It's Captain America's 80th birthday in 2021 (he debuted all the way back in 1941's Captain America Comics #1 (opens in new tab)), and in those eight decades, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's classic costume design has held firm in its most basic elements as the core of Cap's look, no matter what media he's portrayed in.
But there have also been some costumes and design choices that seemed out of left field (often on purpose), turning heads and even changing up who Captain America and Steve Rogers are in the process.
In recent weeks, Marvel Studios has introduced the MCU version of John Walker, the new Captain America who replaces Steve Rogers (at least for now), and actor Wyatt Russell's look as the character is remarkably different from that of Chris Evans, both in terms of the costume and how he wears it.
Meanwhile, Marvel Comics is gearing up to celebrate Cap's big 'Oak' anniversary with The United States of Captain America, a limited series which brings Steve Rogers, John Walker, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes together for a road trip adventure, where they'll meet new Captain America inspired heroes such as Aaron Fischer, whose DIY Cap costume is turning heads.
We're taking the party in a slightly different direction, playing off the energy of these new Cap looks to explore Captain America's ten funkiest costumes ever.
Steve Rogers V is the Captain America of the future. And for him, the future means shoulder pads.
One of the most fun aspects of reading older comic books is getting a glimpse of what the creators of the time thought might be a credible vision of the future – in the case of 1990's What If? (Vol. 2) #36 (opens in new tab), the far-flung future of the 22nd Century.
Secret Empire (opens in new tab) was a particularly contentious story that turned Steve Rogers into a fascist Hydra dictator through the machinations of the Red Skull.
Part of what made the concept and story so jarring was seeing Steve Rogers doing terrible things under the guise of Captain America – made even more uncomfortable when he adopted a Hydra-centric version of his classic costume.
Legendary artist George Perez is known for his eye for detail and expansive, more-is-more panels and page layouts, a philosophy that has extended into his distinctive costume designs – including this goofy-cool concept worn by Captain America (who went by Yeoman America in the tale) in an early adventure of Perez and writer Kurt Busiek's '90s Avengers (opens in new tab) run.
All of the Avengers (and we mean all – basically everyone who had been an Avenger up to that point) were given fantasy-esque redesigns for a brief arc set in a medieval-inspired altered reality where the sorceress Morgan le Fay had turned the team into her personal guard.
Every Avenger in the story got one of these funky, formidable, fantasy costumes (seriously, we're talking like 30 Avengers), which shows off not just Perez's prowess as an artist, but his endless supply of off-kilter, eye-catching character designs that defy expectation even when they only last for a few pages.
Captain America 2099
In the year 2099 (or in 1993's Doom 2099 #33 (opens in new tab), to be exact) Steve Rogers will be cloned with a constructed personality based on a mythologized version of Captain America to serve as a replacement for former president Doctor Doom.
In this unavoidable, inevitable future, this clone Steve will receive a new, improved wardrobe consisting primarily of a jacket Crusher Creel would have worn to a boxing match with an inflatable car dealership mascot.
In other words, it's absolutely incredible.
And while the world of 2099 may not actually be inevitable, but one of many of Marvel's possible future timelines, it's emblematic of the specific style of Marvel 2099 – the publisher's first big attempt to launch an alternate set of titles and characters based on more familiar franchises, with versions of X-Men 2099, Spider-Man 2099, and more populating the still cult-favorite '90s line.
A different Captain America 2099, Roberta Mendez, has her own much more superhero-esque Cap costume which is pretty close to the classic version.
Earth X/Paradise X
If you're not picking up on it, the future often takes a lot of liberties with Steve Rogers' wardrobe, and Alex Ross, Jim Kreuger, and John Paul Leon's dystopian 1999 limited series Earth X (opens in new tab) and its subsequent spin-offs are no exception.
The first outfit he wears in the alt-future story is pretty cool – mostly it consists of a torn American flag wrapped around the shredded remains of his classic suit. It's a powerful metaphor for the fate of the ideals Captain America has often represented in the now ravaged world of Earth X.
On the other hand, Cap's later outfit, introduced in 2002 sequel Paradise X (opens in new tab), is pure, unadulterated comic book creativity poured onto the page with zany results.
In what honestly amounts to a kinda normal day in the Earth X version of the Marvel Universe, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers were turned into angels – with Cap himself getting blue skin and a pair of wings.
