I love excuses to dress up, and every year on Halloween I come up with more ideas for costumes than I have time or resources to do (I’m making two costumes for myself already, and I’m helping my housemates sew theirs). So if you’re still looking for something nerdy this year, here are a few technology and internet-related costumes to try out. Most are pretty simple, and could be created last minute with just a trip to the thrift store, bargain store, or craft store for cheap clothes, blank shirts, and other supplies.
• Lolcat: Cat ears are easy to find this time of year, or you can fashion a pair from felt or paper and a headband or string. Affix a witty caption to your chest, probably in the form of “Im in ur ___, ___ing ur ___.” As a bonus, you could also claim to be XKCD #262. Other memes make great costumes as well (don a pair of hipster sunglasses and suddenly you’re Rick Astley!).
• Windows Blue Screen of Death: Dress all in blue and draw black X’s over your eyes with eyeliner or black makeup. For more authenticity you could put the actual error text on your shirt. (See below for more details on writing on shirts).
• Code: Get a plain white shirt and write some code on it, either with a Sharpie/fabric marker or using a printable iron-on transfer. There are lots of things you could do with this. You could write some Python and be a snake, or write some Java and be a cup of coffee. You could even pick some clever songs in code and go as a music album.
• Google: Get a plain white shirt and draw out a 1 with 100 0′s (a googol). Use red, blue, and green markers to evoke the Google color scheme.
• Xbox / Xbox 360: There are a couple different ways to go about this one. Either you could get an actual cardboard box and draw an X on it, or you could use a blank shirt and draw an X inside a box. Draw a circle on the back of whichever article to be an Xbox 360.
• Halo: Construct a halo out of aluminum foil. This makes a great complement to the Xbox 360 costume.
• Tycho and/or Gabe from Penny Arcade: This works especially well for a couple of guys going out together. Tycho wears a blue sweater and khakis, and Gabe wears a yellow tshirt over an orange long-sleeved shirt with jeans. If you want to go all the way and make Gabe’s Pacman logo on the tshirt, I’d use black felt and fabric glue rather than black paint or markers. These costumes have been done successfully in the past.
• iPod Billboard: Simply dress in black, attach a neon posterboard to your rear, and rock out with white earbuds while you collect your candy.
• Steve Jobs: You’ll be recognizable as the Apple CEO with a black turtleneck, jeans, and your iPhone or iPod. Bonus points for making reference to his recent liver transplant.
• Ninja: Ninja costumes never go out of style, and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. Dress in all black and use these ninja mask lessons to make a hooded mask. I even tried out the instructions myself to ensure ease of creating a clever disguise. For added nerdiness, be the Ask a Ninja ninja or attach programming to your costume to be a code ninja.
• Blogs: Make reference to your favorite blog while you trick or treat! My favorites include,
- Cakewrecks: It would be a little sticky to attend a party in, but I’m amused by the idea of writing a poorly-spelled inscription on a blank shirt and smothering yourself with a cupcake. Kudos if you glue on birthday candles randomly, too.
- Photoshop Disasters: Create an awkward visage by using face paint or makeup to alter your features dramatically or even add additional eyes, noses, ears, etc. You could also stretch your sleeve over your hand and tie it there, or attach extra digits to your hands if you can find them at the Halloween store. Go crazy, but make sure you dress snappily, especially in Ralph Lauren.
• The Doctor from Doctor Who: Pick your favorite Doctor (you have 11 to choose from) and go to the thrift store to pick up an overcoat, or even an oddly-striped scarf. This costume is especially great if you have a blonde significant other to play Rose or if you already own a replica sonic screwdriver.
• Lego: This is a classic, but what kid didn’t play with Legos? My favorite version of this costume involves painting or wrapping a box with solid-colored wrapping paper. Cut the bottoms off of paper cups, paint or wrap them similarly and use them for bumps on your Lego brick.
• Balloon Boy: What, too soon? To imitate the kid who captured the nation’s attention by pretending to fly away in a weather balloon, grab a helium balloon from a party store, cover it with aluminum foil and attach it to your person. For added authenticity, put on a “Hello my name is Falcon” name tag or wear a cardboard box. Someone is already selling kits like these online, if you can believe it.
If you decide to write on or otherwise design a shirt as part of your costume, keep in mind what you’ll be making when you choose how to make it.
- Iron-on transfers are great for lots of precise text, and give a nice finished look. They’re a little expensive though, and do require use of an iron.
- Fabric markers or Sharpies are best for writing cheaply on a shirt. It’s easy to look messy, though. For best results, put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt and pin down the fabric before you try to write on it.
- For larger designs with less detail, try using bottled fabric paint and a cheap brush. Again, you’ll definitely want to put something between the layers of the shirt to protect the backside from paint stains.
Got any other bright ideas for techy halloween costumes? Past experience? Hilarious annecdotes? Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.