"Don’t Be a Halloweenie"


As we approach the only holiday of the year designated as the Devil’s Playground (unless you’re Upper Management and hate Labor Day), it’s important to remember to take extra care and precautions. I’m not talking about staying close to young Trick-Or-Treaters or checking all candy handouts for foreign objects more dangerous than the cookie crunch in a Twix. I’m talking about the choice of costumes, for revelers of all sizes.

There are always certain “hot” costumes that end up overcrowding the social gatherings like MacBooks at a Starbucks, foam fingers at a football game or Rick Astley videos on YouTube. If you’d never want to be caught wearing the same outfit as someone else at a regular party, think twice or more before you start putting together a Sarah Palin-esque ensemble for Halloween, even if you have a $150,000 budget too. In fact, all Presidential campaign-related costumes should be avoided this year, including candidate spouses and celebrities born from campaign rhetoric. At large gatherings of diverse people, it could turn into a fight, or even worse, a rerun of Crossfire. Avoid economic news for inspiration this year too; it isn’t so much scary as sad, and few will notice the difference between your Depressed Banker and your neighbor’s Depressed Stock Broker. The only Wall Street character that would be fun to “be” is Jim Cramer, but a goatee and rolled-up sleeves is TOO easy and he’d only fit in at a very loud party.

There are also a few pop cultural icons that are doomed to overexposure this year. The Heath Ledger-style Joker has been so hot the last few months, it’s burning out faster than Heath did. (Sorry.) Maybe you can counter-program with the look of a César Romero Joker from the ’60s Batman TV show, but even that may not be enough to stand out from the green-haired crowd. And anybody with a cane can (and likely will) be doing Dr. House this year.

Even the character types from the recent Pantheon of Awesomeness: Ninjas, Pirates, Vampires, Spartans and the like, have been jumping around way too close to the shark tank lately. If you want to stand out, you have to think different(ly) and that means don’t be a Mac OR a PC.

So what CAN you costume yourself as to make an original impression this year? Here are a few modest proposals, but be advised they may be rather nostalgia-oriented or geeky or both, so think about what kind of people you’ll be partying with to avoid spending all night explaining your outfit:

The Mad Man
I don’t mean raving lunatic, I mean 1960’s Madison Avenue Advertising Executive. It’s easy if you (or a parent or grandparent) are still holding onto a very outdated business suit, but be sure to accessorize heavily – pocket squares, cufflinks, cigarettes, martini glasses, Brylcreamed hair – or you’ll get lumped in with the Depressed Bankers. For extra points, add white hair and a mustache and be Larry Tate, Darren’s Adman Boss from “Bewitched”. Even better for women, a Peggy Olsen-style secretary will make a strong impression; just don’t be surprised if you get treated like a Girl Friday by some of the other party-goers.

The Doctor
No, we already said “no House”, we’re talking about the British Sci-Fi icon, whose last name is NOT “Who”. (And if you didn’t already know that much, go on to the next suggestion.) But don’t bother with a recent edition. Model yourself after one of the more oddly-dressed old-school Time Lords with a white bowler hat, question-marked lapels or a celery boutonniere. But if the crowd at your party is less than geeky, just go for the Tom Baker ensemble of long hair, long coat and very long scarf.

The Fonz
This character who “jumped the shark” long ago (and coined the phrase) has suddenly reappeared, thanks to an ingenious political video. The timing is perfect; if the “Fonz endorsement” had happened a month ago, it would already be getting stale by now. Alternately, a Sheriff Andy or a very large version of Little Opie will get some “Aayyyys” from your party mates, but the previous political warning applies here too.

Josephine the Plumber
For all the talk about Joe the Plumber, we seem to have forgotten the 1960’s TV commercial character, as ubiquitous back then as Madge the Manicurist and Mr. Whipple, and portrayed by Jane Withers in pristine white overalls and a jaunty cap. Carrying a couple cans of Comet cleanser should help defuse any political fireworks.

Iron Man Variations
Don’t go for the obvious superhero copy (besides, the original would be as comfortable as a suit of armor), but put together combinations that will invoke characters like Scrap Iron Man (bits of armor made from old cans, tools or appliances), Iron Chef Man (the metal mask with a chef’s apron), Ironing Man (basically Robert Downey Jr. doing laundry) or Irony Man (I haven’t a clue how to do it, but if you do, you’ll be the hit of any hipster party).

The Women of Clone Wars
It sounds like a bad Playboy feature, but one thing the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga has going for it is a variety of butt-kicking female warriors. Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress and Luminara Unduli are all distinctively designed characters with not a metal bikini in the bunch. Of course, Star Wars characters go cliché in no time, but the ho-hum reaction of much of geekhood to the new stuff will make duplicated costumes unlikely and you can get away without admitting you’re dressed up as a Jedi.

They are in the second-tier of awesome characters and that’s fine. While the Ninjas and Pirates and overpopulating the room, you can take advantage of the growing interest in everything from the Frozen North while it’s still frozen. The buzz is just beginning about the upcoming Mighty Thor superhero movie (Kenneth Branagh?!?) and at this moment, just about anybody can conquer Iceland. Meanwhile, one of the hottest discussions among Simpsons geeks is the meaning of Ralph’s cryptic comment: “Sleep. That’s where I’m a Viking.” Not a Gladiator, not a Samurai, but a Viking. This makes possible a hybrid inside-joke costume of the Sleep Viking, wearing horned helmet and nightshirt, carrying warhammer and teddy bear.

Six and Six
This is a tandem costume for couples and I think it would beat any dream couple out there this season. The British TV classic “The Prisoner” is being remade for airing next year and there is revived interest in Patrick McGoohan’s captive spy, designated Number Six. The distinctive “uniform” of the enigmatic Village is an attention-getter (unfortunately, it may be mistaken by some as another Doctor Who variation). That’s where the woman’s outfit comes in. What more recent cult TV series has a Number Six? Battlestar Galactica, and the sexy Cylon style will be sure to turn heads. Yes, it’s something you’ll have to explain to almost everybody, but you can do it in very few words and then sit back and enjoy the reaction.

Feel free to try any of these costume suggestions, unless you’re going to a party with an editor for certain websites I’ve written for. They saw this before you did and already have gotten their Comet cans and horned helmets.

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