I am aware this is a bold statement, but I firmly believe I can back it up.
First, though, I’d like to clarify that this article is not about Iron Man’s armor (although he has had some bad ones). If it was, this would be another edition of Fashion Disasters and it would be written by Jessica Plummer. But it isn’t, and I’m definitely not Jessica Plummer, sad to say.
No, I’m talking about the fact that Tony Stark, despite being one of the richest people in the Marvel universe (well, usually), cannot dress himself to save his life. He cannot even build a robot with fashion sense to tell him when he’s embarrassing himself. While I hate to see all that money wasted on terrible clothing, I do like to make fun of him for it, so let’s go.
In the early ’70s, Tony seemed to favor ugly shirts and giant ascots. Here’s a heinous example from Iron Man #57.
In the next issue, he’s at least got a monochromatic shirt, but the ascot appears to be taking over his entire torso.
Also, while I haven’t mentioned his hair yet, I assure you I have noticed it. It’s so fluffy!
Later in the decade, as he succumbed to alcoholism for the first time, he did so while wearing some fantastic frills.
Then in the ’80s, we learned what Tony really wears under his armor. Nowadays, of course, it’s a sleek black Tron suit. But back then, well, check out the dude on the far right inside this giant crimping machine.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with wearing bright red thongs. Except when it is the only thing you have on beneath an extremely heavy metal suit that you wear into battle. Do you seriously want to be distracted by a piece of string riding up where the sun don’t shine in the middle of a fistfight with Thanos?
(He would later upgrade/downgrade to tighty-whiteys.)
The absolute low point of Tony’s fashion history has to be this splash page from Iron Man #219. Nothing can prepare you for this, so I’m just going to post it.
I remember reading this issue for the first time and needing to take a minute to absorb all of this. I encourage you to do the same. Just look at it: the tiny, midriff-baring shirt. The shorts. The little sweat bands. The ankle beeper disappearing inside his baggy socks. The best part of this panel is not even the outfit but the fact that he’s clearly so proud of himself for it. That’s a grin that says, “I have made nothing but good choices today.”
In the next issue, he managed to find some real clothes, apparently by stealing them off the set of Little House on the Prairie.
Even later, in Iron Man #238, he showed up in whatever the heck this is.
Note the contrast between Steve Rogers’s extremely normal motorcycle-riding clothes and…that. Also please note the beginnings of a highly unfortunate mullet. The ’90s are dawning and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
And if you think Tony has learned his lesson in the years since, what with the nice suits and simple band shirts and all that, please look at this panel from Captain Marvel #13.
Tony. Buddy. Are you cosplaying as Angel from Rent? What is that robe? Actually, this may just be comicdom’s standard Doofy Billionaire Robe, as Bruce Wayne wears a suspiciously similar model in White Knight.
Okay, we’re getting off-topic. I think I have amply proved my point by now: Tony Stark has no fashion sense whatsoever. If I wanted to get all deep about it, I’d probably say it’s due to his awful childhood, and his funky clothes are him being playful in a way he wasn’t allowed to be as an actual kid. Or maybe he just likes annoying people with his ugly clothes. It’s probably both, to be honest.