16+ Culturally Inappropriate Halloween Costumes We Should Stop Wearing

We get it. Halloween is the one day a year that grown ups get to play dress-up and assume an entirely new identity. But that doesn't mean that everything is costume material.

Reducing an entire cultural, ethnic or religious group to a costume strips those who belong to those groups of their identity and history. What you may perceive as being creative can actually be deeply offensive.

In the spirit of having fun and being respectful this Halloween, steer clear of these culturally inappropriate costumes.

Native American


Native Americans have been historically and systemically oppressed in North America.

They've suffered through colonialism and exploitation, and to assume the identity of an oppressed culture, even for just a day, devalues their experience.

Certain things, like headdresses, are especially sacred.

A headdress is reserved for elders who have shown leadership in their tribe through selflessness and guidance. It's not just cultural, it's also spiritual.



Aside from the obvious cultural appropriation, many critics take issue with geisha costumes because they misrepresent geishas as sex workers.

These women were, in fact, elite courtesans who were strictly forbidden from developing personal relationships with their customers.



This costume idea is simply factually inaccurate.

Thanks to Hollywood, we think ninjas are stealth assassins who lurk in the shadows, but in reality they're similar to CIA agents.



Despite the fact that there was a five-year television show in which a white woman dressed as a genie, in today's more enlightened climate, we know that this is a stereotype of Middle Eastern culture.

"Desert Prince"


Some costumes only serve to perpetuate offensive stereotypes, like this "desert prince" costume that includes a sword among its accessories.

Sexy Nun


There's so much wrong with this we don't even know where to begin. It's offensive to religious people, members of the clergy, women, and probably your grandmother (if she's a church-goer).

Egyptian God Or Goddess


Here's the thing, Ancient Egyptians are virtually the only African civilization to receive any sort of recognition. If you're not of African descent, don't dress up as someone from its history.



Say it with me: Mexican is an ethnic culture, not a costume.

This costume is a political minefield.

When you consider how Mexico, the wall, and immigration detention centers have become hotly debated topics, it's probably wise to avoid this costume.



The word "gypsy" itself is considered a cultural slur, so this one is a bit of a no-brainer.

The Roma people continue to be persecuted to this day, and dressing in this way can be considered insensitive to their plight.



Rastafarianism is a religious movement that originated in Jamaica; it's not an excuse to put on an accent and make it all about cannabis.

Dressing in this manner is offensive on both a cultural and religious level.

Hair is a touchy subject.

There's a long history of sensitivity around hair and African Americans.

Women, in particular, continue to be penalized for wearing their natural hair, and styles like cornrows have a history rooted in slavery.



We might be dazzled by the production value of Bollywood movies, but that doesn't give us carte blanche to wear traditional Indian attire that is directly related to their cultural and religious beliefs.

Refrain from wearing things like sparkly bindis

The bindi has religious significance and is believed to be linked to the third eye, which is a site of wisdom and power.

In the past, South East Asian women were often ridiculed for wearing a bindi, so to see it diminished to a costume is especially offensive.

Anne Frank Or WWII Evacuee


Do we really need to explain why the Holocaust shouldn't be turned into a Halloween costume?

Day Of The Dead


While we recognize that recreating Day of the Dead makeup is very tempting, it's important to note that it isn't Mexican Halloween.

Day of the Dead is a religious holiday that pays respect to loved ones who have passed on.

Anything that would require blackface is a no-no.

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Blackface is rarely a requisite to make a costume recognizable. But if it is and you're not black, just opt for something else.

Religious Symbols


Heidi Klum came under fire when she dressed as the Hindu goddess Kali. Leaders in the Hindu-American community criticized her for denigrating the sanctity of their religion.