Horse head mask
The horse head mask is a latex mask representing a horse head originally manufactured by novelty purveyor Archie McPhee, and now widely available from other manufacturers. The mask covers the entire head and is typically part of a Halloween costume, or at other times to be funny, shocking, incongruous, or hip, or to disguise one's identity. It has also become an internet meme.
Origin and meme history
The horse mask was originally sold by novelty purveyor Archie McPhee as a Halloween costume since at least 2003. It is marketed under the name "Horse Head Mask" and is made of "realistic brown latex with faux fur mane." McPhee claims "a person wearing a Horse Head Mask looks downright disturbing" and the mask "has become a worldwide phenomenon". Other manufacturers have since closely copied the look and design.
It is unclear when the mask transitioned from a novelty item to a meme, but there were a number of "accelerants" according to Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post. In 2003, the Japanese anime Full Metal Panic? introduced the character Pony-man, "a horse-headed villain who pursued schoolgirls with a hairbrush". Pony-man resembled someone wearing the McPhee horse mask and since the masks were already being sold "pony-man kept cropping up". In 2005, Lonely Planet recommended wearing a horse mask while traveling in its Guide to Experimental Travel. Soon after, comedian/actor Tom Green wore a horse mask for an episode of his Internet talk show, Tom Green's House Tonight. In January 2008, a performance artist named Wotaken filmed himself picking, cooking, and eating psychedelic mushrooms while completely naked, wearing a horse head mask and dancing to the Final Fantasy soundtrack "Dancing Mad". This film was uploaded to YouTube and reached over 2 million viewers and propelled the horse head to a wider audience.
After Wotaken's naked psychedelic cooking video, the horse head mask became a more common Internet meme. Examples include a 2010 Scottish man known as "horse boy" captured by Google Street View; During Hurricane Sandy, in Washington, D. C., a man was filmed jogging through a live news shot shirtless but wearing a horse head mask.
In July 2014, President Barack Obama was photographed in the streets of Denver shaking the hand of a horse headed bystander resulting in national press exposure of the mask including a series of articles in The Washington Post about the meme's history and cultural influences.
Some YouTube video contributors have chosen the horse head mask as their trademark, including Sir Sebastian of "Sir Sebastian's Candy Corner," a candy and chocolate reviewer, as well as a Berlin street performer, "The Neigh Kid Horse," who has been photographed by hundreds of amateur and professional photographers, and who is known for only wearing the mask and his underwear.
Unicorn head mask
Distinctly horselike unicorn head masks are also sold by Archie McPhee and others. Unicorn head masks have been used by Arizona State Sun Devils fans as part of program to distract opposing free throw shooters.
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