The other day a random thought popped into my head: Why do superheroes so often wear capes?? I wondered if there was any literature on the purpose of capes in these superhero myths.
One thread suggested that there was a link from Zorro and/or The Three Musketeers. Those swashbucklers being the original “super heroes” of literature and, given the time periods, natural cape wearers. This then held over to Superman and beyond.
Others discussed the utility purposes of capes such as it’s assistance with aerodynamics, but at least according to one study on the phyiscs of Batman’s Cape (yes…an actual study) that seems incorrect. Other purposes include making it easy to hide or confuse enemies, being a protective shield, and acting as a symbol.
My favorite blog is this one that asks Do Superheroes Really Need Capes? The author basically decides the purpose of a cape is purely for the sake of fashion. It even goes so far as to depict some of our well-known cape-wearers looking rather silly without their capes.
I was disappointed to find that there was no deeper symbolism to be read into it. Something like “the fluid movement of capes create a sense of the ephemeral, and as such give human shapes an otherworldly form.”
So, I guess without that I’m with Edna from Pixar’s The Incredibles. As she puts it: