• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic
Betty Barrel 9154.jpg

To show that a character is in such dire financial straits that he's literally "lost his shirt," [1] the otherwise naked character will resort to wearing a large barrel held up with suspenders. Primarily seen in cartoons. This image probably came from a punishment for public drunkenness in Germany and England, where drunks had to wear a booze barrel. It's unclear how barrel wearing became associated with bankruptcy, but the trope stuck.

A Sub-Trope of Stock Costume Traits.

Compare Improvised Clothes. May overlap with Barefoot Poverty.

Contrast Conspicuous Consumption.

Examples of Bankruptcy Barrel include:

Comic Books

  • Brainy Smurf wears one in The Gambler Smurfs after losing everything at gambling (even his glasses).
  • In Carl Barks' "Statuesque Spendthrifts", Uncle Scrooge competes with maharaja of Howdoyoustan about who can raise the biggest statue of Cornelius Coot, which to the latter ends with this trope.
  • In the album "De fez van Fes" of the Belgium comic book series De Kiekeboes, we twice see a man in a barrel; one is walking out of a tax office and the other out of a casino.
  • In the Lucky Luke book The Daltons Escape, Luke runs into a man in such attire. The man explains that he was transporting a tequila barrel on donkeyback and the Dalton robbed him of everything, including the tequila (which they drank) and the donkey (which they ate).
  • Jose Carioca (or Ze Carioca) once became invisible in order to manipulate a soccer game so he'd win the lottery. (There's one lottery in Brazil where people bet in the results of a series of soccer games) Because his clothes didn't become invisible, he took them off and went to the field. The invisibility potion wore off while he was at the field. Wearing nothing but a barrel, Zé was seeking revenge against the witch who sold him the potion and the guardian devil who goaded him into seeking her help.
  • The page image for Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen shows Captain Marvel in one, which really raises more questions than it answers.

Live Action TV

  • Although no one wears it, there is the barrel in the neighbourhood of El Chavo Del Ocho where the titular Chavo seems to reside.
  • Quentin on Welcher And Welcher expressed disapproval at the fact that this wasn't seen anymore, describing it as a very funny image.
  • Mentioned in an episode of Seinfeld. Elaine finds out the man she's dating is poor, and Jerry asks, "Does he wear the barrel with the straps?"
  • Saturday Night Live (which can be like a living cartoon at times) had this on a Weekend Update segment where Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld (played by Jason Sudeikis) comes out wearing a barrel because his company was the first to go under because of the 2008 economic crisis. Lampshaded when Fuld explains that he can't sit down because he's wearing a barrel.
  • Ross and Moose end up wearing these during the You Can't Do That on Television episode about theft, when their clothes (and most of the set) have been stolen. Moose's has still has water, and a rubber duck, in it.
  • A part of Brazilian game show named Topa Tudo por Dinheiro ("Agree to Everything for Money") consisted of an employee making an unusual proposition to a random person and the contestant had to guess if the random person would accept for less than a certain amount of money; for that amount or more; or not accept at all. At least one occasion had the random person was offered to exchange his/her pants for a barrel and some cash.

Newspaper Comics

  • Appeared in one short Dilbert arc. "Our new dress code is barrels."
  • Long ago, Popeye managed to beat the Sea Hag at gambling so badly she ended up wearing one of these.
  • Hagar the Horrible's looting sometimes results in the castle owners wearing barrels.


Tabletop RPG

  • There was a fairly popular early 1990s Dungeons and Dragons supplement called The Book of Marvelous Magic, which contained a cursed item called a Barrel of Poverty. The first person to look inside of it would have all of his personal items, including all clothing, weapons, armor and even spell components, magically transported back to his home, wherever that was. The Barrel would then become non-magical, but would grow straps to allow the now naked adventurer to wear it to avoid embarrassment and because it was slightly better than no armor at all.


Video Games

  • In Sierra's Jones in the Fast Lane, failing to buy new clothes for your character every once in a while will eventually cause the character to resort to wearing a barrel.
    • Also in a Sierra game, the first Leisure Suit Larry featured a broke guy with just a barrel and an apple he'll sell for 10 bucks. You'll need to buy it. (The guy in question is implied to be Apple's Steve Wozniak).
  • There is a gambler in Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy who lost all his winnings. For some orbs to get him back on his feet he'll hand over your Plot Coupons. Mild degrees of discomfort can result when he hands you the coupon he's keeping inside the barrel.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula for the Game Boy Color includes a mission where SpongeBob [the player] has to help Patrick find his lost shorts. Patrick is seen wearing a pink barrel and looking very sad.
  • One of the sponsors for the Wrong Answer of the Game in the 2011 release of You Don't Know Jack is "Fashion Barrel", a chain of stores that sells wearable barrels.

