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Ranking The Best MCU Style Icons

What should a superhero look like? It’s a question plenty of franchises have asked over the years. From the early, uniformed suits of teams like the X-Men and The Fantastic Four to the recognizable emblems adorning the spandex of Superman and Batman in the DC verse to Marvel’s latest interpretation – a medley of capes, iron, vibranium-enforced threads, and headgear. So. Much. Headgear.

When we first batted around this idea to debate the best superhero costumes in the MCU, we assumed the handmade armor of Tony Stark’s Iron Man or the sleek, utility-minded duds of Black Widow would reign supreme – iconic ensembles that mark the start of the action in any good Marvel movie. We thought a superhero costume was simply what a kickass Avenger wore when they were, well, kicking ass and avenging.

But for these god-like beings galivanting across universes and blipping entire planetary systems back into existence, their abilities don’t disappear once the leather and the shoulder pads do. To truly get a sense of superhero style, you’ve got to look beyond just one costume and appreciate the entire wardrobe. The plain clothes and the pomp and pageantry.

So, instead of ranking costumes, we’re going to be ranking style icons – the heroes who show up and show out, on the battlefield and off. Was this planned? Absolutely not. In fact, we retconned this entire idea based solely on the instant icon status of Tessa Thompson’s three-piece suit in Marvel’s latest, Thor: Love and Thunder. But are we going with it anyway? Yes. It’s what Tessa Thompson deserves.

Superhero Costume Must-Haves

Doctor Strange
Marvel

Before we (Uproxx features writers Jessica Toomer and Jason Tabrys) hash out the hierarchy of the MCU’s most stylish icons, some ground rules must be agreed upon. A costume must be a costume. We’re not talking Steve Rogers in a t-shirt, or Hawkeye in a hoodie. Superheroes are the closest thing we have to Gods on the big screen and the outfits they wear while in action must set them apart from the hoi polloi, the peasants if you will. We’re talking leather, capes, and crests. We’re talking costumes that look ripped from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie. We’re talking artistry, people.

The easiest identifier of a superhero in costume is likely the cape, and characters like Doctor Strange, Thor, and Vision are winning in that department. That billowing piece of fabric doesn’t need to be a sentient sidekick like Earth’s Mightiest Wizards’ is, but it does need to enhance a character’s look without inhibiting their abilities. The same goes for headgear and for any accessories added to the look. Now that we have that settled, onto the arbitrary ranking!

5. Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man Tony Stark
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: This is sacrilege to say because Tony Stark is the alpha, but in all honesty, Iron Man’s costume looks like something out of West Coast Choppers. It just looks like a midlife crisis motorbike. Still, he’s got some amazing glasses and we don’t give enough credit to eyewear when it comes to his style. Plus, of all the Marvel heroes, Stark would be the one most likely to be featured in a GQ fashion spread.

Jessica’s Verdict: I think the newer versions of the suit might look like a better-made Tesla — sleek and stylish exterior without the potential for combustibility, but he crafts these things by hand and he has the accessories game on lock. It’s a suit that has space for satellite-directed attachments that will allow you to incapacitate the Hulk. It’s functional. And Robert Downey Jr. wears everything with such confidence on-screen, that he has to rank amongst the best.

4. Loki / Hela

Loki Hela
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: I’m liking the headgear. It’s intense. Loki’s got a predilection for long jackets, which I think is bold. The green is underused — that kind of foresty green color that he rocks. I just feel like Loki is like a low-key style God.

Jessica’s Verdict: Both Loki and Hela are really doing things for headgear in the MCU but the stag crown and heavy eyeliner just scream “my father turned me into the literal goddess of death and then freaked out when he couldn’t control me and my oversized dog anymore.” Pretty sure they both listen to a lot of My Chemical Romance. A solid tie for fourth place in my opinion.

3. Scarlet Witch (Tie)

Wanda Maximoff
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: Scarlet Witch gets inclusion on any list of best costumes because she has just so much versatility in her looks — especially from WandaVision. There are so many different costumes. She’s got tremendous headwear also.

Jessica’s Verdict: I do think only Elizabeth Olsen’s bone structure could pull that off. Anything from WandaVision on, especially in Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness. She has her fingers dipped in black ink to signal that she’s now evil. That’s called a glow-up.

3. Thor (Tie)

Thor Love and Thunder
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: There are so many different looks for Thor. You’ve got the chain mail stuff. You’ve got the sleeveless era. You’ve got the sad Thor era — I know he is wearing regular human clothes at that point but that Thor spoke to me. It’s all about versatility. There’s a story there. So again, I know we’re kind of bending the rules, but Chris Hemsworth cannot be held down by rules.

Jessica’s Verdict: He will not be put in a box. And you’re right. His style has mirrored his character evolution. Thor got a glow up in Ragnarok. The mis-shaven head, the off-the-shoulder body armor look, the war paint – it needs to be celebrated.

2. T’Challa/Black Panther

Black Panther
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: I feel like Black Panther’s suit is not just more advanced, it also just looks so much cooler.

Jessica’s Verdict: He’s sporting the best color. Everyone and everything looks good in black. His suit is made of vibranium, he’s got claws built into the gloves which shows a commitment to theme. He’s got shoes that Kanye West would be jealous of. There are no notes there.

1. Valkyrie

Valkyrie
Marvel

Jason’s Verdict: Valkyrie just stands out on the battlefield. The white/gray suit. The blue cape. Everything else is so dark — blue or black or brown or burgundy. This stands out. I love a bold color choice. That just oozes confidence. It’s got some gold. There’s some armor there. That’s a superhero costume.

Jessica’s Verdict: To me, the suit looks dirty. The white … it looks like someone trampled all over it. I want to say it’s nothing to do with Tessa Thompson, obviously. She wears the hell out of it. But we have to admit the skirt is a little off-putting. That said, Tessa Thompson wears the hell out of a three-piece suit as king of New Asgard in Thor: Love and Thunder and she also goes into battle sporting a Phantom of the Opera t-shirt. I really don’t know how one could argue that she doesn’t deserve first place in the style icon race.

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