Definition of plain clothes in US English:

plain clothes

plural noun

  • Ordinary clothes rather than uniform, especially when worn as a disguise by police officers.

    ‘a detective in plain clothes’
    • ‘There are at least a dozen of them, dressed in plain clothes, I was told, to avoid, alarming visitors.’
    • ‘He was arrested some time ago by a constable in plain clothes for using obscene language and dumped at Central Police Station.’
    • ‘The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes.’
    • ‘The policeman was in plain clothes and chewing gum.’
    • ‘The strike is continuing and police in plain clothes continue to roam the estate.’
    • ‘The tactic of having the police in plain clothes near campuses has also paid dividends in catching eve-teasers.’
    • ‘They would wear plain clothes over their uniforms going to and from work.’
    • ‘Two were in police uniforms while the others wore plain clothes and they ran towards the women from the steps of the Underground station.’
    • ‘Undercover inspectors in plain clothes ride around the Metrolink routes and challenge passengers to prove they have a ticket.’
    • ‘They were a ragtag bunch, dressed in all variety of military uniforms, some in plain clothes.’
    • ‘An off duty police officer, who was in plain clothes, and arrived on the scene at the same time as him, asked him to hold on to the man while he found out what was going on.’
    • ‘We wore plain clothes rather than uniform and slept in them, including our shoes, for weeks on end.’
    • ‘They must patrol in plain clothes to arrest those anti-social elements who indulge in eve-teasing.’
    • ‘After two years as a probationer he was seconded to the Vice Squad to work under cover in plain clothes, but two years was as much as he could take.’
    • ‘He was chased by three to five policemen in plain clothes.’
    • ‘Councillors have suggested that police consider patrolling the village during the evening in plain clothes and that private CCTV be installed.’
    • ‘Officials are dressing in plain clothes and patrolling with a dog to blend in with other pet-walkers in the parks.’
    • ‘When it became clear that Stockwell tube was his possible destination, a team of armed police officers in plain clothes were alerted.’
    • ‘Some of that misunderstanding may have arisen innocently, if for example a witness saw a man leaping the barrier without realising that he was in fact a police officer in plain clothes.’
    • ‘The men are in plain clothes and wear light raincoats or light overcoats over their uniforms.’


  • attributive (especially of a police officer) wearing ordinary clothes instead of a uniform.

    ‘plainclothes troopers’
    • ‘A few minutes later a team of plain clothes police officers sprinted up to the cage and led away one occupant.’
    • ‘Uniform and plain clothes officers will attempt to snare troublemakers before warmer weather increases fire risks.’
    • ‘Hidden plain clothes police officers using hand-held video cameras captured a number of youths on camera as they attacked a York school.’
    • ‘The publication took the form of the sale of a packet of photographs to two plain clothes police officers.’
    • ‘He will lead around 30 special constables who will join uniform and plain clothes officers on the streets.’
    • ‘A plain clothes policeman sat close to the jury and armed officers were visible as the judge entered.’
    • ‘Detectives and plain clothes Gardai were yesterday carrying out house-to-house inquiries trying to establish a motive for the attack.’
    • ‘A drug user who injured a plain clothes police constable after being sprayed with CS gas could face a jail term.’
    • ‘A driver who attracted the attention of plain clothes police officers on special burglary patrol was later found to be more than four times the drink drive limit.’
    • ‘There will be more low-visibility policing, plain clothes officers working under cover to tackle major criminals.’
    • ‘He said whether the plain clothes officers would wear protective clothing in such a situation would depend on the circumstances.’
    • ‘The extra money will be spent on uniformed and plain clothes policing between now and the end of the year.’
    • ‘Later at various times, plain clothes policemen would approach children individually and encourage them to go off with them.’
    • ‘The plain clothes policeman accompanied by the businessman then prodded the buyer of the secondhand gadget to lead them to the supplier.’
    • ‘This hostility to the idea of plain clothes police delayed the formation of detective branches for many years.’
    • ‘The team, headed up by a new detective, will patrol known troubled spots in uniform and plain clothes.’
    • ‘A man who assaulted two police officers and a plain clothes policeman in a hotel has escaped being locked up.’
    • ‘He did not know he was a plain clothes police officer and thought he was a car thief.’
    • ‘He was trapped by plainclothes police officers at Doncaster railway station.’
    • ‘Extra uniformed and plain clothes police officers will be patrolling the streets of Ashton town centre as part of the initiative.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the driver was a plain clothes police officer, who quickly pieced the whole story together.’


plain clothes

/ˌplān ˈklō(T͟H)z//ˌpleɪn ˈkloʊ(ð)z/