The beauty and fun of comic books is that Captain America and the Avengers can get turned into angels in a post-apocalyptic future and you can still go back to classic Steve Rogers in the next story.
Let's see movies and TV top that!
The first time Steve Rogers left behind his identity as Captain America (in Captain America and the Falcon #180 (opens in new tab), the story that eventually set the stage for Sam Wilson to become Cap), he went a little overboard with designing his costume, putting all the skills of his then-day job of 'professional comic book artist' to put together this amazing set of clothing decisions for his new superhero identity 'Nomad.'
Design is a muscle, folks. You have to stretch it and flex it.
Fully eschewing the stars-and-stripes motif, Steve decided it was time to put the demure, dull Captain America of the past aside and rock an open-to-the-naval bare-chested disco pirate blouse and a yellow cape.
This costume gets weirder the more you look at it – and even creators Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema knew it (it was all part of the story).
In his first outing as Nomad, Steve tripped on the cape and let the bad guys get away, leading to a quick abandonment of the cape altogether (and of course he eventually became Cap again).
Still, we're confident that if, say, Chris Evans wore this costume for an MCU return (he did say he wouldn't be CAPTAIN AMERICA again – not Nomad. Gotcha!) a good segment of the population would be even more likely to pay full price for 3D.
Back in the swingin' '70s, Marvel was having a bit of a TV moment with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno's Incredible Hulk and Nicolas Hammond's Spider-Man series gracing the airwaves. Maybe that's why they decided to shoot for the moon and give good ol' Captain America a pair of straight-to-the-smallscreen features just in time for the bicentennial.
And in these 'lost classics,' Cap himself is played by Reb Brown, wearing this dazzling doozy of a star-spangled stuntman suit.
Playing off the popularity of Evel Knievel at the time, Reb Brown's Captain America rode a motorcycle and never EVER took off the helmet (safety first, says Cap!), sporting a clear, see-through version of his shield that doubled as the motorcycle's windscreen.
Not necessarily COOL, but distinct enough to inspire at least this eight-year-old home cosplayer to wear a bike helmet and throw a drum head at his dad in the name of embodying Steve Rogers!
Listen, a lot of you lived through the '90s. Many of you probably even underwent 'extreme' makeovers of your own, as did many superheroes of the day.
But how many of your wild '90s looks included personal battle armor designed to hold together your failing body as you lost the power of the Super Solider Serum?
The only hand raised should be that of Steve Rogers - who is also probably the only guy confident enough to pull it off, too - who donned a special exo-suit of armor in 1995's Captain America #438 (opens in new tab) (a story featuring the comic book version of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier villain Flag-Smasher).
Sometimes, more is more, and sometimes, it's too much. In the case of Steve's short-lived armor, it wound up being too much – but it did lead to other times Cap has donned a more armored look, with perhaps the pinnacle of the concept being the current Avengers: Mech Strike which puts Earth's Mightiest Heroes in giant-robot battle-suits.
Mutant X (opens in new tab) is an unsung gem from the late '90s and early '00s that envisioned a totally different version of the Marvel Universe, based around key differences in the history of the X-Men which radically altered the state of the timeline in which Mutant X was set.
The X-Men had already kinda done this a few times, most notably in 'Age of Apocalypse (opens in new tab),' but Mutant X was different – it focused on Havok, the leader of the X-Men in this timeline, whose body was inhabited by the consciousness of the mainstream Marvel Universe's Alex Summers who was forced to navigate his alt-universe doppelganger's life (a little like Quantum Leap).
There were numerous Mutant X versions of popular heroes, including this off-beat take on Captain America, which flipped many of his classic costume elements on their side (literally in the case of the horizontal stripes on his chest, an element shared by other Captain America designs that came later).
Rather than Steve Rogers, this Captain America was an unnamed mutant who took up the mantle after Steve died in a Sentinel attack on Avengers Mansion.
What If Punisher Became Captain America?
What if the Punisher became Captain America?
Well, according to 1993's What If? #51 (opens in new tab), if Frank Castle became Captain America instead of Steve Rogers, Steve would be a cyborg called the Captain and he'd wear this absolutely bananas ensemble.
The costume is meant to totally separate Steve from the classic Cap costume worn in the story by Frank Castle, but it has the added benefit of being completely bonkers, with a garish color scheme and giant wings on Steve's head that may or may not bestow the power of flight.
We can't say we don't love this look for how wild it is, but we're also glad it was a one-off in an alt-universe tale.