My dad owns one red flannel shirt, and when I was in high school, he started a tradition of wearing it on Halloween every year. You may be asking why he wears the same costume every Halloween, but you’d be asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is how one red flannel shirt can supply the base for at least seven different costumes. If you’re out of ideas, on a budget, or in a pinch, with just a few extra props (most of which you can probably rustle up from around the house) and some inspiration from my dad you can turn a single piece of clothing into a wide variety of manly Halloween ensembles.
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The lumberjack is a common fixture of many wooded locales, and it makes for a great Halloween costume. In my home state of Minnesota, our inspiration always came from the great legend (or is it reality?) of Paul Bunyan and his great blue ox. Grow yourself a beard and grab some rugged boots, a pair of jeans, a nice wool stocking cap, and of course, an axe. The axe doubles as protection from all the ghosts, ghouls, and of course zombies that are out and about on All Hallows’ Eve. If you can find a great blue ox, that’s icing on the cake.
2. Lobster Fisherman
Lobster fishermen don’t always wear red flannel, but when they do, they wear it well. Think rubber when thinking of this costume. Boots, hip waders, gloves…even the lobster can be of the rubber variety. Unless of course you’re attending a potluck, in which case the lobster can be the dish you bring. Throw a bucket cap on your noggin, and you’ll be perfectly set to fool your friends into thinking you’ve arrived to the party via a boat from Maine.
If you’re young and live in a highly-populated urban area, this likely isn’t your best bet for a costume, as people won’t realize you’re in costume. Make sure to get yourself some thick glasses (as with real hipsters, lenses not required), skinny jeans, a can of PBR in one hand, and a vinyl record from your favorite obscure band in the other. If you do it right, you’re supplying your own beverage, as well as music for the shindig you’re attending. You’ll be the hit-ster of the party!
It’s easy to represent our brothers from north of the border. All you need is a bomber hat and a big ole jug o’ maple syrup. Make sure to get one of the hats where the ear flaps button up on top of the head in case you get warm. Take a few swills of the sweet nectar every hour, ensuring that you have plenty of sugar high for a full evening of Halloween activities. Throw in plenty of “ehs” and “you betchas” for extra authenticity.
5. Al Borland
Mr. Borland was a fixture of my childhood, and makes for a great Halloween costume, especially for a 90s-themed party. You’ll need a full, thick beard, a tool belt, a wrench in hand, and of course that classic catchphrase, “I don’t think so, Tim.” Just substitute Tim’s name for whichever friend or family member is about to do something stupid, and you’ll be set.
I’m a midwesterner at heart, where hobos once roamed the rails far and wide across the great heart of the country. There is even a hobo museum  in little Britt, Iowa. My wife and I once tried to go, but alas, it’s closed in the winter. Not only is this a great costume, but you also pay homage to the great history of our nation. Read up on the hobo lifestyle , add a few patches to your pants and shirt, grow out some stubble, find yourself an old hat of some sort, and create a classic hobo stick by tying the handkerchief you always have on you  to the end of a tree branch. To really go all out, put a pocket knife , a spork, a piece of flint, and a tin cup into the bindle (yes, the bandana on a stick has a name) you’ve just created.
7. Larry the Cable Guy
After you’ve exhausted your red flannel shirt costume ideas, the final step is to cut off the sleeves to harness your inner Larry the Cable Guy. With a goatee, a trucker cap, a Southern “hick” accent, and some lame jokes up your non-existent sleeve, you’ll be entertaining everyone around you for the whole evening. Git ‘r done.
What other costumes can be had with just a red flannel shirt and a few props? What manly Halloween costume will you be sporting this year?
Illustrations by Ted Slampyak