Why Americans Are Lining Up to Look Like Donald Trump This Halloween

Politics is popular, says new study—but facial features rule

Headshot of Robert Klara

When Americans answer the doorbell this Halloween, there's a very good chance that nestled among the usual ghouls, zombies and vampires will be … Donald Trump. The high-powered New York developer-turned-GOP political fave has risen to the top of the Halloween costume list this year, according to the Hill. (USA Today puts him at No. 10, but, hey, there's a lot of competition from Star Wars and Minions.)

In fact, according to a just-released study by Horizon Media, even though the next presidential election is 375 days from today, consumers are showing an above-average interest in candidate-themed costumes, with 5 percent of respondents reporting they'll don a politically inspired costume.

"The fact that we're entering a presidential election year is a major factor," said Kirk Olson, vp of Trendsights in Horizon Media's WHY Group. "Halloween is always a time for poking fun at public figures. As the candidate pool narrows, voters will get more serious about the candidates. For now, the race is equal parts politics and entertainment."

And if any man has demonstrated an aptitude in mixing politics with entertainment, it's Trump.

This is, of course, very good news for retailers who sell the latex accouterments and other essentials that make up the $6.9 billion Halloween industry. Horizon's study also revealed that fewer Americans are concerned about saving money this Halloween, meaning they're probably more likely to purchase a costume than make one from odds and ends around the house. Though Horizon's study shows that only 10 percent of us purchase Halloween costumes, using the National Retail Federation's figures, that still works out to somewhere around 15.7 million people.

Accordingly, Trump masks and Trump wigs abound on the Web. (Reuters reports that Mexican company Grupo Rev is busy exporting masks to 30 countries, not just the U.S.) But Olson points to another key factor that's made Trump such a popular costume: "With his distinctive look and personality," Olson said, "there's zero chance people will have to answer the question, 'Who are you?'"

In fact, notoriety aside, a distinctive facial feature seems to be the driving force behind the popularity of political costumes. This year, that means Donald Trump's astonishing hair (which is real, incidentally), but the precedent was set decades ago with Richard Nixon's nose.


Richard Nixon was the best-selling political costume for decades.

As the Atlantic pointed out in a 2012 story, Americans in the Watergate era leaped at the chance to dress as Tricky Dick, but hardly anyone had an itch to look like Gerald Ford. It was the schnoz, of course. In 2002, the Harper's Index reported that Richard Nixon was still the best-selling political costume—28 years after Nixon resigned. And today? Morris still does a good business in Nixon masks. (There's a healthy market for Bill Clinton masks for much the same reason.) As Scott Morris told the Atlantic, "There's a buyer for everything in this world."

Just in case dressing as the Donald is not your style, do not fret. Horizon's study revealed that the most popular costumes overall are superheroes and movie characters, with 23 percent and 16 percent of respondents reporting those choices, respectively. And even if you haven't picked out a costume yet, you can take comfort in the fact that, ultimately, it doesn't matter who or what you choose to dress like. In a previous survey, Horizon found that 92 percent of Americans believe that, with all the stress in the world, adults have the right to act like kids and blow off steam.

Want to do that in a blond wig? That's your business.

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.