Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reviewing Hobo Costume Ideas, Head to Toe

A hobo costume is easy to put together and one of the most effective when it comes to hiding your true identity. Here we review hobo costume ideas for men, women, boys and girls.
How to Make the Best Hobo Costume Ever, From Head to Toe

Since I was a little kid, one of my favorite homemade costumes for Halloween has been a hobo costume. My mother was always good at creating costumes from whatever we had around the house and this was one of her specialties.

A hobo costume is easy to put together and one of the most effective when it comes to hiding your true identity, which I think is the most fun part of any costume party.

So if you're a boy, girl, man, or woman looking for a way to win the local Halloween costume contest this year, you've come to the right place because I'm ready to reveal some of our favorite hobo costume ideas, head to toe.

Hobo Costume Ideas From Head to Toe

Two hobos walking along a railroad track after being put off of a train. Public domain photo.
Two hobos walking along railroad tracks.
Public domain photo.
Actually, let's start in the middle. Since hobos were homeless, traveling itinerant workers, their clothes had a tendency to become tattered and worn. Traditionally, one pictures a hobo in overalls or jeans with patches, wearing a worn work shirt. So, an old pair of overalls with patches sewn on and a wrinkled, tattered shirt are the most important items of clothing to start with as you put together your hobo costume. Check in the back of a drawer or the closet for old jeans or overalls. Add a worn leather belt or suspenders if you can find them. Choose a shirt that is a bit over-sized to accommodate the first of my mom's secret hobo costume props, a small pillow. Add the pillow to your upper back, inside your shirt or t-shirt. Use safety pins to attach it to your shirt so it won't slip. Read on to learn why the pillow is so important.

If you can't find what you need in your own closet, check with a family member or friend. Or visit the local thrift store where you'll likely find inexpensive items that will work well. Any hobo worth the name would have a small sewing kit in his satchel, so if you want to and have time, cut patches out of another old shirt or pants and sew those to the knees or elbows of the pants or shirt you've chosen for the costume.

Hobo Shoes or Boots and a Hobo Hat

If you can find old shoes with holes, definitely go with those. If the shoes are too big, try stuffing them with newspaper which you can arrange to show through the holes, definitely a nice - and authentic - touch. Likely you'll be able to find an inexpensive pair of boots at the thrift store that you can scuff up for the occasion.

For a boy or man, look for either a stocking type cap or, even better, an older style hat with a brim. Think 1960s or Freddie the Freeloader (or the photo above). For women, a kerchief around the head will be fine. A typical big red bandanna, nicely wrinkled, will cover your hair and contribute to your disguise. Check the local dollar store if you don't have a bandanna lying around the house. Either way, try to hide your hair to help hide your identity.

Important Hobo Costume Accessories

Stereotypically, a hobo would carry what few belongs he had wrapped in a bandanna satchel or perhaps his spare shirt, tied to a stick which he would carry over his shoulder. If you use a stick, just use caution around other people's eyes.

Another secret to a prize-worthy hobo costume is a walking stick or a cane. For the very best effect, make the stick short so that you have to stoop over to use it. Remember the pillow inside the back of your hobo shirt? Leaning over the walking stick with a pillow "humpback" will help to obscure your face by bringing it down below eye level and will be a huge addition to the character. Cut a broomstick or find a good-sized piece of tree limb for the stick, or use an adjustable cane. Wear an old pair of work gloves to cover your hands, again so you won't be recognized.

Makeup or a Hobo Mask Adds a Finishing Touch

This silicone old man mask would be the crowning touch of your hobo costume. From themasker on Etsy.
Old man "Bertrand" silicone mask from themasker on Etsy. 
For trick-or-treating, some powdered black eyeshadow or face paint for a beard (for a guy) or streaks of dirt (for a girl) is recommended since makeup won't obstruct your vision. However, for a costume party and for the very best effect, a mask is a must. A pullover latex or silicone, full-face mask is the ultimate, or find a good frontal face mask. An old man or old woman mask works perfectly to create a convincing hobo character.

If you disguise your identity with a mask, either a man or a woman can play the part of a hobo. You'll find an awesome selection of very affordable old man masks on Amazon. If you're going all out and have a good budget, a professional silicone old man mask, like this "Bertrand" mask from TheMasker on Etsy, will totally hide your face and neck and completely fool anyone who knows you as long as you don't talk.

The Secret Ingredient to a Perfect Hobo Costume

Which brings us to the most important secret to the best hobo costume ever: Don't talk. Enter the costume party with your hobo costume intact, leaning over your walking stick. Walk slowly and simply don't say a word. I can tell you from experience, this is the most fun part of the whole costume.

