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WOLF: What goes into the making of a great Halloween costume?

COLUMN: You can never go wrong with practical
‘Jim Zorn’ back in the day. (Wolf family photo)

On Halloween night, 300 to 350 young and youngish ghouls, goblins, vampires, ghosts, cartoon characters and more will be at the door of our family home – demanding treats.

Quite a racket, really. Couple of hours in costume and you come home with pillowcases and plastic pumpkins full of candy.

I could never figure out how the heads of the childrens’ union were never able to turn the glorious confection grab into a twice- or thrice-annual deal.

I mentioned last week (in my failed quest to locate any mini 3 Musketeers bars) that I have a system for doling out those treats.

Best costumes get mini chocolate bars only. Regular costumes get a combination of bars and candy. Lacklustre costumes (a robe belt pinned to your jacket is not a cat’s tail) or return customers get lollipops or only.

‘Best’ costume is of course open to interpretation – and personality goes a long way.

An elaborate or innovative costume alone will get you a couple of mini chocolate bars.

But good manners will also boost your chances at the best treats.

Compliment the decorations on the house (which I annually have nothing to do with, but take all the credit for at the door) and you might get bumped up a category.

If you’re barely able to speak, but manage a quiet ‘tank oo’ from your parent’s arms as your Paw Patrol mask falls over your face, you may get extra Smarties.

If you tell me to smell your feet, watch out for an air drop.

READ MORE: WOLF: Mastering the fine art of purchasing Halloween candy

While I understand why folks love dressing up for Halloween, I was never a big fan.

For me, it was all about practicality.

Was it easy to get in and out of?

Was it warm?

Would it require more than a three-word explanation if someone asked what I was?

Did it provide enough mobility to run from the older bandits who, instead of trick-or-treating, chose to steal from the industrious younger kids actually putting in the work?

So, as a lad, you saw a lot of ‘Jim Zorn’ (accompanying photo) that required only a Seahawks hoodie over some old shoulder pads, and some eye black.

Would have been downgraded on my current treat scale – but served its purpose back in the day.

I wasn’t the only one who favoured practicality.

Black Press digital editor John McKinley: “I remember having hockey practice one Halloween night when I was a little guy and just keeping my gear on (minus the skates). Lacking imagination maybe, but with one car, living in a rural neighbourhood, and two other kids to worry about, I give a big thumbs up to my Mom’s pragmatism.”

Solid. Still, maybe one mini chocolate bar.

And the warmth should always be a factor. Cowichan Valley Citizen editor Andrea Rondeau recalls her early costume days: “Ours were pretty home-made most of the time — mummy (white plastic garbage bags), ice skater. Biggest quibble is that none of them were warm enough to wear for our climate without covering the whole thing up with a coat – especially when it was raining.”

Always factor in the weather. Dressing as cotton candy would be a remarkably poor choice.

As an adult, I’ve mostly shied away from costumes.

Halloween celebrations were often ‘amateur’ nights, where scores of unseasoned folks puked inside masks and Elvis and Batman fought in the nightclub bathrooms.

I do remember one night way back when, where I went as a shirtless Zombie priest (don’t ask), wearing just a collar and some freakish face paint. The blasphemous effort may explain how I ended up fast asleep behind a restaurant food bin.

A couple of times as a parent, I had a giant, battery-powered blowup cowboy suit that I wore to amuse the young ’uns but for now, I’d say I’m officially retired. Surly old man will be my costume from here on out.

Do you have any fun costume stories? Any favourites from back in your heyday? Any favourites worn by your own offspring? Any trick-or-treat horror stories? Send me all of them.

Bonus points for hilarious pictures.

» PQB News/Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf welcomes your questions, comments and story ideas. He can be reached at or 250-905-0029.

Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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