In the last week, even the least bothered of us have considered some of the angles we may take with our costumes this year. With three years of Halloween in Ann Arbor in the bag, the following is what I’ve solidified as the categories that encompass 95 percent of costumes on show and they’re the spooky truth.
The Nostalgic Costume
The shrieks and sobs produced by a nostalgia-inducing costume are the reason for the popularity of this category around campus. As we’re all from different places, we seek the ties that bind us — nationally-televised ’00s cartoons, the club hits that played at elementary school birthday parties, the earliest memes of 2011 or 2012. Finding the Cosmo to our Wanda or the milk to our Reese’s Puffs or the Brad to our Angelina on a night out instantly elevates such an interaction to one of predestiny. Whether as points of shared love or sharp contention, nostalgic costumes carry emotion without much conceptual or executional heavy-lifting.
The Sexy Costume
The thirst trap has been so fully integrated into university costume culture that it could almost be a costume in itself. For a few years only certain costumes were sexualized — cats, nurses, Freddie Mercury. But now, it wouldn’t be so radical to conceive of a sexy Cheerio. When people asked me for costume advice this year, I reminded them that the point of Halloween is to look good. This can’t, however, be at the expense of the idea itself. If you go as a mafioso just because you look good in a white button-down and want to fiend cigarettes all night, your costume is actually not that great.
The Scary Costume
Being scary on Halloween just doesn’t have the same appeal it did as a kid. At this point, completely unwillingly and regretfully, I’ve seen actual beheadings online. Costumes in this category these days are therefore either terrifying or trivialized by an undeniable layer of sex appeal. A costume that attempts but fails at scariness should either adapt to satirizing/sexualizing itself or it should go home.
The Niche Costume
The thrill of the arts, baby. Some of us ride or die so hard for particularly influential figures in our respective fields of interest to the extent that we forget their existence is known by maybe 10 percent of our peers. When it comes to the big day, we prep for hours putting the finishing touches on a representation that channels this character or person’s very soul. But the night only breeds disappointment and demoralization as our peers don’t even know who Rick Owens is and we get guesses from Keanu Reeves to Steven Tyler (that’s just bad).
The Pregame-Decided Costume
While some of us workshop costumes in our phone’s notes app for months before the actual events of Halloweek, others of us couldn’t be bothered to think critically enough about it until the big night itself. Thankfully though some girl at the pregame needs a boy to complete her Taylor-Swift-in-the-“You Belong With Me”-music-video look.
The “Number of Friends You Have” Costume
If you’ve got one friend, you’re good for Batman and Robin, maybe a pair of boobs. Two guys and a girl? Harry, Ron and Hermione. Four Mean Girls. Five Spice Girls. Incestuous squad of six? Friends. Conceive of this: going as the seven continents! Or maybe the eight directions on a compass. Nine ladies dancing? Ten beer pong cups. Eventually you can just be Brockhampton.
The “Just Abstract” Costume
Many of us have likely seen the Buzzfeed concept of going with a t-shirt that says “life” on it and a bag of lemons to give people. I did this my senior year of high school. But with an internet culture that hybridizes and layers references more than ever before, as well as new generations of students who spent a larger percentage of their formative years within this culture, Halloween has begun to reflect such thinking. You could go as super-thicc, but specifically the distorted Photo Booth “Twirl” effect version of this. You could go as the hissing cat meme itself. You could go as “Bort,” the poorly drawn meme version of Bart Simpson. You could ironically go as the tapestry and Christmas lights that your roommate put up because they don’t represent you. You could go as the video-game screencap of “Ah shit, here we go again.” You could go as the generic vaporwave mannequin in a suit with a big “stonks” sign, or better yet you could go as a bar graph of our national debt with block text over it that says, “Honestly I’m just fucking vibing rn.”
All angles have the potential for success, but only in their purest form. The only thing worse than a bad costume on Halloween is not going all-in. So even if you’re Taylor Swift’s boy-toy from that music video every else seems to know, you’re gonna take photos with her and the signs you supposedly have to flash one another from your windows, and you sure as hell are gonna get that slow dance at the end of the night.