Halloween is more than just a night for fun activities like trick-or-treating, scary movie marathons, or epic parties. When you take a closer look at the costumes that are most popular each year, Halloween as a concept is also something of a time capsule. To know what people most wanted to be that year is to know which pop culture phenomena, characters, and public figures really had our attention at the time.
So, what about 20 years ago in particular? What had people of all ages talking, fantasizing, and dreaming way back in the year 1996? Let’s step back in time and take a closer look at which Halloween costumes were selling like hotcakes and why.
1. Ghost Face from Scream
Iconic horror movie characters are always popular costume choices when Halloween rolls around, so it’s probably not a surprise that the 1996 success of Wes Craven’s Scream spawned hundreds of takes on Ghost Face. Not only was the costume simple to put together and inexpensive, but it was the sort of thing that worked well for people of all ages.
2. Esmeralda from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame
You can always rest assured that if a given year sees the release of a new Disney movie, that year’s Halloween will also see crowds of children dressed up as the characters from that movie. In 1996, Hunchback of Notre Dame was the hot new release, so hundreds of little girls couldn’t wait to dress up as Esmeralda.
3. Darth Vader
When a franchise is as beloved and enduring as Star Wars, it makes sense that you consistently see people dressed up as associated characters every Halloween. However, 1996 saw people getting excited about an upcoming Star Wars re-release in theaters that winter. The streets were filled with Darth Vaders of all ages that Halloween as a result.
4. Bacon and Eggs
Every Halloween sees couples and close friends trying to come up with the perfect idea for coordinating costumes. In 1996, food related options were especially popular, thanks to their quirkiness and easy-to-recognize aesthetics. Bacon and eggs were by far the most popular choice for couples and twosomes of every generation.
5. Fruits and Vegetables
Also popular among those with their hearts set on being food for Halloween 20 years ago were fruits and vegetables of all types. Popular options for both individuals and groups included pineapples, pickles, and bananas. You were just as likely to see “sexy” versions of these as you were quirkier, G-rated alternatives.
6. Tried-and-True Classics
These days, cultural appropriation on Halloween is considered a no-no pretty much across the board. However, that idea was just beginning to really take root in 1996. That said, you saw a lot fewer people dressing up as Indian braves, geishas, and belly dancers. Instead, people chose to revisit classic options like witches, vampires, pirates, and ghosts. Not only were such costumes easy to put together, even last minute, but they were socially safe options that carried zero risk of offending anyone.
Another popular option for people of all ages 20 years ago was that of various animals – bears, dogs, rabbits, and so forth. This was especially the case with onesie-style costumes, as many people liked recycling the costumes as pajamas after Halloween was over and done with. Which animal was most popular of them all? It was actually a cat, proving that even before the Internet officially became a really big deal, people just couldn’t get enough of furry felines.
Another choice that tends to be popular more or less every Halloween is pretty much any superhero, and 1996 was no exception. People of all ages dressed up as everyone from Iron Man, to Batman, to Superman, to Wonder Woman that year.
9. Exo-Skeleton Alien from Independence Day
Another 1996 blockbuster that spawned more than its share of iconic film costumes that Halloween was Independence Day. However, although you saw people recreating lots of characters from this action-packed Will Smith vehicle, exoskeleton alien costumes were by far the most popular, thanks to their comfort and affordability.
10. 50s-Inspired Costumes
Costumes that invoke 50s-era nostalgia have been all the rage for many years now, but you definitely saw your share of them in 1996. Not only was it cool to dress up in a poodle skirt, a Pink Ladies-esque jacket, or a John Travolta-esque greaser get-up, but it was comfortable as well. In many cases, people were even able to find items like jeans, white t-shirts, and leather jackets right at home in their own closets.