The Most Popular Halloween Costumes of the Last Five Years Are Kind of Unimaginative

A few days ago we took a look at the most popular Halloween costumes in each state — but if you’re curious about the bigger picture, this one’s for you: NPR’s Planet Money blog created an interactive tracking the relative popularity of adult Halloween costumes between 2009 and 2013 — and what it reveals is that American adults are generally really unimaginative with our choices in disguise. Seriously, you guys — it’s the same basic selection, over and over and over again. We clearly need some help in the inspiration department, because it's getting a little bit ridiculous.

But hey, maybe it's not actually all that bad; after all, the data featured in the infographic might only be focusing on a very specific type of costume. According to Laughing Squid, Quoctrung Bui and LA Johnson actually made the thing, drawing their information from the National Retail Federation (which gave us that delightful rundown of the cost of Halloween last week). I suspect this means that the data applies only to the kinds of prepackaged Halloween costumes you can buy at all those seasonal stores that pop up every October — so any kind of homemade awesomeness likely isn’t part of the data set. That’s all conjecture from me, by the way, so it may not be the case — but I think it's pretty likely true.

Anyhoo, according to the NPR interactive, the last three years or so have been particularly boring; the top five slots have been occupied exclusively by pirates, vampires, zombies, witches, and Batman in various orders:


What I do find interesting, though, is how Halloween costumes allow us to track the lifespan of certain pop culture trends. Among the consistently most popular, we have:


Witches are pretty much always in, probably due to the huge range of variations on the theme available. We can draw our inspiration from the ones we grew up with (Hocus Pocus) or more recent creations (American Horror Story: Coven); they can be scary, sexy, both, or neither; and so on and so forth.


Vampires, too, pretty much never go out of style, probably for the same reasons — although Dracula doesn’t seem to be too popular these days.

Those who have been garnering more interest over the years include:


Zombies have made an enormous leap in recent years, jumping from 13th place in 2009 to 7th in 2010.


He didn’t place until 2010, at which point he landed in the number 10 slot; the image seen above is what he's been up to since 2011. I’ve no doubt the conclusion of The Dark Knight trilogy in 2012 has something to do with the improvement.

And those who have been falling out of favor include:


I guess even “sexy devil” is too generic these days?


In 2009, pumpkin took 10th place and vanished completely afterwards. Not even the return of the Slutty Pumpkin on How I Met Your Mother in 2011 could help bring it back.

Oh, and then there’s this:


Although clowns haven’t been at all popular in recent years — after a good year at number four in 2009, they dropped to 13th place in 2010 — I suspect scary ones will be making a comeback this year. Between American Horror Story: Freak Show’s Twisty and all those weird-ass clowns stalking the country, they’re back on our radars — and they’re just as freaky as they were back in Pennywise's day.

Homogeneity aside, though, the interactive is actually pretty need, so I suggest heading on over to Planet Money to check it out. What are you dressing up as this year?

Images: Planet Money/NPR (8)