There has always been one or two at a big Halloween party sporting the long nose tip mask, masquerading as the classical plague doctor. The same person that are always sending invitations to a Steampunk convention. But this year, the costume is on the front on so many marketing campaigns for Costume shops.
Of course, there are other costumes showing up as well. A new Harlequin costume from Birds of Prey, because we truly need a new one every other year, a Mandalorian costume, because of course, as well as a costume for every rebooted Disney movie this year.
Iconic Halloween Costumes Throughout the Ages
It is not a new thing that Halloween costumes reflects the pop-cultural impact that year. Like Game of Thrones characters lately, the Star Wars characters when they came out, and even further back, think of when Batman, Zorro or Micheal Jackson’s Thriller hit the world. It is all reflected in the costumes.
It’s not only fictional characters or singers inspiring them, but the society around us, the news and the happenings of the world. Like when everybody dressed as astronauts the year of the Moonlanding, a royal baby when the British Royal family gave birth to a new heir. This will of course have regional impacts as well, as the modern Halloween tradition grow global, we still have our national differences in the political landscapes.
Although the costumes are always changing, it is never the trends that really tops the most bought costumes. It is always the same costumes that overflood the Halloween parties every year: Witches, vampires, zombies, pirates and superheroes. Both the slutty and non-slutty versions. But among them, the echo of society walks among the living dead.
The Plague Doctor is in
A new corner of costumes has snuck its way into the new arrivals or made a new category in many costume shops. Like the Bio Hazard Suit, the Plague Doctor has been brushed dust from its tired look and put in showcase in front of the store. And like the Harlequin costume, there is only one reason why: It is a demand for it.
It would perhaps be weird if this costumed popped up out of no where, but seeing the global landscape and what impacted us most this year, it goes without saying this is the cosplayer’s response to 2020.
In many ways, it showcase the need for human kind to put our fears from the everyday world into firm material. It is an interesting thing about the human condition. And a telling one, especially in the western hemisphere that it is this particular imagery that we conjure up, every time we fear sickness we can’t control. A new sort of unconscious mythological icon to separate ourselves from a deadly disease.
In many ways we can see this as the same with the fashion face masks. You know, the one looking great, but are no were near effective to shield us from any diseases? Perhaps buy one of these plague doctor costumes instead. It kind of worked in the middle ages. It is most likely more effective than many of the fashion face masks.
But what was this Plague Doctor?
A plague doctor was a physician who treated victims of the bubonic plague. You know, from medieval times. Another case that no fashion is out forever. As they had a rather narrow understanding of how sickness worked back in those days, they seldom cured any of their patients. They served to record a count of the number of people contaminated for demographic purposes.
They wore the famous beak mask to protect them from illness which they believed was airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of ‘bad air.’ Today this practice is obsolete, although, some would say the thoughts like it is making a combat, trying to combat the bad air or energy with esoteric oils. The plague doctors themselves put sweet smells of flowers, herbs and spices to combat this illness they though lingered in the air.
The costume have changed throughout the years though. Medical historians have in fact attributed the invention of the ‘beak doctor’ costume to a French doctor named Charles de Lorme in 1619.
They were also rarely proper doctors, and there are stories that in one case, a plague doctor had been a fruit salesman before his employment as a physician.
But the strong imagery of them has lingered, long after their failed methods of treading plague patients with leeches and herbs was replaced with modern medicine. The doctors themselves morphed into a sort of dark omen, a warning of imminent death. Because if these doctors started walking your streets, it was a certain telling you probably were gonna die.
In these strange and scary pandemic times, its nice to live in a world of modern health care, science and the wide spread information about the internet. But pandemics and epidemics have always been a part of the human experience through history, and it’s really just in the last couple of centuries, we’ve really been…
Too Medievaly Mainstream
And don’t you worry, if the plague doctor gets too mainstream for you, there is always the Hazmat Suit option this year. For a more up to date imagery, icon and way of dealing with this fear of disease and help us social distancing at Halloween parties. If you are allowed to step outside that is. Or rather, if you let yourself.
Ah, anyway, what is the point. What is the point of acquiring a costume is all Halloween this year is sitting on your couch, skyping with friends and watching horror movies by yourself? Also, check out this list about ideas for costumes to wear on Skype or Zoom.
So what do you think? What will be the Halloween costume of the year? How about next year?
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