How to Make a Cactus Costume, with Tales of Drunkeness and Random Heroism

So one of the things I didn’t know when we started this blog is that you can see the searches that led people to the blog.  One of the funnier ones that’s come up, a few times,  is “how to make a cactus costume.”  I wrote a post a few weeks back about doing a Halloween punk rock show in Japan dressed as a cactus but obviously I didn’t explain how and where I got said costume.  Since I aim to please, I’ll try to explain how I made it.

I’m not a big Halloween person, but every now and then I get the urge to go all out.  This was one of those years.  I made the costume entirely by scratch, over a period of about a month.  I also didn’t have access to a sewing machine, so this took way longer than it should have.

First, I bought several meters of green fabric.  I chose a slightly shiny fabric because I wanted to be a bit of a glam cactus.  I laid it out on the floor, then took a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and laid them on top of the fabric, drew an outline with a marker (leaving about an inch margin all the way around) and then cut it out.  I made it a sleeveless cactus because I had to play a show and I needed free movement with my arms.  I used some of the rest of the fabric to make a matching hat, roughly in the shape of an old-time football helmet.  I can’t remember how I made the template for that.

Making the needles was the tough part.  I didn’t want them to actually be spiky, so I bought some thick white felt and cut it in inch and a half, very acute triangles.  I cut small holes in the fat part of the triangle and strung yarn through them.  Then I arranged them on the inside of the green fabric cutout, then sewed the yarn in place.  Then I cut tiny holes into the outside of the fabric, and pulled the triangles most of the way through so that they stuck out.  I did the same with the hat.

Then I sewed the green fabric together so that it made a suit.  I also sewed a zipper in the back so that I could get in and out.

The finishing touch was green makeup on my face and bright red makeup around my mouth like one of those cactus cartoons.

One thing I hadn’t thought of was the fact that there aren’t any cacti in Japan.  So I spent all evening explaining what I was wearing, with most people thinking I was a dinosaur.  If I were to make this costume again (NOT LIKELY), I would have created  some foam wedges to make the suit crinkled like an actual cactus.

I actually played two shows wearing this suit, the one I already wrote about, and another the previous night.  It was a somewhat special show because it was the only time my brother and I have played before an audience in our adult lives.  And we got heckled.  I can laugh about it now, but that kinda sucked.

I got pretty drunk that night and tried to ride my bike home.  I was almost home when I hit a bicycle sobriety checkpoint.  I swear this exists in Japan.  I also realized I had lost my cactus cap.  Somehow I managed to talk my way out of getting a ticket by acting very confused (not hard because  I was drunk) and saying I had lost my hat.  I chalk it up to either American privilege or just confusion on the part of the policeman as to what I was that he let me turn around and go back to the bar.

On the way back to the bar I saw two men LITERALLY* getting stomped on by two other men.  One man was slamming another man into one of those metal roll-up shopfronts.  Right in front of them is a young man, small even by Japanese standards, asking the man doing the slamming to chill out.  The man responds with “YOU WANT SOME TOO!?!’

Because I was drunk, and feeling emboldened by my costume**, I roll up on my bike behind the small, brave man, thinking I can back him up.   Now I’m not particularly big in America, but in Japan I’m above average height.  And I’m dressed like a dinosaur***.  The man doing the slamming looks at the small man, looks at me, looks back at the small man, looks at his buddy (head stomper guy) a few yards away and they both bolt.  Head-stompee gets up and says, I shit you not, “WHERE ARE THOSE GUYS!?!  I’M GONNA GET EM!”  Some passerby managed to dissuade him from chasing after them.

I didn’t find my cap at the bar, and spent the next day making a new one for the other parties I had to attend.  But I recommend making yourself a costume like this because I’m firmly convinced it had borderline magical powers.  That suit got me out of some tight spots.


*For real.  One guy was stomping on the other guy’s head.  Most brutal thing I’ve ever seen happen in front of me.  Wait, that was only one man, so I guess I didn’t use LITERALLY right.  Shit.

**I’m not normally a brave person.  In fact, I am downright chicken when it comes to risking my beautiful face
***Or Godzilla?  (Is this a tasteless, insensitive and/or obvious joke?  I suppose)


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