Header image courtesy of 周柏豪 Pakho Chau (via Facebook)
Spooky season is here, and with Halloween inching closer, it’s about time to start prepping your ensemble for the main event. Whether you are going for something sugary sweet, or scary with a bit of spice, here are some of our favourite Hong Kong-themed Halloween costume ideas featuring icons—real and fictional—that have played a part in local culture.
Reflecting the explosion of textures, typography, and layers in his work, this iconic local artist’s signature outfits are a stunning and dynamic sight to behold. To pay homage to his free-spirited style and use of collaging and graffiti-style patterns, try your hand at spritzing some fabrics with paints and markers and let your imagination run wild with experimentation. Finally, tie it all together with the accessories that you simply cannot forget: a tall and multitiered conical hat, circular white-framed sunglasses, and the Frog King symbol, of course.
What is green with red polka dots all over, a forked tail, and an alligator snout? None other than Hong Kong’s own anti-littering monster, of course! Lap Sap Chung (垃圾蟲) was first conceived by Arthur Hacker in 1972 as part of a public service programme to discourage children from littering. This adorable beast was in fact designed to be a villain, depicted as an unwelcome vandal to the city, but it quickly became an endearing character that brought out smiles and excitement amongst children of the time. Although Lap Sap Chung has since been retired after decades of service, traces of its features can be found in its successor Ah Tak (阿德; aa3 dak1), a green anthropomorphic lizard.
Like any university with a sizeable history under its belt, there is no shortage of urban legends and ghost stories traversing through the halls—or rather the streets—of the Chinese University Hong Kong. Horrifyingly memorable, the grim character of the “single braid girl” was born from the story of an eloping couple that snuck across the border by train, who decided to dive off the moving locomotive together once reaching a checkpoint in Kowloon.
However, in the heat of the moment, the girl’s braid got caught on the train and ripped away at full speed, leaving her a terrifying mess, and her soul a rumoured resident of the street that now stands near the Chung Chi canteen. Male students who passed by the spot at night have reported seeing a girl with long locks spun into a braid, turning around to reveal an identical braid where her face should have been.
A popular character from Chinese monster lore, the geung si (殭屍) could be considered a cross between a vampire and a zombie. Believed to have its roots in Ming and Qing dynasty folk tales, these revived corpses are typically depicted as wearing the uniform of a Qing-era Chinese official, which includes a long black Manchu robe with cobalt trimmings and an embroidered patch, as well as official headwear made from a black hat fixed with red tassels.
There are specific movements that accompany the look, as geung si travel from place to place by hopping slowly forward with their arms outstretched. Practice your best dead-faced, thousand-yard stare and stiff hop for an extra convincing portrayal (and to draw out some scares)!
For a more wholesome costume that veers on the side of cute rather than creepy, there is no better representative of Hong Kong’s cartoon scene than McDull. Originally a supporting character in the comic strips created by Alice Mak and Brian Tse, this little piglet has been getting into adventures and growing side-by-side with local children for 20 years now. Although his default state often depicts him au naturale, save for a baseball cap worn backwards now and then, he is immediately distinguishable from the average piglet with a brown birthmark around his right eye.
Taking reference from mythologies that have been woven into the history of Hong Kong ever since its beginnings as a humble fishing village, Lo Ting would make for a costume that is at once a marvel to look at, in addition to functioning as a piece that references a fascinating story. It goes without saying that everyone around you will be taking in the oddities making up this interestingly bizarre creature and the hilarious contrast of a fish on legs.
One of Hong Kong history’s most notorious figures, Cheung Po Tsai has been immortalised through his swashbuckling adventures on the high seas and rumoured treasure stashing spot on Cheung Chau. His infamous feats and exploits have led him to make a splash amongst a wide range of television shows and movies, leading to a plethora of marauder looks to draw inspiration from for your Halloween costume. As props, the key item a pillaging naval antihero could never go without is sure to be a trusty sword.
An icon of Hong Kong cinema, the Landlady from Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle is a much-revered character with an extremely recognisable and hilarious get-up, from the multicoloured rollers to the billowy nightgown. Evoking laughter that you’d be afraid to let out when in her vicinity (out of fear of catching a slipper to the face), the divergence between her domestic outfit and tough-faced grimace is reminiscent of the tiger mum trope. Pack in an extra punch and replicate her bodacious attitude and as you strut down the streets waving a flip-flop!
A tactical vest, a gun, and a toothpick. Another costume that film buffs are sure to go wild over, Inspector Tequila from Hard Boiled is of Hong Kong’s most beloved action heroes, and someone who deserves a little more recognition during spooky season. True, the outfits he dons in the film don’t stray far from the genre’s typecast uniform, but get ahold of a toy baby and suddenly you have on your hands an easy shorthand that cleverly references one of the funniest scenes in the film, as well as the iconic release poster!
Combining old-school sensibilities with witty humour that still rings true in the modern day, Old Master Q is a legendary cartoon series started in the early 1960s that has kept its relevance in Hong Kong culture until today. Initially created as a comic series, it is one of Asia’s longest running illustrated periodicals, and has kept up with the times to mark important checkpoints throughout Hong Kong’s timeline, as well as reflecting local society’s various ebbs and flows. The full roster of the main characters includes Old Master Q in traditional dress, the portly Big Potato, and ordinary Joe, Mr Chin—a perfect choice for anyone considering group costume ideas for a trio of friends.