionally covered in grease. As Simon says, Kaylee looks good especially covered in engine grease.
  • Dr. Gregory House has big bags underneath his eyes, Perma-Stubble, and bed hair. His rugged, unkempt look is actually more attractive than the one and only time we see him clean shaven and smartly dressed. Too bad his personality flaws take away from it. Or not. Specifically a patient once said that Ashton Kutcher and House have the "same bedroom eyes."
  • Battlestar Galactica: Kara "Starbuck" Thrace wears no visible makeup, dresses in military-issue clothing, and is frequently seen bloody-faced, sweaty, and tired, with her Hair of Gold either messed up or in a utilitarian, all-business ponytail.
  • John Glover as Lionel Luthor.
  • Misha Collins as the angel Castiel in Supernatural. You'd think an angel with stubble, perpetual bedhead, rumpled tie, and hobo trenchcoat wouldn't be that attractive, but he is. In fact, some people have turned every aspect of his ruffled appearance into outright Fetish Fuel.
  • Summer from Power Rangers RPM. In flashbacks to her old life as a Rich Bitch she looks alright, all dolled up in a party dress and loads of make-up, but many will agree she's much hotter in her biker gear, with her hair loose and a little bit of dirt.
  • Most will agree that Kate (Evangeline Lily) from Lost looked far, FAR more attractive with scruffy clothes, messy hair and minimal makeup on the island than she did all done up on the mainland.
  • There were four women on Robin Hood and at least three of them looked much nicer when they were "roughed up" a bit. Marian (Lucy Griffiths) looked gorgeous when her hair was loose and her clothes unkempt, Djaq (Anjali Jay) made her Sweet Polly Oliver a true Bifauxnen and had many straight females questioning their preferences, and Isabella (Lara Pulver) was infinitely more beautiful with her hair wild and her Gorgeous Period Dress all askew. The Aversion was Joanna Froggat as Kate, who was given two rather dreadful hairstyles (one which was known as "the forehead braid"), but who looked her best during the only scene in which she had to tie her hair up off her face, showing off her high cheekbones.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hilary's boyfriend Trevor comes over, finding her wearing baggy clothes, not wearing makeup and wearing her hair down. She's horrified that he's seeing her like this, but he's genuinely blown away by how attractive she looks. Then Jazz comes over and tells Hilary she could stand to fix herself up. Fortunately, we are meant to disagree with Jazz.
  • Shane from The L Word. Her hair was always a mess (this despite her being a hairdresser), she never wore makeup and dressed casually at best. And yet she never lacked for appreciation.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 short "Body Care and Grooming", we are presented with two versions of the same woman—first with her hair messy, her blouse wrinkled, her socks mismatched, etc.--and then cleaned up, prim and proper, Fifties-style. Although the makers of the short clearly mean the "clean" woman to be more attractive, Joel and the bots (Crow especially) prefer the "sloppy" woman. Regardless, the message is lost when it's clear that the actress was incredibly attractive either way.
  • Jeremy Brett's morning hair is Adorkable in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
  • The Doctor Who episode The Doctor's Wife features Idris, a beautiful woman who is a mess due to having fallen through a hole in space-time. She dies at the beginning of the episode and her body becomes host to the soul of the TARDIS.
  • In Gilmore Girls Lorelai and Paris have each said that they envy Rory for being able to wake up in the morning and look great.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faith, in a deliberate contrast to Buffy's ever-groomed look.


  • YMMV, but Lady Gaga never looked prettier than in that shot of the "Bad Romance" video where she's only wearing mascara and no weird makeup or bizzarre clothes.
  • Lights, Even with hair that is often unruly (except for her trademark combed-over fringe) and a minimal amount of makeup (she is rarely seen without eyeliner), Lights still retains a natural cuteness. Many fans can't help but fall in love with her, especially When She Smiles.
  • The No Doubt music video for '"Underneath It All" shows Gwen Stefani gradually wearing more "plain" clothing and makeup, becoming more attractive with each step.
  • Courtney Love in her heyday frequently wore tattered babydoll dresses and bright red lipstick in the vicinity of her mouth rather than on her mouth, and appeared to be completely unacquainted with the concept of hairbrushes. She cleans up occasionally now, but 'messy' is still her most iconic look.
  • The country song "Gimme That Girl" by Joe Nichols is about this trope.
  • The Adam Gregory song "Crazy Days":

Don't worry 'bout what to wear
Those faded cut-off jeans are my favorite pair
Don't go messing with your hair
Let it all blow around

  • Here's what Taylor Swift looks like without makeup.
  • Katiejane Garside of Daisy Chainsaw/Queen Adreena/Ruby Throat is an amazing exemplar of it [1]. NSFW.

