A Serious Critique of the MCU’s Street Style

Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

In the ten years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, we’ve had nine Captain America uniforms, 50 Iron Man suits (literally!), and thousands of torn Hulk pants (estimably!). Heck, even Hawkeye, a guy whose power is to shoot bows and arrows, is currently on his fourth suit.

The discrepancies between comic-book hero uniforms and their faithful MCU iterations are debated with Talmudic scrutiny; it’s important that the same attention be paid to the outfits our heroes wear when they’re norming it up as civilians. One of the most interesting things about the MCU is that most of these otherwise-secret identities openly associate with their world-saving day-job alter egos. This means everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man, just as everyone knows Steve Rogers is Captain America, just as everyone knows that Thor is Thor.

And so, the question must be asked: Why isn’t there more critical consideration put into what the Avengers & Co. are wearing when they’re not avenging? Why is it that we’re so fixated on Jessica Jones’s denim, yet throughout the MCU’s decadelong box-office dominance, we’ve never once engaged in a serious takedown regarding how many of our heroes are committing the crime of dad jeans? Below, we’ve laid out ten integral participants in the forthcoming Infinity War, and ranked them from worst to best dressed. Avengers, assemble … so we can critique what you’re wearing.

10. Groot
With Infinity War, the Avengers are getting some new recruits. And of all the dozens of Thanos challengers, none puts less effort into their look than Groot.

And we get it. He’s a living tree. But even trees wear things sometimes. Like Christmas decorations. Or yellow ribbons. Or rolls of toilet paper.

If we had to assess Groot’s overall look, we’d say it’s all bark and no bite, and now couldn’t be a better time for him to branch out from the “wearing nothing” shtick.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Does He Need a Makeover? Fortunate for Groot, gardeners are more affordable than stylists.

9. Tony Stark
Part Mob boss and part Big Bang Theory cast member, Tony Stark’s fashion aesthetic alternates between boxy pinstripe suits and faux-ironic vintage tees. Just take a look at Stark’s first appearance in the Iron Man movie, in which he dons an impossibly long double-breasted zoot suit jacket that features the pattern of your grandfather’s silk pajamas. Or consider the gray — you guessed it — pinstripe suit paired with the disproportionately thick jaundice-yellow tie he wears before a Senate hearing in Iron Man 2. It’s as if the Men’s Warehouse came out with a limited-edition Goodfellas line.

And when he goes casual, Tony whips out a faux-vintage Urban Outfitters T-shirt with, for example, Bruce Lee DJing at two turntables (Age of Ultron), or an overwashed Black Sabbath shirt from their 1978 North American tour (The Avengers). Which means his tee collection should start hitting an early-’80s references any day now.*

Photo: Marvel Studios
Photo: Marvel Studios

Does He Need a Makeover? Tony is a billionaire and he’s a visionary. But when it comes to public appearances, he looks like neither. The one thing he does right is intermittently rock the bow tie, but the suits themselves require classic patterns and materials like plaids or tweeds, and they should most definitely be tailored with a slim fit. Or he could walk into a Tom Ford boutique and just buy everything. Because that sounds like something Tony Stark would do.

8. Steve Rogers
For a guy devoted to defending all men, Steve Rogers doesn’t really dress like any of them. In fact, he dresses more like a Kohl’s mannequin, or a Wii avatar: bereft of patterns, graphics, imagery or anything you couldn’t color in with one singular crayon.

But the most glaring offenses are when Rogers dons a completely blank baseball cap with the bent brim (The Winter Soldier), or a skintight Under Armour workout shirt paired with wide-leg jeans (Civil War). Sure, in his defense, you could say he’d just been defrosted from 70 years spent as a Capsicle, but with the bro’d out wardrobe, it feels like Marvel inadvertently gave us a Captain ‘Murica.

Photo: Marvel Studios
Photo: Marvel Studios

Does He Need a Makeover? Rogers is a proverbial walking apple pie, which makes it a challenge to style him in anything other than vanilla ice cream, but while he errs too far on the side of blue-collar blandness, Americana doesn’t have to be synonymous with fashion vacuousness. In fact, Rogers doesn’t even have to go that far for a fashion precedent. All he needs to do Google search the words “Chris Evans” and “fashion.” Which is a thing Rogers can feasibly do because, duh, the Multiverse is real.

