A History of Batman's Suit

Keaton's Batman in Comic Form for the 'Batman 89' series

Any classic superhero needs a classic outfit. Superman has the red cape and tights. Spiderman wears the red and blue web suit. Captain Underpants had…well…underpants. A hero needs a classic look that strikes fear in the heart of their enemies (while also being marketable). Most cultured folks would say that the hero with the best suit belongs to the one and only Batman. The cape. The cowl. The nipples. Ok, ignore that last part. Today, I’m going to analyze the history of Batman’s outfits and how they evolved throughout the decade.


The Original (1939)


Batman made his debut in May 1939. Believe it or not, a good amount of the caped crusader’s costume has remained intact. The cowl’s pointy ears and black cape give off the impression that a giant bat is flying around gotham. The jarring yellow utility belt pops in the darkness in contrast to the black and gray primary colors. Some earlier versions feature Batman with more blue in his outfit, particularly on the cape.

First Significant Changes & Adam West (60’s & 70’s)    

For the most part, Batman’s costume stayed the same for the first few decades. In the 60’s, the decade introduced the world to the yellow symbol in the middle. Does it look like a bullseye? Perhaps. Yet, there is something iconic about the black bat symbol against the yellow backdrop. The comics also kept expanding upon the ears on the cowl in length.

Around this time is when the gauntlet spikes were introduced. This gave the Dark Knight a more edgier look. However, the 60’s didn’t portray Batman as too edgy as there was a very popular show starring Adam West at the time.

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight (1986)

In 1986, perhaps the most famous Batman story was published. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns was a smash hit with both readers and critics. The story is about an aging Bruce Wayne and what Miller called ‘Batman’s last case’. Miller’s Batman ditched the yellow symbol in the center while also bulking him up. Another noticeable change was the shorter ears on the cowl.

Another costume debuted in Dark Knight Returns. That would be the Bat Armor when he faced off against Superman in the book’s climatic finale. Fused with Kryptonite, the Batsuit gives Batman the power to take the Man of Steel on in a fistfight. Equipped with giant metal gloves and a thick metal helmet, Batman is able to defeat Superman in perhaps his greatest story ever.

Burton & Schumacher (late 80’s & 90’s)

In 1989, Tim Burton directed his gritty Batman film which starred Michael Keaton as our Caped Crusader. Keaton’s Batman suit was made of rubber and looked like a giant one piece suit. The yellow symbol returned while there was more detail to show off Batman’s muscles. Personally, I find this the definitive Batman look. Future additions tried to make the suit more practical, but you can’t argue with the classic.

Unfortunately, in the late 90’s, Joel Schumacher decided the bat suit needed nipples in his Batman movies. You can predict how well this went. I will give some credit to have the suit all be one color including the logo. However, this doesn’t forgive Schumacher for the sins of his film.

Nolan (2000’s)

After the low point of Batman and Robin, the caped crusader needed a rebrand. The 2000’s saw a return to the more dark tone that Frank Miller had dabbled with. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was universally loved by critics and fans. During the early part of the decade, the world was wrapped up in the wars in the Middle East. Coincidentally, Nolan’s Batman suit is made up of combat armor. There aren't any yellow symbols or bat nipples. Just a sleek, invulnerable vigilante ready to deliver some justice. Dignity had been restored to Batman.

The New 52 & Arkham Games (2010’s)

In 2011, DC decided to reboot all of their characters and tell new stories without messing with continuity. This project was titled ‘The New 52’. Batman’s first story was The Court of Owls. The costume kept the black cape, cowl and bat symbol but returned to the gray midsection suit. 

This era was truly defined by Rocksteady’s Arkham series. Again, the character utilized the black cowl and gray midsection with the utility belt. However, in Arkham Knight, they revamped the outfit to add sleek armor to help move better in the free roam fight style. Personally, I enjoy Batman with some armor on him. After all, he is being shot at nearly every minute. A small tidbit I do love about these games is that the cape on Batman slowly gets ripped apart and his suit starts to tear the longer the game goes. You truly feel like Batman is being pushed to the limits in these games.


82 years after Batman made his debut, he’s as popular as ever. He continues to be DC’s best selling character and possibly the most famous superhero in the world. With the MCU success, DC decided to try their own cinematic universe. Batman v Superman is heavily inspired by Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. The Kryptonite armor made its live action debut and took Superman to the cleaners. In fact, the Batman scenes are considered the best parts in the very divisive movie.

After the DCEU fizzled, Matt Reeves was given a chance to make his own version. The Batman was released this past year and is already being regarded as one of the best iterations. Robert Patterson’s batsuit looks very similar to the Arkham Knight costume with the armor and being nearly entirely in black. In fact, this suit makes Batman nearly bullet proof as seen in the climax against the Riddler goons. One small tidbit I enjoy is that the bat symbol in the center of his chest is actually a sharp blade that can be detached. I love it.


There you have it. 80 plus years of Batman and all of his suits. There are other suits in Elseworld stories but those don’t take place in the main continuity. With Halloween approaching, you’re bound to come across a few kids dressed in the cape and cowl. Armed with this knowledge, you can tell which version the kid is dressed as. The campy Adam West Batman from the 60’s? The broody, bitter old man in Frank Miller’s story? Or the classic Michael Keaton look in the 90’s? Either way, as long as they aren’t dressed up as the Schumacher Batman, all is well in the world.


Mr. Bierbaum lives a simple life. He goes to work, pays his taxes and is still trying to become a Pokemon master. From classic N64 to more modern games, he plays and reviews them all.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Pokemon FireRed (again!)
Top 3 Favorite Games:Batman: Arkham City, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Batman: Arkham Asylum