What It’s Like to Be Inside the Mascot Costume

Credit: www.markgreenphoto.net

A soft, fluffy 8ft toy enters the scene in slow motion. He stops for a second, takes off his ‘gangster-style’ glasses and starts moving unwieldy. The herculean shoes interference his movements (it must be the size 15)! He carefully lifts the left foot and positions it firmly on the ground, then follows the same movement with the right foot. Oh, look at him –he’s actually got the moves! A shaggy toy starts jumping around and here comes his flocculent friend – the sexy-shaped eagle lady with curved eyelashes and red ribbon on top of her head. Oh-la-la, those two are the cute ones and they are a perfect match – Peter and Alice – fluffy, multi-fingered and yellow-beaked plushy eagles.

‘This is going to be a perfect match with those two bringing the luck!’, screams loyal football fan from the first raw. ‘Can I have a hug with them, pleaaaase’, beseeches his toddler, who has probably seen every possible soft toy in the world, but not the massive fluffy laughing eagle!

Welcome to the day of life of a Mascot. It’s a real fun for those watching, but what is it like to be inside the costume and where are those costumes coming from?! Oh, and what is the real meaning of the Mascot?

The word ‘mascot’ originates from the French term ‘mascotte’, as tells the Cambridge Dictionary. This word original meaning is a ‘lucky charm’. However, most of those, who spend their days inside the costume, say Mascots don’t bring the luck! ‘Bluntly, no not at all!’, snaps out Gary Hutchinson, once upon a time known as Poacher the Imp from Lincoln City.

So if Mascots are not the ‘lucky charms’, who are they then?

Those, who spends their days in the Mascot costumes, share their ideas of what they think the Mascot is:

Copyright: Berta Balsyte – www.coggle.it

Angela Hallam, Theatre Designer and Teacher of Art and Textiles, is the one, who creates those soft and furry characters, called Mascots. She doesn’t hide pride and enthusiasm when telling me that she is ‘one of the first people in the country to actually design and make football mascot costumes’. This is something extraordinary, isn’t it? And not only the fact that she is a mascot designer is exciting, the whole idea of making the mascot is even more thrilling!

‘You have to like working with fur, because it’s something not everybody can cope with’, opens the Mascot Maker starting the conversation. She tells, she is running her business since 1984 (!), and I can tell from her eyes, she has loads of memories since then; and some of them are filling in her minds right now.

Copyright: Angela Hallam

As her memories unfolds, she tells me about the best and most amusing things, which has happened during the years she worked making the furry friends.

‘I remember I was making the Otter Costume, when I was heavily pregnant’, starts Angela. She clarifies that this was 28 years ago and the costume was designed for the Malvern Splash Centre.

‘I actually put the body on to check if it was okay (she says she usually does it all the time), and the doorbell rang, and because of the big bump I couldn’t get the costume off quickly… So, I had to answer the doors with an Otter’s body on (laughs Angela)’.

Copyright: www.frenzycreative.co.uk

Can you imagine yourself working as a postman during an ordinary early morning and meeting the Otter? You would just knock someone’s doors and expect someone to take the letters; probably still being in the pajama or home-style sport clothing, but instead of this, you have got the Otter standing in front of you! And it’s not even the Halloween day yet. I would be surprised. So was the postman that day – ‘a bit surprised’ – says Angela not stopping the laugher.

Angela has designed various costumes during her career. Some just the ordinary ones, such as the elephants or teddy bears, but some have been really unique (or just weird ones).

One of them was the Light Switch costume for Ricoh Arena. ‘It was Switch Off the Lights campaign, so they wanted to remind people to switch the lights off. The costume actually said: Switch it off and even had the button on it!

I don’t know if it’s still around, though… That was pretty weird’.

Copyright: Angela Hallam

Another ‘unique’ one costume was the condom man. It would have been weird if it was designed for real, but the mover has changed his mind at the very last moment:

‘It was supposed to be for a safe sex promotion’, says Angela. ‘They wanted a condom man with arms and legs but they changed their minds about it and I didn’t have it made’…

Copyright: www.smiffys.com

When asked about where is she getting an inspiration from to design such unique characters, Angela says that it’s all in her head – ‘you need to be able to look at the person and imagine that person being in a costume’.

However, when she is in short of inspiration, she opens the books or just uses the Google.

‘If I am being asked to create an elephant, then the first thing I’ll do is either get my animals books out, or these days more I’ll go on Google and just search elephants and cut and paste them on some sheets, which I’ll then print off, so I’ll have them all round me just with the different images of elephants. And then, when I have got all that in round of me, I’ll start drawing.

But I am not much of a sketcher on paper; I don’t have time to do it. In reality, I haven’t got the hours to sketch, so the sketching goes in my head’.

It is easy for her to turn things round in her head, because she has a 3D mind – the imagination, which helps to create the Mascot in the head and turn it into the real furry friend within seconds!

‘Over the years I’ve developed sort of 3D mind, I can sort of turn things round in my head. If I am in the middle of the costume and I have got a problem, I have that 3D image in my head and I am thinking of what I can do to change it’, says Angela.

‘I also do that 3AM in the morning if things are not going well, but that’s what happens when you work on your own – you just live it 24/7’, takes a breath Mascot designer.

The creative process of designing those unique costumes requires the time commitment: ‘the least time it takes to create it is 2 weeks and most is about 4’.

This is because each costume is different – ‘I don’t keep noses or eyes on my shelf’s, I scoop every time, so it’s unique every time’.

The gallery of the Mascots she has created can be accessed here.

And it’s not only the time, which requires commitment. You also must have the patience! It’s similar as keeping loads of furry animals in your house – you end up being covered in the fur, so you must be patient about that.

Angela says: ‘as you can see, I am currently covered in little bits of hair’. Her scarcely perceptible smile instantly rises and she adds: ‘and I am usually covered in little bits of fur…’, she gives a laugh with a pleased big smile upon her face.

She also says this job requires the math skills: ‘I have got math’s A level, which artists don’t usually have’:

‘The first thing I do is I draw a figure and I always draw it to the scale and make sure that head goes 6 times than the body’, starts artist and designer, revealing the little secret of a ‘big soft-bodied toy’ creation, relying on math’s.

Audio of Angela explaining the full process of designing the Mascot costume is can be heard below.

While ending up the conversation, Angela also reveals that she has spent half of the first season being in the costume by herself, but she wouldn’t like to do it again:

‘I found out what fans can be like with mascot costumes. Worst was little guy… I can sympathize with them now, but I would not be able to wear it again’, ends Angela.

Copyright: Angela Hallam

However, most of those wearing the Mascot costumes say that they love their job and you have to be in the costume at least for once to understand it.

Daniel Roper, who is the mascot for Leyton orient FC for over eight years, says: ‘In the UK often the mascots are like me, just fans doing a voluntary job for the club they love. Its impossible to convey that to most people outside the club staff, who realize you are working for effectively nothing and as such it takes commitment etc.’

Those working as Mascots, explains what it is like to be in the costume and what it takes.

Next time you see Mascot jumping around, do not tease him – now you know that it is not something what they enjoy. They enjoy putting a smile on your face, but they don’t like being razzled! Let them do what they love and you can do what you love – keep watching the match and hope your idols will win.


Berta Balsyte

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