But in reality, the actor wouldn’t be all that radical of a departure for Rogers to emulate; Evans isn’t known for color or pattern boldness himself, but everything he wears fits impeccably and each classic garment is worn with confidence. Which makes the difference between timelessness and cluelessness.

7. Natasha Romanoff
Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanoff, otherwise known as the Black Widow, is the world’s greatest superspy. Alas, she is not the world’s greatest stylist. And it’s true that spies are committed to anonymity, but anonymity doesn’t mean you have to look like, as they say in Russia, a babushka.

In fact, in the last year alone, we’ve had two exemplary stylish spies: Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde) and Dominika Egorova (Red Sparrow). Both understood that racking up some major ogling points can also serve as a purposeful distraction tactic. Romanoff, on the other hand, errs on the side of network-television budget wardrobe with ill-fitting pleather jackets and outdated cocktail dresses borrowed by the costume director of Swingers (maybe Happy Hogan called in a favor?).

Photo: Marvel Studios
Photo: Marvel Studios

Does She Need a Makeover? Considering Black Widow’s appearance in the promotional material for Infinity War, Romanoff has already undergone a makeover. Which gives us hope. But if this deviation from her iconic red coiffure is relegated to the hair color alone, our recommendation is that the OG female Avenger tap into her newfound blonde ambition and hit up Chanel or Dior, much like the aforementioned Broughton. Granted, her S.H.I.E.L.D. salary probably couldn’t afford her haute couture, but after the counterterrorism agency’s dissolution, she’s on Stark’s payroll now. Cha-ching.

6. Peter Parker
Is it fair to pick on a high-school student? Well, yes. Because in the traditional Marvel mythology, which features an elderly cardigan-clad Aunt May raising the orphaned Parker, his trend cluelessness is understood. But in the MCU, we have a bunless Aunt May portrayed by Marisa Tomei who, I think we can all agree, has only gotten better with age and has also ditched the cardigans for tank tops and high-waisted jeans. You don’t need eight eyes to see that Parker has a style precedent, so what’s with the dorky science-pun T-shirts?

Then again, it’s been nearly a decade since fashion magazines declared the geek aesthetic on point, and Parker has come of age during this weirdly contrarian time. Moreover, considering the webslinger lives in a gentrifying Queens, it’s also totally possible to interpret his look as normcore.

Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Sony/Columbia Pictures
Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Sony/Columbia Pictures

Does He Need a Makeover? Unequivocally, yes. No one looks good in a yellow sports jacket, even if that means his quitting the debate team. And it’s never been more pertinent for Parker to step up his game if he’s going to court a model in the MCU’s next Spider-Man installment (or maybe he won’t?).

We’re not suggesting, like a typical New Yorker, he needs to wear all black — we know he’s sensitive about that color scheme. But Parker needs to remember that he’s a wallcrawler, not a wallflower.

5. Thor
If you’ve ever wondered how a god dresses when he’s not busy being a god, the answer is apparently as an extra in Cameron Crowe’s Singles. Adorned in a black hoodie under a gray denim jacket, the hammer-wielding deity walks around Manhattan like it’s Lazy Sunday, and is even recognized by adoring thunderstruck fans who take a selfie with him (Thor: Ragnarok). Which reasserts my premise that everyone knows he’s the son of Odin, and his look is not a disguise but rather an affront to Freya, the Norse goddess of beauty.

But for all the wardrobe malfunctions in the MCU, this one is the most perplexing. As the only worthy proprietor of the Mjolnir hammer, Thor’s shlump isn’t even worthy of a DeWalt.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Does He Need a Makeover? How should a god dress? Do they outfit themselves in Jerry Lorenzo’s edgy menswear label Fear of God? Do they shop at New York’s budget-friendly OMG Jeans? Or perhaps the supreme ones wear exclusively Supreme? (Which brings us to our next question: Do gods wait in line along with high-school kids on Thursdays to cop this week’s collab drop?)

Thor is a physically formidable presence, both burly and athletic, and he could use some prestigious splendor. Like, for example, a gilded Versace baroque jacket or a three-piece crushed-velvet suit. Sure, neither are subtle, but anyone who conjures up deafening thunder when given the opportunity isn’t about subtlety.

