Life

Looking for a Sweet Halloween Costume in This Era of Tricks? Plop Yourself in a Pineapple.

Photo illustration of various pineapple costumes
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Target, Tipsy Elves, Chewy, and HalloweenCostumes.com.

Every year as we creep into October, costume companies fight for our attention with provocative press ploys. This year the wildest gambit was Yandy’s “Sexy Handmaid’s Tale” costume, which generated such a violent outpouring of offense that the retailer was forced to remove it. Which, whatever. Our annual costume outrage, once a devilishly fun start to the Halloween season, has become so predictable that it’s dull. However, beneath the routine hullaballoo, there is currently a far weirder and more delightful trend afoot: Pineapple costumes! They are the secret hit of Halloween 2018.

In an interview with CNBC, Jodi Lewis, the head buyer for Halloween Adventure, said that pineapple outfits were the only clear standout in purchasing for the holiday. Unexpected! A pineapple seems like an inexplicably simple answer to the perennial question of what the year’s costume hit will be. Every Halloween, retailers scramble to guess what will take off. Most don’t have the money to license popular characters and instead must resort to whipping up ideas in response to celebrity deaths or disease outbreaks and manufacture them at backbreaking speeds.

Given all this insanity, it would seem improbable that the super chill pineapple would bust through the noise. Yet, take a look at social media, and sure enough the pineapple appears prominently (and placidly) for scrutiny. A search for #pineapplecostume on Instagram demonstrates that the costume is popular across gender, age, and even species. There are babies in adorable, poofy yellow sacks; women in provocative sequined leotards with spiky headpieces; and many, many dogs reluctantly sporting some combination of cape and floppy-hat ensemble.

Especially popular is Target’s interpretation of the classic symbol for hospitality and/or your cruise to Hawai’i: a voluminous, polyester top paired with a neck and crown piece. The copy on the page advertises the costume as an opportunity to bring the “tropical fun.”

But why? After all, we’re usually thirstier for pumpkin spice this time of year than piña coladas. Lewis ascribes the success of this costume to the recent trend of carving pineapples instead of pumpkins. New to you, too? Pineapple carving took off around 2016 and is accomplished in a similar way to pumpkin carving: removing the flesh, then carving the standard triangle eyes and jagged smile. On how-to sites, people praise the spooky suitability of the spiky texture and note that a pineapple is actually far easier to carve, as you can use a corer to remove the majority of the innards, which (aside from the core itself) are actually edible!

Beyond popping up as a popular jack-o’-lantern substitute, many have noted that pineapples also currently carry a huge amount of cultural cache. You can now find pineapples on shower curtains, notebooks, and all over cheap costume jewelry. The pineapple is part of a design cycle of familiar items used as patterns and decorations on objects marketed to young women—in the early 2000s, it was owls. On Pinterest, the options for pineapple items are varied and endless: a pineapple personal fan, a DIY pineapple ukulele, a pineapple cocktail shaker. Even the mission statement of the pineapple has become popular. You can buy postcards and prints that read, “Be a pineapple: Stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside.”

There is not a readily apparent explanation for why the pineapple has blossomed in recent years. Some point toward the pineapple’s history as a status symbol: Its initial scarcity in the Americas led pineapples to be displayed prominently in wealthy households, and they were later incorporated into architectural design elements and servingware.

However, today’s pineapple costumes are not so much a sign of upward mobility as they are an instantly recognizable but ridiculous symbol completely divorced from our political moment. What makes the pineapple relevant today, I think, is its pure irrelevance. For those exhausted by the media, there is no appeal to dressing as Sexy Fake News or even as Scumbro Justin Bieber. A couple years ago, I witnessed a surprising number of adults dressed as gumball machines. It seemed strange that so many people would converge on such a seemingly random idea, but the principle was similar. It was a fun, goofy costume totally removed from the troubles of the present.

Similarly, a brightly hued escapist fruit is now undeniably appealing. A pineapple is rotund and wacky and in no way related to contemporary culture. These days, when even relatively toothless evils like witches and devils can be dispiriting, a pineapple offers the perfect, cheerfully sweet solution.