Rare’s island-hopping adventure game Sea of Thieves is an often strange and contradictory experience. It’s a cutthroat game where sinking enemy ships and separating players from their hard-earned loot is a perfectly valid strategy for getting ahead. Yet it’s also just as common to befriend other crews and spend your time exchanging fashion tips through proximity chat, as a result of the game’s cosmetic progression system.
Sea of Fashion is a popular subreddit created to cater to the more wholesome of these two approaches. It serves as a hub for players to post pictures of their pirates and get feedback on their outfits, much like real-world fashion forums. From colour-coordinated, flamboyant dresses to understated outfits, the subreddit is bursting with ideas for players to borrow from and replicate with their own pirate in game. On top of that, it also offers players a free photography service, where Iltacatact, one of the mods, will join your game to capture your pirate posing in ways beyond what the standard emote wheel allows, like wielding a cutlass or swigging some grog.
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Reddit user ItsKumquats started the subreddit in early April 2018, only a couple weeks after the game’s initial launch. However, it wasn’t until user Showstoppa Slim joined as a moderator that the subreddit started to take off and really develop an audience. It now boasts over two thousand members.
“I had started playing Sea of Thieves and was immediately obsessed, especially with making my pirate look good,” explains Showstoppa Slim. “I had played Destiny & Destiny 2 and was well aware of the Destiny Fashion subreddit, so I figured there must be something like that for Sea of Thieves. And if there wasn’t, I was going to make it. I found Sea of Fashion, which had been created on a whim by ItsKumquats about a week before.
“We wanted to create a place that was all about showing off your pirate style and getting new ideas. Since this game’s only progression system is cosmetic, we figured players would be pretty into the fashion aspect of the game, just like we both had quickly become.”
In Sea of Thieves, progression is flaunted exclusively through in-game cosmetics and titles. Completing tasks, such as earning commendations and making progress in a particular trading company, unlocks new items (like clothing, tattoos, hairstyles, and scars) for you to purchase from outposts and equip on your pirate.
This means that players can choose to equip the Legendary or Athena Ghost cosmetics to quickly communicate their experience to other crews or throw on some coarse Sailor clothing to lie about their status within the game and give their opponents a false sense of security. While clothing holds no real benefits beyond its outward appearance, it’s these dual tenets of expression and identification that makes the cosmetics so compelling to engage with on a deeper level. And this is where Sea of Fashion comes in. It encourages players to test out new combinations and get creative with the existing cosmetics, to find new ways to express their pirate’s personality, station, and achievements.
Some standout looks that have been posted on the subreddit include Drenderson’s ocean-themed style that mixes Wailing Barnacle cosmetics with the Angelfish makeup and the Athena’s Ghost belt; and MostStrange’s colourful outfit that combines the Castaway Bilge Rat jacket with the Parrot Trousers and Parrot Hat. Showstoppa Slim even chimes in from time to time, such as with this Celtic-inspired outfit which pairs the Ruffian Sea Dog Dress with the Rotten Bilge Rat pants, alongside the Skystrike face paint and the Sailing tattoo set. All of these outfits are particularly striking and help to distinguish their wearers from the sea of uninspired pirates that can be found roaming the seas.
Finding Your Style
“I have a few pieces of advice for finding good looks for your pirate,” Showstoppa Slim says. “The first is to think about your pirate’s story, because that can inform your choices for various looks or load outs you may create. Was your pirate a lowly backstabbing deckhand who sunk his own ship to spite the captain? Well then maybe he’s wearing his dead captain’s luxurious outfit, but with ragged hair, a disgusting beard, a black eye, a suspiciously janky pegleg made out of an old hand hook, and tattoos all over his hands unbecoming of an officer. Find your story and it can motivate interesting choices in your attire.”
Besides deciding what type of pirate you want to be, Showstoppa Slim recommends avoiding the temptation to crowd a look with too many vanity items like hooks, peglegs, and hats, and matching leathers and metals to avoid clashing colours.
It’s not only Sea of Fashion who are keeping the seas stylish, though. Outside of the subreddit, players are constantly sharing their favourite item combinations and sets on Twitter. It’s also not uncommon to see players set up their own separate Twitter account for their pirate, to spare their landlubber friends every detail of their latest swashbuckling adventure.
Lara, better known by her Twitter handle @Bad_Dps, is the co-creator of the Sea of Thieves’ game show Loot n’ Lore and also previously founded her own short-lived Sea of Thieves’ fashion blog called The Clothing Chest. Like many other Sea of Thieves’ players, she enjoys mixing and matching items to create exciting looks and believes it’s the game’s cosmetic-only approach that allows players to unleash their inner stylist.
“[I like] the fact that you have so many combos, but you only have to worry about how the outfit looks, rather than the stats,” says Lara. “I would like to see [more] little details, like jewellery and misc. items. For example, the Order of Souls mystics always carry a set of cards. And let’s not forget, masks.”
Nicola Ardron, a games writer from the UK and the creator of a hilarious Dutch Van Der Linde cosplay from Red Dead Redemption 2, expresses the same sentiment. She is constantly experimenting with different looks in the game, using the item randomizers as a helpful starting point to come up with original ideas for outfits.
“I like that the cosmetics for the most part all complement each other,” says Ardron. “There are a few sets that don’t quite work with other stuff (the Ocean Crawler set springs to mind), but for the most part they do. And while I am on that note, I really like that any of the customisations can be worn by male or female (including beards etc).”
Room For Improvement
That’s not to say there aren’t areas the community would like to see improved. One common complaint among players is that most of the dresses look terrible on the broader, more muscular pirate types. Ardron singles out the Castaway Bilge Rat Dress as one of the worst offenders, pointing to its revealing fit and awful shape.
Rather unsurprisingly, though, the main request from the community is for even more cosmetics (beyond what Rare have recently added with the latest Anniversary Update).
“I’d like to see gradually more stuff being added,” says Ardron. “The new Parrot cosmetic stuff is a great addition, and I’d like to see a few more collectable sets centred around some of the other styles. I missed the Bone Crusher stuff, but something like that would be great to get added in.”
“A common request is [for] more shirts, open jackets, vests and sleeveless shirts to show off tattoos…” says Showstoppa Slim. “As far as new cosmetic features, I think people really want jewellery, more control over tattoos and their placement on the body…And the ability to save loadouts so we can save and easily switch between our favorite cosmetic setups we’ve put together for our pirate or ship.”
Much of the charm of dressing up in Sea of Thieves is arguably due to Rare’s “Infinite Pirate Generator,” which randomly generates possible avatars until the player selects one. The unique character creation mechanic may have frustrated players on launch with its lack of free customization typical of such tools, but where it succeeds is in giving everyone an avatar that feels like it fits into the world, while still being distinct and hand-designed (even though in reality that isn’t necessarily true).
What looks may work for your pirate may not for others. And vice versa. And you’ll rarely ever come across another pirate that looks exactly the same as yours. Part of the fun of Sea of Fashion is therefore seeing what other players come up with, outside of the game, in an environment where you aren’t at risk of staring down the barrel of a gun.
If Sea of Thieves were to have a more traditional progression system, with individual cosmetics tied to restrictive stats, it’s hard to imagine communities like this one would exist. But, as it stands, players are allowed to freely experiment with cosmetics to express themselves in whatever way they want, without punishment. So if you ever run into any particularly stylish pirates out there, be sure to ask them for fashion tips before they make you walk the plank.