4. Bruce Banner
Hulk smash, but Banner bore. The angsty green giant has thus far appeared in only 4 of the 19 MCU films, but in just about every appearance, he’s wearing a nondescript suit with a purple button down shirt. Or as his fellow Avengers team member Black Widow would describe him, he’s a “huge dork” (Age of Ultron).

Then again, nuclear physicists are not known for their fashion sense, so unlike, say, a god or a billionaire, Banner gets a pass for investing his brain space on quantum thingies and isotope stuffs and what not.

Photo: null/null

Does He Need a Makeover? If we were to ponder Banner’s wardrobe choices for a moment, why is it that he’s hasn’t asked Stark to develop a purple shirt to go with his stretchy purple pants? The answer is probably no more complex than the Avengers already have one resident costumed eggplant in their ranks.

3. Stephen Strange
Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, or the Sorcerer Supreme, is so confident in his garb selection that since his induction into the Masters of the Mystic Arts, he has yet to be seen in anything else. Which is disconcerting if there’s only one made, and even more so if he’s prone to a serious sweating.

Made from layers of denim and Japanese indigo, Strange’s outfit is a selvedge collector’s fever dream which makes it durable, trendy, and not totally unlike a Canadian tuxedo. Some will make the argument that it’s also technically his super-suit, but they would be wrong. Despite Peter Parker’s incredulity, Strange is the only MCU character who has no alias and uses his real moniker. Thus, no super-suit.

Photo: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios

Does He Need a Makeover? As far as we’re concerned, and just as long as Strange has a resident dry cleaner who specializes in treating mystical and other-dimensional stains, this spell conjurer could ostensibly go straight from the Negative Zone to walking down a Visvim or Junya Watanabe runway.

2. Vision
For a guy who’s only 3 years old, Vision has already figured fashion out. And it’s true that the android’s vast knowledge was sourced from Tony Stark’s next-level artificial-intelligence program J.A.R.V.I.S., but then again, we can’t imagine the tech billionaire equipping his glorified intercom system with a style protocol.

And as if adolescence wasn’t hard enough, imagine having a fuchsia complexion on top of it. There’s not a lot that pairs well with a beetroot red, but Vision commendably had the … vision to adopt a classic formality that resembles that of retro fashion icons Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. This means muted cardigans, vests, and ties, which is a welcome respite from the Dada eyesore that is his aubergine, pickle-green, and daffodil action suit.

Photo: Marvel Studios/Film Frame

Does He Need a Makeover? Vision may have just hit his terrible threes, but there’s nothing terrible about a synthezoid superhero in an ascot (Civil War). And while most men are not capable of pulling one off (aside from Paul Bettany), Vision does so with a cucumber cool. So much so that his elegance, and his paprikash recipe, of course, has wooed his Avenger teammate Scarlet Witch.

1. T’Challa
Beyoncé. Prince. Liberace. There’s a precedent for the truly fashion forward not needing such a pedestrian thing as a “last name.” And T’Challa, latest in the Black Panther lineage, is no exception. As the heir to the throne of Wakanda, the son of T’Chaka is undoubtedly the MCU’s best dressed, with a wardrobe literally fit for a king. A gold-speckled tuxedo jacket in one scene. An Ikere Jones burgundy silk print scarf in another. And a luxe pair of Alexander McQueen sandals that T’Challa rocks with such solid Vibranium-esque confidence that not even his sister’s perfect diss (“what are those?”) can claw away at all that swag. All of this culminates in a standout character that truly epitomizes T’Chic.

Photo: Marvel Studios/Film Frame
Photo: Marvel Studios/Matt Kennedy

Does He Need a Makeover? According to reports, style was so intentional and considered for the worldwide-record-breaking movie that it even inspired the Twitter hashtag #BlackPantherSoLit. Therefore, we think T’challa fashion sense is already purrfect (that was our last cat pun. Swear). So much so that if Thanos were hypothetically seeking a Fashion Stone, we’re pretty sure he’d find it in Wakanda.

*It should be noted that in Thor: Ragnarok, Bruce Banner can be seen wearing one of Tony Stark’s spare outfits which includes a T-shirt featuring a Duran Duran image on the front. See? An ’80s reference!

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