Each October, the modern office worker faces a major dilemma. It’s 1,745% easier to think of inappropriate costumes for your office Halloween party than it is to think of appropriate ones. Worse, of the few appropriate costumes that do come to mind, most are completely boring and unworthy of the effort.
On the other hand, if you don’t dress up at all, you leave yourself open to the charge of being a humorless, emotionally unavailable drudge like those C-suite guys who never make eye contact with anybody in the elevator. And so workers must go on a quest for the rare costume that is:
a) readily identifiable rather than obnoxiously obscure
b) inoffensive not only when it comes to obvious pitfalls but also in terms of religion and politics
c) sufficiently modest for an office environment
You’ll get bonus points if you manage to be funny—but fortunately, the standards for what’s funny in an office setting are lower than those in the outside world.
So, while the hurdle may be high, you’ll be graded on a curve. Let’s consider 10 costumes that meet the criteria.
If you’re a pop-culture fan:
Absolutely any character from Game of Thrones, so long as that character is fully dressed and not a prostitute
If you really don’t feel like racking your brain, just go ahead and order an Ice King mask already. It’s unoriginal, but recognizable—and no one can see the real face you’re making inside it.
If you’re a last-minute planner:
‘90s grunge rocker
This costume makes the list in part because it’s so easy to pull together: All you need are ill-fitting pants, an old flannel shirt, and stubble. It’s actually a good idea if you don’t shower, because you’ll have the requisite greasy hair, and if you spill coffee on yourself at work, it will only add veracity. That’s not the sort of chance that comes along often.
If you want to be literal:
An office snack
Everyone in your office is already thinking of nothing but snacks all day long. Wear a snack costume that’s popular in your office– be a strip of bacon, a cup of fro-yo, or a tub of popcorn – and you’ll be automatically welcome in any conversation.
If you’re a cultural commentator:
Wannabe tech visionary
Wear a black turtleneck and a headset. Pull your phone out of your pocket and make a show of displaying it to a crowd. Stride around. Pause to sip from a water bottle. Use words like “disrupt” and “authenticity” and “transparency” with special emphasis in your voice, as if these were terms you yourself had coined that are not in fact painfully cliché and meaningless to everyone else.
If you’re feeling ironic:
What you actually wanted to be when you grew up
Ballerina, fireman, scientist, veterinarian: Whatever you used to tell the grownups that you wanted to be, dress as that. Accessorize with a box of tissues for when you look around your cubicle and weep.
If you’re feeling patriotic:
The Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty is the only way you can safely go political and still collect a couple of fist bumps on the way to work. More upside: You can have a big lunch because you’re wearing something so billowy. (The downside is your torch-carrying arm may get tired.)
If you want to confuse people:
FedEx delivery guy
You can scoop up a delivery-guy costume on eBay with disturbing ease, so you don’t need much lead time for this one. Also, you will confuse people all day long and, should you so choose, you can ask people to sign for your package. What’s not to like?
If you love “Office Space”
TGI Friday’s waiter
This one’s also pretty easy to pull together because you just need a red-and-white striped shirt and 15 pieces of “flair.” Of course, we do encourage you to wear more. What do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum? I thought you wanted to express yourself!
If you love memes:
You knew this was coming, or should have. Based on the heartwarming true story of a rat and his slice, this costume first appeared circa 2015 but became an instant classic – in league with such mainstays as pirate, princess, witch and French maid. Draw some whiskers on your face and pick up a pizza on your way in and you’re done. For ease and crowd-pleasingness, it can be hardly be outdone. And now you have pizza.
If you really want to win hearts and minds:
Not wearing a costume but bringing your baby to the party in a costume instead
Listen, it’s been a hard year. A lot of us not only want but need to see your rosy-cheeked baby dressed up as a pumpkin or a lion or whatever. Nothing makes some Anne Geddes palatable like the prospect of nuclear war! Don’t have a baby? Okay, do you have a dog or a declawed cat you’re okay with humiliating? Same idea. Your colleagues will thank you.