On most Halloweens, I spend a grand total of 10 minutes putting together my costume, which usually ends up being a mishmash of somewhat festive clothing I have hanging in my closet for that exact reason. Sure, I might not be the most celebratory person, but I know there are plenty of adults out there who, just like me, could care less about dressing up for Halloween.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, are people who spend the entire freaking year — and sometimes even longer — working toward their ideal Halloween costumes. To explore the motivation behind such dedicated costume planning, I spoke to a trio of dudes who started working toward their Halloween costume months and months and months in advance (note that the names below are aliases to protect their privacy).
John, who once spent more than a year growing out his hair to dress up as Bob Ross: The whole thing started as a joke, more or less. I mentioned to my friends that I had a fro in high school and showed them pictures. Somehow, Bob Ross came up, and I joked that I should grow out my hair and be Bob Ross for Halloween. That quickly, however, turned into the plan. My last haircut after that was for my wedding in September 2017.
Growing out my hair wasn’t difficult, but an unintended side effect was that I wound up with a year of events, interactions and photos with my hair in various states of disarray. I think anyone with curly hair will tell you that there are some very awkward lengths your hair gets to, and there’s literally no way to style it. My hair was also far curlier than the last time I grew it out. When it got somewhat long, it was hot and annoying, but I was eventually able to put it in a bun, and that helped tame it a bit.
That said, Halloween was a fantastic time. There’s nothing quite like seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they see you and realize who you are. I think having real hair made it that much better, since it looked so realistic. My wife and I got fifth in a Halloween costume contest at a local bar and were constantly getting stopped to take pictures. I ended up going to work dressed up as Bob Ross on a separate day as well, since it was so much effort to get to that point anyway.
I cut my hair on November 1st. It felt incredible, and the wife was happy to see it go. I’d definitely put this much effort into a costume again, though. The wife and I have done various semi-realistic costumes over the years, and we have a lot of fun with it. This one took the cake for total effort, but the hair grows itself, so it wasn’t too much actual work on my part.
Rick, who once put on 25 pounds of muscle to dress up as Charles Bronson (and lost 15 to dress up as Sid Vicious): Charlie Bronson wasn’t actually the first time I had to change my body type for a costume. The previous year, I decided in July to lose as much weight as possible to be Sid Vicious and tried my hardest to get a heroin body (sans heroin). I work in a movie studio, so staying away from craft services was probably the hardest thing, but after losing the first notch on your belt, you get motivated and it became a game. I’m normally around 180 or 185 pounds, and I got down to 169 for Sid.
After that, I decided to go the other way since I was obsessed with the movie Bronson. I started training around late August — it may have been almost the first week of September — and just loaded up on calories and did high weights with low repetitions. Mission accomplished, because I came in around 205 pounds on Halloween night. But I learned that if you don’t maintain your muscles, they very quickly turn to fat — by Thanksgiving, I was heavy and lacked the definition I had a month before.
I wanted to attempt to go as Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club a few years ago, but I’m 38 now, and I don’t think my body — or my girlfriend — can deal with such a transformation.
David, who grew his hair out for more than two years to dress up as Heath Ledger’s Joker: The initial goal was to grow long hair and donate it to a children’s wig foundation. But people had told me in the past, in different contexts, that I looked quite similar to Heath Ledger, and since I had the length of hair to match, I figured I’d take on the appearance of one of his characters. I very rarely put effort into Halloween costumes, or even dress up for Halloween at all, so it was a nice thing to look forward to and go all out.
Since the initial goal was to donate my hair to a charity, I think it was about two years into the growing process that I decided to do the Nurse Joker costume, so it was another two years of hair growing before I actually pulled the trigger and started practicing the makeup application. Makeup usually took an hour to really get it right, and I tried to capture details from the movie, like the faded and smudged makeup and Heath’s signature, greasy-looking greenish hair.
I wore the costume to work and then again the following weekend at an annual Halloween party that my friends hosted. It was a great experience: Choosing a costume from such a high-profile movie meant that basically everyone recognized it immediately, so the compliments were flowing the whole night.
I did finally cut my hair about a month after Halloween. It’s always been very curly, so it didn’t look like much, but when I straightened it — for the laughs — it was about 14 inches long. I got a nice letter from Wigs For Kids after they received my donation.