If you were to believe the comics and most other media, it would seem that the discovery or development of super-powers leads inexorably to wearing tights and becoming a vigilante or a criminal. Well, obviously that’s an exaggeration. Comic books, TV, and movies are all there to entertain and tell (hopefully) interesting stories, so you’re going to see an overrepresentation of metahumans driven to flashy escapades; the reluctant mutant is shown to be the exception to the rule.
But some of us DO choose this kind of life, and while it is certainly an option to simply cover one’s face when going out, with whatever’s handy, there are compelling reasons that many of us choose to develop an iconic look which engenders recognition while maintaining anonymity. Which, of course, leads to a list of considerations, both practical and stylistic.
First and foremost, you have to consider what kind of activity you’ll most likely/most frequently be engaging in; if you’re gonna be mostly driving around in your CrimeMobile and relying on mooks and weapons to handle all of the physical stuff, you can pretty much wear whatever you want. But if you fly or leap or swing around town under your own power, and engage your quarry with the same, you’ll want something light that breathes; there’s a reason the most common “super-hero” attire around consists primarily of tights and leotards. When one of your primary strengths is agility and speed, you need something that allows for maximum freedom of movement.
But once the practical concerns are taken care of, what motivates a career vigilante to don easily seen and recognizable gear, as opposed to just a black jumpsuit or camouflage spandex? There is benefit to recognition in this line of endeavour, or at least potential. Once you’ve been out there, doing your thing for a while, the criminals you hunt start to know who you are, and if you’re generally successful in foiling them, you have an immediate edge in future encounters; they see your outfit and they (to lesser or greater degree) panic. A person who is off-balance makes more mistakes.
Also, a recognizable appearance and manner helps out with allies as well; other vigilantes and even the police will build up an opinion of you (hopefully positive) before your first actual encounter. If you’ve performed honorably in the past, potential allies are more likely to respond positively to you and less likely to focus on the criminal aspects of your vigilanteism. It’s harder to know if you’re the same guy if you just wear street clothes and a bag over your head whenever you go out. There is the possibility, of course, that somebody can copy your costume and go out to discredit you, or use your reputation to get easier access to commit a crime, but that’s why I mentioned appearance AND manner above. If you’re reputation is well-enough established, even many who’ve only heard of and/or read about you may get a feeling something’s amiss with an imposter.
Hmmm… I suppose there are some “corner cases” and unlikely scenarios throughout the above, but I still think about these things, and any vigilante that wishes to make a go of it should think of these things as well.
The last consideration in choosing a look for your activities is whether or not you want to have your outfit display some kind of “theme.” Spider-Man has a spider on his chest, Batman has a bat on his chest, The Flash has a lightning bolt. I honestly don’t have much of an opinion on the matter one way or the other, except for this; don’t craft a costume that gives away information about you that isn’t already available. If you have powers that enable you to grow to 50 feet tall, that’s gonna be pretty obvious, so having an outfit that somehow invokes that ability is not a problem. But if you have psychic abilities, and can use sleight of hand and misdirection to disguise them as something else, don’t then wear a costume with a head radiating brain waves as its logo.
Maybe some or all of this is pretty obvious to everyone out there, maybe I’m just sounding like an idiot for thinking anybody needs or wants this advice. But these are the things I think about, and I’ve definitely run across a few people who could’ve used some of this advice.