Video Games

Web Original

  • The Urban Dictionary refers to this trope as "hot mess".
  • Come to think of it, The Nostalgia Critic would lose some of his Pretty Boy appeal if he took off the baseball cap and got a proper suit instead of a seriously rumpled one.
    • The Nostalgia Chick as well. Watch that bit in the Second Year Anniversary trailer where her hair is messed up. She's particularly unkempt at the start of Kickassia, (until she turns into Sarah Palin).
    • In the same vein, fully groomed and dressed up, the Spoony One is at most only dorkishly handsome, but during most of his videos when he's looking slightly scruffy both his sexy and Moe count jumps up significantly.
    • Marz Gurl as well, looks like she only occasionally combs her hair, and wears t-shirts that look like they might have just come out of the hamper.
    • He's nowhere as sexualized as the Critic or Ask That Guy, but Chester A Bum still has Doug's big blue eyes and dimply smile, an accessible layer of dirt on his face, and the added bonus of being a Woobie Keet.
  • A lot of "Natural Nudes" websites go for this angle, exemplifying the unaltered beauty of the female form.
  • Widget of the Whateley Universe. She's very attractive, but she doesn't use makeup and she just slaps a bicycle cap over her hair, then jumps into baggy clothes and maybe a labcoat. She has a huge crush on Thunderbird, who thinks of her as a 'pal'.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Amber Benson, often seen at conventions, wearing such casual attire as a Ramones t-shirt, cargo shorts, and gigantic boots. Ask any fanboy, they'll say she's just as sexy dressed down like that as wearing a corset in Maxim.
  • Summer Glau certainly seems to have this trait, as she looks more attractive and beautiful without makeup. This is especially noticeable with her characters in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and is rather striking in Deadly Honeymoon, where there are scenes showing the characters without much makeup and later with it - and the difference is amazing. With the makeup, Summer looks like a doll, while without it, she looks very real and natural.
  • Truth in Television: Sometimes tabloids print photos of celebrities caught without makeup. The point of this is obvious; as pointed out in the header, the fashion industry wants us to think we all look like trolls without their products. A while back, a paparazzi caught a snapshot of Maggie Gyllenhaal coming home from some awards show. Apparently, even tired, disheveled, and (possibly) hung over, she's freaking gorgeous. She's most definitely wearing make up, though, and neither her hair nor her clothes are below average for any woman in public.
  • Marilyn Monroe once posed in a [1] potato sack, just to prove to everyone what they already knew.
  • Amanda Palmer wears wacky costumes onstage, but there's plenty of pictures of her completely dressed down. She looks extremely different without dark lipstick and eyeliner on, but she still looks quite beautiful. And her hair is always unkempt looking.
  • Evangeline Lilly; supposedly the actors don't put on make up when they're on an island far away from civilization.
  • The seventeenth-century poets Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick both wrote poems about this trope.
  • According to legend, Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor after seeing her freshly awoken, without make-up and with pillow hair, and wearing a decidedly unsexy flannel pyjamas.
  • Helena Bonham Carter seems nearly incapable of being a Kempt Beauty; any photo of her out of character will almost invariably have her hair looking just terrible.
  • Clive Owen's bed surely travels with him. He always seems to have awoken up five minutes ago, even when he kills mooks with carrots.
  • Mia Wasikowska, when her hair is long, anyway, looks like a real life River Tam. Her hair care routine seems to consist of two steps: 1. Wash it. 2. Maybe comb it.
  • Edward Furlong is this trope embodied. His hair is always long and messy, his clothes are always loose and he's partial to plaid flannel shirts and torn jeans, yet he's quite the Mr. Fanservice, especially in his youth.
  • Much of artist Phil Noto's work has this aesthetic, and he's cited 1960s era pin-ups as a big influence on his style.
  • Many of Annie Leibovitz' photos are of people undressed or dressed down, particularly a series in the book Women, featuring Vegas showgirls in and out of costume.
  1. form-fitting, tailored, with fringe on the bottom