Sean Beckwith: The art of dressing well (for Halloween)
September 26, 2017
We've officially entered the Halloween costume countdown. You have a month to decide if you want a good costume or are going to run back something in your closet at the last second. Last year, I did the latter and went as a basketball player for the second time. It's not the first time I've reused a costume, but it is the first time I completely mailed it in on Halloween.
The other time I double-dipped was when I went as Michelangelo from the Ninja Turtles, but I had to rig up a new shell because you grow quite a bit from age 8 to age 18.
Picking the right outfit is a delicate process. The classics — vampires, Frankensteins, mummies, witches, ghosts, etc. — need to be overdone at this point. You can't show up with fake fangs, a little blood on your lips and cape and expect to get any love for your choice.
I constantly strive for costume adulation. I want people to crack up at the sight of me. I lean toward comical characters from movies or television. My success rate isn't as high as I'd like it to be, but I've learned a few things to avoid and a few things to gravitate toward.
Anyone who goes the "buy a mask and spray fake blood on myself" route should be banned from Halloween for at least a year. Not only is it extremely lazy and a cop-out, but we all know you're going to complain that the mask is too hot, that you can't drink with it on and then take it off and just be that guy covered in blood carrying a mask.
You also can over-think it. You may love "Metalocalypse" or some other obscure adult cartoon, which is fine, but the key word there is "obscure." Is it really worth the effort if only one or two other people get who you're supposed to be? Maybe it is and you like being fringe like that. No problem, I bet you still wonder why Crazy Town could never follow up "Butterfly," too. Pop culture references are great when they're recognizable.
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My recommendation is to fully commit to your get-up. A couple of Halloweens ago, I went as Beanie (Vince Vaughn) from "Old School." I thought I had it all on lock: Speaker City hat, red polo, khakis, baby carrier with a stuffed baby, the works. I refused to shave my beard all the way off, though.
There were loads of confusion. Most people thought I was Zach Galifianakis from "The Hangover" until I'd recite the earmuffs line. It wasn't their fault, though, because I didn't commit to the bit.
Another year I decided to go as Michael Scott from "The Office." I tried to piece together the paper mache head at the last minute but had to scrap it. I ended up walking around in a suit all night explaining to people who I was dressed up as.
My most successful year was the year I went as Walter Sobchak from "The Big Lebowski." I got my hair cut short, went from store to store looking for a maroon polo and yellow hunting glasses. I even wanted to carry a fake gun to pull on people and say, "Mark it zero." My better judgment steered me away from a possible misunderstanding with the police.
If you have a prop, think about what you're going to do with it all night or if it's appropriate. Most bars don't allow you to carry fake weapons. It may be harmless, but a Styrofoam sword is a magnet for drunken idiots, who are very much not harmless. Even if you can take a prop into a bar, you have to either drink and eat food with one hand or keep a vigil to make sure no one uses your wand in a sexually suggestive way.
I'm on the fence about couple's or collaborative costumes. I went one year as Rasheed Wallace and my buddy went as a referee. (I feel like this goes without saying, but no, I did not use black face, and under no circumstance should you ever use black face.) We thought it was going to slay. I could throw my headband and he could give me technical fouls and everyone would laugh. Not the case. Most people didn't get it or weren't NBA fans.
Another year a buddy of mine and I went as Fat Mack and Frank Reynolds from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." We had so much fun, or more accurately, I had so much fun that I definitely got kicked out of the bar.
Also, dudes, if your lady wants to go in a couple's costume, make sure you're OK with seeing those photos for life. The Joker and Harley Quinn? A little cliche but ultimately fine unless you go as Jared Leto's version. Margot and Richie Tenenbaum? Funny movie, great characters, but technically they are related. Cersei and Jaime Lannister? I mean, I don't know why you'd want to imply that you're incestuous. Cinderella and Prince Charming? Cool, bro, let me know when you post photos so I can immediately put them on the fantasy football thread.
I can't speak to the sexy (enter largely mundane costume here) routes because I'm a guy. I can't show up in devil horns, tube top and mini skirt — as I know you ladies want me to — so I'll only say cleavage does not equate creativity.
There's something about being anonymous in ridiculous clothing that brings out the inner child in people. I'm not convinced people would act normal on Halloween even if there weren't mass amounts of booze. If you haven't spent a Halloween in Aspen, I cannot recommend it enough.
One caveat, though: If dressing up for Halloween isn't your thing, then you should stay home and do whatever curmudgeons do — watch a documentary on Sherwin Williams or watch golf and call in rules violations — because 80 percent of the fun is in the costume.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.