Web Original


Western Animation

  • Referenced in the opening theme to Freakazoid; the lyrics "So stay tuned to this station / If not, we'll be unemployed" is accompanied by several characters from the show wearing barrels.
  • In the Futurama episode "Raging Bender", one of the robots Bender fights as part of his stint as an Ultimate Robot Fighter is a rich-looking robot. Bender seals his victory by forcing a barrel onto him labeled "very poor".
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Harvey is called out of court by Gigi to buy her things. After a shopping montage, he returns to the court wearing a barrel.
  • In the first part of the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers pilot, main villain Aldrin Klordane's lackey Percy is seen wearing a cardboard box in this fashion, not because he's flat broke, but because the police dog Plato tore off the bottom of his pants.
  • In a 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Ye Olden Days,” Clarabelle Cow wears a barrel after she takes off many articles of clothing and they’re made into a Bedsheet Ladder for Mickey and Minnie to get down from the tower.
  • Spoofed in an old Goofy cartoon, "Get Rich Quick": After playing dice, Goofy is seen wearing a barrel, holding it up with both hands. He then hails a taxicab and, in a brilliant subversion, empties the barrel—full to the brim with his winnings—into it.
  • In the TDA special of Total Drama Island, DJ and his mother are both seen wearing these after countless lawsuits leave them broke and homeless.
  • Happens to Reggie van Dough in an episode of Hanna-Barbera's Richie Rich when Richie thought that his father had lost his fortune, as part of his friends helping to earn his money back, Reggie starts selling Richie's goods at absurdly low prices; when he is discovered, the mob strips off Reggie's clothing, forcing him to run off wearing only a barrel.
  • A Garfield and Friends episode depicting Garfield's take on the Arabian Nights had Jon playing the part of a young artisan with Garfield as "Alley Katta" in a town overrun by thieves. At the start, Jon went out to get a job with the Sultan declaring that "I have nothing left to lose" and, of course, ran back in the room a second later wearing a barrel. Garfield commented that "we'd better jump the story ahead before someone steals the barrel." (Jon got his clothes back in the next shot.)
  • Schoolhouse Rock had this happen to the colonists when they were unfairly taxed in the episode "No More Kings".
  • A non-finance-based variation comes at the end of the Tom and Jerry short Love That Pup, when Tom is shown donning one of these after Spike the bulldog follows through on a threat to skin him alive.
  • The Merrie Melodies cartoon "Hollywood Steps Out" features this trope near the end when Harpo Marx uses a slingshot to pop Sally Rand's balloon. She wasn't poor; it was for decency reasons (she was performing a nude bubble dance and the Hays Office would have banned the short outright if she was shown naked after the bubble popped. Plus, it's just funnier this way).
  • Used in this old Sesame Street cartoon short.
  • After Doug finds an envelope of money and has it legally declared his, he learns it belonged to an old lady and is conflicted over what to do. In his Imagine Spot not only is the lady in a barrel, but her dog as well.
  • Drakken wears one in Kim Possible episode "Showdown at the Crooked D".
  • In the Looney Tunes short "My Bunny Lies Over The Sea", Bugs Bunny meets a Scotsman wearing a kilt and quickly outfits him with a barrel to cover his "indecency".
    • In another one, Daffy was hunting a bear when an explosion made him lose his feathers. Fortunately he had them numbered for emergencies. Unfortunately, he only recovered the ones from the upper part of his body. The bear made a headdress from the others. Daffy put on a barrel and went after the bear when the game warden stopped him because hunting season was now closed. Daffy then announced they hadn't seen the end of him and started to leave, when a part of the barrel fell down, revealing "his end". Daffy doesn't seem to have noticed it.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog had several anthropomorphic sheep losing everything (including their freedom) to Robotnik in rigged gambling. Once they lost their wool, they were given barrels. Robotnik's casino even had nickel alleys that automatically removed the wool and gave the barrells.
  • Pink Panther once shaved all his fur to rid himself of a flea. He then put on a barrel.
  • In one Popeye short where he and Olive were about to get married, Bluto sabotaged Popeye's preparations, leaving our hero with no choice but showing up wearing a barrel, causing Olive to reject him and agree to marry Bluto. Popeye got his revenge by disguising himself as Justice of Peace and reminding Bluto of the duties married men usually have to follow, causing Bluto to run away from the marriage.
  • Buzz Buzzard was once running a supermarket where a customer entered with a barrelful of money and got out wearing the barrel and left wearing the barrel and carrying a small piece of meat.
  • In the 1920s Felix the Cat cartoon "Felix In the Swim", Felix and his friend, a young boy, go swimming together. Their clothes get eaten by a goat, so they have to go home in barrels. (This creates some Fridge Logic, since when they originally went in they were wearing swim trunks. And, wait a minute, Felix wasn't wearing any clothes in the first place...)

Truth In Television

  • The philosopher Diogenes embraced a life of virtuous poverty and lived in an urn. Probably as close as this trope has ever come to happening, even if Diogenes' urn was too large and heavy to be worn.
  • Though not really broke, Barrel Man (real name Tim McKernan) used to wear nothing but an orange-painted barrel to every Denver Broncos home game for 30 years until his death in December 2009.
  1. (though there are times when a character is forced to wear a barrel, not because he's poor, but as makeshift clothing)