Mingle among the guests and do some one-hand grazing of the refreshment table if you like, but keep quiet. Everyone will be talking about your character and wondering who it is inside such a perfect hobo costume. Continue the ruse as long as you can, or at least until the costumes are judged. Enjoy the role and have fun!

What Is a Hobo, Anyway?

Two hobos ride the rods on the underside of a boxcar. Public domain photo
Two hobos ride the rods on the underside of a boxcar.
Public domain photo
Ever wonder about hobos and if they still exist? defines a hobo as one who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or means of livelihood.  The term "hobo" sprang up during the depression as men lost their jobs and began wandering door to door seeking work.

I remember a hobo coming to our door back in the late 1950s, but until this year I wasn't sure that people who call themselves hobos actually still exist. They do! In fact, they even have conventions. If you're interested, learn more about real-life hobos and the hobo convention at these links:

Britt Hobo Days, the Hobo Convention
Hobos on Wikipedia

So tell me. How do you like these hobo costume ideas? Would you consider dressing up as a hobo for Halloween or for the next costume party that comes around? I love the idea and I'd love to know what you think.

Read more of my reviews here.

Posted by Susan Deppner

Susan Deppner

About the Author

Susan Deppner is a baby boomer, a cancer survivor, and a Southerner who believes in the Golden Rule. She enjoys writing about food, faith, and fitness; health, home, and holidays; people, places, pets, and patriotism, and more. Follow Susan on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I remember wearing a 'hobo' costume as a kid on Halloween. With your ideas here I can see that a hobo costume would be great fun at an adult Halloween costume party today. I like the idea of not talking and keeping others guessing as to your identity! :)I have friends (two brothers) who did that(not talking) at my daughter and son-in-law's Halloween party one year and the only way my SIL guessed that one was his best friend was by his walk and mannerisms as he knew him so well. :)

    1. A person's walk and mannerisms definitely will give them away! That's why it's good to stoop over the walking stick, to hide your body shape and disguise your walk. I did this once and it was spooky how anonymous I was! My mom was so good at this and would fool everyone. Definitely a fun costume for an adult! Thanks, Elf!

  2. This is a great go to costume! So many interesting ways to be creative with it.

    1. Great point, Savvy! A unique costume is so much better than one out of a package, or at least I think so. When I was little I wanted a store-bought costume because that's what my friends had. Finally I grew to appreciate the unique, homemade costumes that my mother would help us put together. Appreciate your input!

  3. Oh this is so much fun. Yes that costume idea brings back many a memory for me. I think I was a hobo at least 3 or 4 times in my Trick or treating days. Thanks Susan, you put a smile on my face for the whole day....

    1. Grammie O, I'm thrilled to know that! Thank you! Bet you were a cutie patootie little hobo!

  4. What an excellent idea for a Halloween costume, and one that is homemade. Many may be too young to remember, Red Skelton as Celm Kadiddlehopper!! He was my favorite Hobo!!!

    1. Sorry! that should say Clem not Celm!!!!

    2. Yes! Loved Red Skelton and all of his characters! I think, in this case, you're thinking of Freddy the Freeloader. For those who aren't familiar, here's a video link: Thanks for the mem'ries, Sam. (Oops, wrong entertainer!)

  5. What an exceptional article on pulling together a Hobo costume, as well as how to play the part at the Halloween party. This is the best article I have ever read on how to assemble a Hobo costume. Made me want to start pilfering through my own closet and drawers for the clothes. I believe I could easily do this now!

    1. Oh, and it is not a costume idea I have ever considered before!!!

    2. Thank you for the kind words, Cynthia! I have to admit, as I put this all together, I started wondering if there could be a Halloween costume party in my future. I'd love to dress up this way again. Let me know if you give it a go!

  6. I never thought about a hobo, thanks for the suggestion! :)

  7. I'm so bad at trying to assemble costumes, it's not my thing, lol, so something like this would help me for sure!

    1. Keep a hobo costume in mind, Barbara, just in case you need one. Really, they're easy to put together using your own personal, unique touch!

  8. I do think the hobo costume is the easiest way out for busy moms. I used to hate Halloween because I'd have to come up with a costume and I don't do well at sewing. I'm glad all that is behind me now. But my children were hobos one year.

    1. No sewing is great, especially at the last minute. The nice thing about it for moms is that it just takes a couple of quick and easy accessories to make a simple hobo costume, but if you're really into it and have more time you can go all out and include more and more touches to make it really awesome. And older kids can add creative touches on their own! Thanks, Barb!

  9. I definitely have in the past dressed as a hobo, Susan and yes, I would again! Happy Halloween, a few weeks early!

  10. A hobo costume is a great idea because it can be done with what you already have and is no sew, no cost. I love that! My kids have been hobos before.

    1. The "no sew" feature of a hobo costume is one of its best features! Thanks, Heather!


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