FUQ : Why do cartoon characters never change clothes?

This is probably not the first time you’ve faced this question. Growing up we’ve all learnt lessons in hygiene (That you wish certain others in your hostel never forgot). One would surely have been confused by the inability of our dear friends from the television to change clothes. You may have dismissed the question later, perhaps in an attempt to not let logic get in the way of your prime time activity – you’d want to maintain your suspension of disbelief.

Don’t be fooled, though. This is not a silly question. Most people will try to convince you that it is, or that the artists were too lazy. The answer goes much deeper than just convenience, however.

Before we proceed, let’s forget about those with actual hygiene issues (We’re looking at you, Ben Ten). It’s also easy enough to understand those with uniforms, like Dexter and his favourite little labcoat.

Some others who are out on a long journey, like Ash Ketchum and his pals, simply have no other choice seeing as how essential travelling light would be to them. Regularly washing and re-using their set of clothes would have become second nature to them.

Next, let’s delve into the real world for just a moment, to look at two pioneering entrepreneurs – Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Jobs.

Zuckerburg’s famous grey t-shirt is what he reportedly wears every day. He doesn’t actually wear the same tee daily, but owns multiple copies of it. When asked why in an interview, he said that clothing and breakfast were silly decisions that he didn’t want to waste time on. For all those toons out there as busy as Zuckerburg, out to save our world or another, this makes sense. Although, we’d find it hard to extend this reasoning to those who seem to have a strong sense of commitment to fashion. Believe it or not, this amount of thought really has been put into the design. It gets better.

Steve Jobs always wore the same turtleneck, jeans and sneakers to every keynote presentation. It’s possible he too suffered from decision fatigue. But it’s also likely that he did so to establish a sort of branding. The attire came to be associated with him, and the designers of the apparel involved went on to make a large sum of money when they became popular. In fact, few companies have argued over who actually designed his turtleneck.

With relation to the personal brand, two marketers, Speak and McNally, detail it as a perception or emotion that describes the experience of having a relationship with person. This ‘branding’ could be a major reason to stick with one set of wear. This could help Velma and the other members of Mystery Inc. be recognised by potential clients in need of mystery solving, thus directly contributing to their livelihood. Characters with costumes aren’t very far away from this line of thought. The PowerPuff wear has become a symbol of hope to the citizens of Townsville, just as Batman’s has for Gotham City.

Now let’s take a step back and think about each of these characters. As I read over their names, I immediately associate an image with them. This image may change over time, but at infrequent occasions. If the same happens for you, then the artist has been successful at branding the character even in the real world. And this is the most important goal. A standard for the character draws regular viewers with more ease, even if the artist changes. What’s more, the standard adds more value to merchandise. More often than not, franchises make more money through merchandise sales than actual episode airing.

But keeping money matters aside, the branding of a fixed wardrobe contributes to a lasting memory of the show. And after all this time, what’s more important to us than the nostalgia it offers?

– Arvindmani Satyanarayan



The official media house of NIT Trichy.

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