I guess I can live with the fact that the Incredible Hulk changes size drastically when he transforms, but why does his shirt rip off and not his pants?

I think that we need a little better answer than "it keeps us tied to the fact that inside he's still human".

  • 2
    but...could he use the pockets? Commented May 13, 2012 at 3:59
  • 23
    I always assumed Banner woke up naked in an alley after his first Hulk-out and realized he urgently needed to find a solution to the pants problem. He used his outsized genius brain and figured out a way to keep his jolly green junk hidden after that.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 19:02
  • 1
    Elastic pants are not exactly super science.
    – Nacht
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 1:43
  • 7
    Urban myth back in the seventies was that the pilot episode showed Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk naked from behind running down the city street. Sadly some local resident further up the road stepped out into the street for a better view and was ran over by a bus. This became the basis for "You mustn't cross when the green man is flashing".
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 7:50
  • 1
    "Your pants can stretch as far as you can without injuring yourself, and still retain their shape. Virtually indestructible, yet they breathe like Egyptian cotton."
    – Misha R
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:45

6 Answers 6


Stan Lee answered this question in an interview with Eric Spitznagel of Vanity Fair (March, 2011). You can read the transcript on ComicBookMovie.com.

VF: If it weren’t for the Comics Code, would the Hulk’s pants have ripped off like his shirt?

Stan Lee: I guess it probably would have. So occasionally the Code did some good things.

VF: Did you ever try to make sense of the Hulk’s magical purple pants? Why did they always conveniently remain intact while the rest of his clothes were ripped to shreds?

Stan Lee: I just figured that Bruce Banner had probably been a friend of Reed Richards [Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four], and Reed had given him some elastic trousers. There’s an explanation for everything, but you may not be technically advanced enough to follow me on all of this.

This is known on TV Tropes as Magic Pants.

  • 23
    I dunno. There's that, and ... well, I've gained about 30 lbs in the past year. My pants from before I gained weight still fit, but my shirts sure don't. Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 22:03
  • 8
    @KarlKatzke You must be working out then, because my last 30 lbs definitely contributed exclusively to my pants size. :( Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 21:50
  • 2
    Unstable molecules.
    – aVeRTRAC
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 0:36
  • 6
    Huh. I'd never made the connection back to Mr Fantastic and the existence of other super-stretchy materials within that universe. That's actually a more reasonable explanation than I was expecting...
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 21:28
  • 1
    @BilltheLizard Heh. In a surprising twist of events, one of the best written, boldest, uncompromising comics had not received the censorship authorities' approval.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 23:03

"Power Man & Iron Fist" #65 circa 1980 offered an insight into this question. Luke Cage, notorious for losing his yellow shirts due to violence and mayhem, visits his local haberdasher for replacements... enter image description here

  • Now that's... funny?
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 22:44

In the later part of the TV series, his jeans ripped up to the top of his thighs, which is fair enough, considering lou ferrigno as the hulk had the dimensions of a bodybuilder with small waist and huge muscles elsewhere, and ferrigno was considerably smaller than his comicbook counterpart.

In the comic however, (especially the Sal buscema era) those darn purple pants of his are not like normal jeans or trousers at all. They are more like super durable and stretchy long legged purple underwear worn under jeans or trousers, that rips at the ends. I reckon that would make more sense, considering they always hugged his legs as the hulk and as banner after his transformations. In the comic, they never looked like everyday jeans or trousers. Perhaps that's what Reed Richards or Tony Stark made for his friend Bruce Banner?


As I remember in looking at the early (Kirby) issues of the Hulk comic, Dr. Banner wasn't a "total square." He wore purple pants with cuffs. Not daring, as he was otherwise dressed like a good researcher of the day would have. Blues, grays, browns and greens, were also common colors for pants. But dark purple slacks were not unseen. They could have been something like pleated work slacks from Sears. Those slacks had hip pleats. I know that when you snap off the belting fabric you still only gain about two to four inches at the hips and no inseam. And as the joke goes, "If my pants were that tight, I'd turn green too."

OK, so we give Bruce pleated work slacks with Inseam Guard (1966?) and almost no wear. Brand new! That might let the fabric stretch out to paper thin for a while. Is the tension itself holding the stitching in place? Is the fly fused shut?

Looks like some questions breed more questions.


In the MCU at least, S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him "elasti-pants" of some sort. Go to Hulk's page on the MCU wiki for more information.


In the Incredible Hulk series episode called ''Prometheus'' Lou's Hulk did indeed lose his trousers. In part one he transformed by those rocks, and as the helicopters approached the Hulk actually tore his trousers off, revealing shorts underneath.

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