It’s October 31st, 1984, 3:30 in the afternoon. You’re six years old and you just got home from school. You’re excited to go out for tricks or treats, but, for whatever reason, you don’t have a costume yet. Time to panic? Not if there’s a Woolworth’s or an Ames nearby!
Like so many other trends gone by, plastic Halloween-costumes-in-a-box are a thing of the distant past. But from the late ’70s through the 1980s, these odd items captured very nearly every character, cartoon, and iconic celebrity in popular culture. And, like so many elements of pop culture, they were almost entirely devoid of creativity and imagination.
Packaged in a flimsy cardboard box with a thin, translucent plastic sheet to show the contents, the costume kits consisted of: 1) a brittle mask with a flimsy elastic band (guaranteed to snap), fashioned with two eye-holes and a microscopic mouth-hole designed to let in the minimum amount of oxygen needed to survive, and 2) a crinkly plastic poncho, usually adorned with the likeness of the very character the child wearing the costume was purportedly dressing as.
The costumes were inherently ridiculous — yet, in some cases, one has to wonder if the manufacturers weren’t simply playing a cruel joke. Want to dress up as Obi-Wan? Fine. Freddy Krueger? Sure — this might have even been passable if they’d just left his damn name off the smock. Chuck Norris? Well…okay. That’s still not as bad as…
Mork from “Mork & Mindy”
Good lord. If someone showed up at my door with Robin Williams’ goofy, shit-eating grin frozen on their face, I’d be terrified.
Scrappy-Doo ranks up there with Captain Caveman’s son as one of the most obnoxious cartoon characters in the history of animation. What kind of asshole kid would want to wear this costume anyway?
I get it — the movie Jaws was a huge, unprecedented box office success, and costume manufacturers wanted to capitalize on the film’s popularity. But couldn’t they have done any better than this meta-Jaws abomination? Is the Jaws on the poncho attacking the Jaws mask? If you ask me, the Jaws mask should have had the naked chick on the movie poster swimming right across the bridge of the nose, just below the eyes.
The Biker from The Village People
I find it amusing that, at every wedding I’ve ever been to, the DJ always plays “YMCA” by The Village People — a song about having anonymous gay sex with multiple partners. I imagine the same people who unwittingly dance and sing along are the same folks who would’ve bought this costume for their kid.
In 1988, I remember seeing not one, but two kids in this costume at my elementary school Halloween dance party. Nobody even liked Ed Grimley. Even in its time, the short-lived cartoon was obscure and practically unknown, and the Saturday Night Live sketch it was based on was not something that a grade schooler would have been familiar with. I felt bad for those kids. If you were going to go out on Halloween as a scrawny nerd, it would have been much more dignified to go as Pee-Wee Herman.