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Monday, April 19, 2021

With a glow stick, the 1980s. The perfect costume for this Halloween.

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Every year, Spirit Halloween wants to make something infamous. This year, the company is trying a novel strategy for the holiday: over the past few weeks, many flyers are springing up in the homes of B-list celebrities with unfamiliar names.

And many, according to a Times investigation, are turning into a true treasure chest of 1980s pop culture references — slits for eyes, gangster rap — that store insiders said were a hit with teens who had forgotten how to speak about the glittering girl group.

What this means for large stores like Spirit Halloween is unclear. Thousands of customers arrive every day to queue up for costumes and to shop for after-hours deals. When a front-page Times story reminds shoppers to try on a Minnie Mouse costume before heading to the store, the most fiercely loyal customers may stop shopping, store staffers said.

But for many Americans, picking up a 1980s costume at a gas station or back-alley junkyard today might provide a way to try out a decade that never quite died, the paper found. At chain Halloween stores, it is not uncommon to see ads and even employees wearing 1980s-era costumes. If an employee at Spirit Halloween is dressed as a zombie with a pair of orange hair extensions and blue goggles, everyone — from kids to grandparents — might start tittering.

And inside the stores, well, some things never change. On a weekday in a warehouse in Chesapeake, Va., people enter the main dressing room to find Jason Voorhees in a bloodied leather jacket that is meant to suggest that, over the course of the movie “Friday the 13th,” he “let the blood flow.” Then they take off their hair to see that Ms. Janet Leigh, from “Psycho,” has also shaved her head. When an employee gives the green light to bring out an ’80s costume, a tiny-size sheet drapes the sheet into a green tarp in front of the stairs. Customers are allowed to come in and out dressed as “Friday the 13th” characters, from Jason to Leatherface to the Tooth Fairy. A sign warns that they should be dressed with gloves on and dress up in a shirt and gloves or no costume.

“This is the millennium of our first-ever ‘80s costume,” said the front-office manager for North Carolina, which is conducting a pilot program where customers for the first time can get one of those off-color, pun-filled bags of words as Halloween 2016. “This costume is something so eclectic and unique; it’s really hard to describe. We’re never going to reproduce it.”

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