Unbuttoning the Mystery: Superman’s Shirts

superman shirt rip

Few superheroes are as iconic as Superman; few superheroes can even be mentioned in the same breath. And nothing in the Superman mythos is probably as iconic as Clark Kent ripping open his shirt to reveal the “S” shield logo. The shirt rip has been depicted in one way or another in just about every form of media. It’s a powerful, heroic pose, and that's probably why it's the first thing they teach every Chippendales dancer. I don’t think anything represents the transition from mild-mannered reporter to all-powerful demi-god better. Plus, it’s just a cool visual.

However, there’s one little hitch: buttons don’t unbutton when you pull open your shirt, they catch and pop off. Especially when the person doing the pulling has super human strength and almost zero gauge of how much pressure it takes to break a strand of thread. Meaning every time Superman is off to the rescue, he’s also just ruined one of his nice work shirts. Now, maybe, he uses snaps, but snaps are very easily unsnapped, which doesn’t go well with keeping ones secret identity. You don't want to show up at a meeting with your "S" showing. Of course, maybe, he just collects all these buttons later, and spends his free time sewing and mending in the Fortress of Solitude.

Although, he still has to do something with his street clothes regardless of the button issue. During a disaster is there a trail of clothing leading from Clark’s desk? Does Perry White say, “Great Caesar’s Ghost, Clark’s a streakin’ again!” According to the comics, Clark folds his clothes using Superman’s super origami abilities then compresses them down and slips them into a little pouch in his cape. Which is fine. But, okay, he doesn’t lose his suits but what about his dry cleaning bill? There’s only so much that wrinkle resistance can do. Can a combination of heat vision and arctic breath be used to replace dry cleaning? However, this doesn’t explain his shoes. Perhaps, being nigh invulnerable he swallows his shoes and glasses into his safe-like Kryptonian stomach, and passes them out at a more convenient time. However, I’ve never seen Superman crap out a shoe after being punched by Doomsday.

Superman Farts Shoe
Yes, Superman just sharted a shoe.

Other heroes have different methods: Peter Parker just webs his street clothes someplace out of the way or makes a handy dandy spidey backpack. The Flash keeps his costume in his watch (which makes more sense than it sounds). Because it’s a special watch and a special costume (okay, not that much sense), but this doesn’t explain what he does with his current outfit. Does he just put his costume on over it or does he stash them someplace, too? Green Lantern’s costume is made of will power, so theoretical they’re naked when they lose their will (which is convenient for anyone picking up a Green Lantern at your local super powered watering hole). Iron Man’s suit transforms into a brief case that he carries around, made of metal and the same exact red and yellow color scheme as Iron Man. Very inconspicuous. And Batman puts his bat-pants on one bat-leg at a bat-time.

Sometimes Superman is depicted as spinning around and around and eventually ends up in his costume. I assume the cyclonic force actually disintegrates his suit, but leaves his indestructible Superman outfit unharmed underneath. Which brings us to the question of what is Clark Kent’s clothing bill? Between disintegration and missing buttons, he's ruining a lot of nice Oxford shirts. It should be pretty easy to figure out how many button down shirts Superman has gone through during the course of a year. We can go about this two ways: by the number of comic book issues or by years.

How much Does Superman Spend on Shirts?

First, let’s break down the issues. So, there have been over 900 Action Comics starring Superman since 1938, and over 700 Superman comics. Including mini-series and shorter runs like Man of Steel, all told there’s over 1900 hundred Superman titles in circulation, and that doesn’t count Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, or Justice League comics. Let’s suppose that Superman goes through .8 shirts per issue (because sometimes he’s already in costume or finds a different way to change), which means Superman has destroyed roughly 1520 shirts over the years. Dress shirts can cost anywhere between $20 - $80, and can cost the Lex Luthors of the world $500 plus depending on the brand (which is probably a little pricey for a beat reporter). For arguments, let’s say he spends on average $50 for shirts. This means Clark Kent has spent $76000 on button down shirts.

Or we can take it from a timeline point of view, DC keeps it’s universe at around 10 years old. So, ever few years they crank back the speedometer, and say that Clark Kent is around 35-years-old and has been active as Superman for 10 years. So, if we use the same formula and say Clark goes through .8 shirts a day then in 10 years Clark would have ripped open 2920 shirts and paid $146000 for them, or that’s $14600 a year on shirts. If the average reporter makes $45000 a year, Clark Kent spends a third of his income on shirts. The other two thirds, of course, spent on patching man-shaped holes in various walls throughout Metropolis.

It’s not cheap being Superman… or a Chippendales dancer.

  • Justine
    Comment from: Justine
    04/24/12 @ 08:28:30 am

    If Superman is going through so many shirts, don't you think he'd buy them in bulk? That would be a smart move on his part, to lower the overall cost of all the shirts he is constantly tearing apart.

  • H4773r
    Comment from: H4773r
    04/24/12 @ 11:28:14 am

    Even in bulk, he would want to invest in a higher thread count, therefore, most likely canceling any sort of deal he would get on said shirts. . . . http://threepanelsoul.com/2012/03/12/on-secret-identities/

  • GrammarNerd
    Comment from: GrammarNerd
    04/26/12 @ 04:55:21 pm


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