Plague Doctors, Tiger Kings, and Clowns, Oh My: These Are Spirit Halloween’s Hottest Costumes of 2020

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Ever since Spirit Halloween began setting up shop in shuttered retail stores during the 1980s, the seasonal chain has been the beloved playground of cosplayers and Halloween lovers across the nation. And while people are steering clear of crowded costume parties this year, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dressing up. We spoke to Spirit Halloween about which new getups are flying off the shelves, which ones never go out of style, and how you can celebrate spooky season safely.

Historians don’t have firm evidence that physicians actually wore beaked masks to prevent the spread of the plague throughout the 14th century (some believe they weren’t even invented until the 16th century), but that hasn’t stopped shoppers from nabbing “plague doctor” costumes as a nod to the current pandemic. Bright yellow hazmat suits are also especially popular this year. Group costumes, on the other hand, are “moving slower,” Spirit Halloween tells Mental Floss, since partygoers are planning to celebrate in smaller, spaced-out (or virtual) circles.

The doctor is in.
The doctor is in. / Spirit Halloween

Other sought-after ensembles reveal what parts of pop culture are reigning over our collective consciousness. You can probably plan on seeing at least a few Joe Exotic lookalikes out and about; Spirit Halloween says its Tiger King-inspired “mullet man” outfit—complete with a blond wig, a lurid tiger-striped shirt, a mustache, and even a clip-on eyebrow ring—is all the rage. Life-sized cans of spiked seawater might be wandering the streets, too: the “White Clam” costume is another new bestseller (though its “natural slime” flavor sounds less refreshing than White Claw’s “natural lime”).

It could be any mullet man, but it sure looks like Joe Exotic.
It could be any mullet man, but it sure looks like Joe Exotic. / Spirit Halloween

If kids spent extra time inside playing video games this year, it could help explain why so many are eager to emulate their favorite characters. “[Fortnite] is at the head of the pack in this year’s popularity contest with Drift leading the charge,” Spirit Halloween says, but fellow Fortnite character Fishstick is “running a close second.”

And dressing up like a nightmare-inducing horror villain simply never seems to fall out of fashion. According to Spirit Halloween, “scary clowns are always popular,” as are A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees, and Child’s Play’s Chucky.

That said, not everybody wants to scare their friends out of their skin—some are just looking to make them laugh. “That's why we can't blow up our inflatable costumes fast enough,” Spirit Halloween explains. “If you see a giant toilet bowl or SpongeBob on your next Zoom call, you can blame us. We don't mind.”

Anybody who wears this is the opposite of a party pooper.
Anybody who wears this is the opposite of a party pooper. / Spirit Halloween

Virtual parties are just one way that revelers are planning to flaunt their Spirit Halloween spoils. Though people have always used social media to showcase their costumes from afar, it’s become an especially important method of celebrating with friends and family (and the broader online community) this holiday season.

“This year, TikTok is exploding with Spirit Halloween fans showing off their ‘unironic Spirit shopping hauls,’ creating hot new looks and dances in colorful pageboy wigs, and turning astronaut helmets into their favorite cosplay items,” Spirit Halloween says.

If you are headed to an in-person gathering, on the other hand, the company has added plenty of new Halloween-themed face masks to keep things germ-free. For trick-or-treaters, they recommend going door to door with a “Loot Scoop” treat bag, which features a long handle that’ll help you maintain social distance and avoid hand-to-hand contact.

Before you step out, here’s what else you should know about celebrating safely.