You’ve seen them at sports games, and in goofy YouTube videos. Maybe you know someone who wears one — and probably at every chance he or she gets. You may have chuckled at them, or shook your head in bewilderment.
I don’t know why exactly, but Morphsuits fascinate me. Maybe it’s morbid curiosity about what kind of person would wear such an outlandish thing in public. Maybe I secretly wish I was brave enough to be that silly in front of other people. More than anything, it’s probably because they look like superhero costumes — and anyone that knows anything about me knows how much I love superheroes.
Journalism is a highly competitive business, far more than it’s ever been before. News happens constantly, and you have to turn stories around insanely fast to keep up. At the same time, finding ways to stand apart from the crowd gets harder everyday, so we’re always encouraged to come up with new ideas or angles, think outside the box, and plan far ahead for content that’s timely.
With Halloween approaching, I thought it’d be the perfect time to finally get to the bottom of this zany spandex craze. I’d satisfy my own curiosity, and create a guilty pleasure piece that people couldn’t not read.
After receiving some press releases and other offers from Morphsuits, I reached out to them with a proposal of my own: a nothing-is-off-the-table interview that would ask the questions people wonder about, but no one ever asks.
I just couldn’t help wondering. And be honest. Some part of you, deep down inside, is wondering too.
WHAT IS IT LIKE?
What’s it like to wear a Morphsuit? What’s the appeal? What if you don’t have a body-by-God? And why do people who wear them love them so much?
I sat down for an “anything goes” interview with MorphCostumes’ founder and marketing director Gregor Lawson, and discovered a man with a great sense of humor and a deep passion for what he does. He’s the company’s de facto spokesperson; if Morphsuits show up anywhere in the media, chances are Gregor Lawson is a key component of that coverage.
He also regularly gives talks about the importance of doing something with your life that you truly love, like this one he did for TED.
Doing what you’re passionate about is an idea that’s extremely important to me as well. We come from completely different worlds, yet there was this powerful common ground between us.
While MorphCostumes, the company that invented Morphsuits, does at least half of its annual business in the lead-up to October 31st, the suits are hardly “just for Halloween.” Far from it. Need proof?
A recent Telegraph article claims that 2.5 million Morphsuits have been sold by the company since it launched in 2009. It has more than 1.3 million fans on Facebook. MorphCostumes sales climbed by 73% in September and October of 2015, reaching a new high for the company. At the time of this writing, MorphCostumes exports to 29 nations worldwide. Just look up #morphsuits on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
Business is booming.
In the U.K., the suits fall under a category called “fancy dress.” In the U.S., they’re costumes. MorphCostumes prefers to think of them as a way of life. There’s even a term for enthusiasts: members of this unique subculture are called “Morphs.”
I HAD PERMISSION TO ASK ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING.
The story of the Morphsuit and the company that invented it is very well documented. And if there’s one thing I hate writing as a journalist, it’s a rehash. It’s always better to add something new to the conversation, so since I had permission to ask absolutely anything… I went for it.
Mr. Lawson and his people at MorphCostumes turned out to be some of the nicest, most gracious people I’ve ever worked with. Fun, funny, quick to respond, and willing to accommodate any request I made, I warmed to them quickly and decided I had to produce a feature article that does justice to their business and staff. And not just them, but the enormous community of Morphs all over the world. It was going to be huge, one of the most-read things I’d ever done.
And then… a thing happened.
The company I worked for, after giving a very tentative go-ahead, no longer wanted the article — even though it had never been read. It was not open to discussion. I still don’t know why it was dismissed sight unseen; the article may be a bit unusual, but it’s amusing and at least a little educational.
I’d put so much work into it, and my
tingling Spidey-sense journalistic instincts told me it had potential.
I was stunned. But they had the right to do what they want, and life goes on.
THE DOOR WAS SHUT, AND THAT WAS THAT.
In the week prior to Halloween, features on Morphsuits were published by two major news outlets: CNN and BBC. I don’t point that out in a vindictive “told you so!” way (though being right doesn’t suck), but to show that I’m not the only reporter that saw it as a valid, timely idea.
Despite repeated efforts to convey that, the door was shut, and that was that.
Left with this wild article and a commitment to the folks at MorphCostumes, I decided there was no way this thing was not going to get published. I shopped it around to a few other outlets, but time was running out to get it published before Halloween, and I had a promise to keep.
So I created a website to publish one article.
Know this: I’m not being paid by MorphCostumes or anyone else to publish this. There are ads on my website yes — a guy’s gotta earn a living — but I really get nothing out of this but the satisfaction of doing right by some good people.
So I present to you the uproar-causing, no-brainer of a feature that was a joy to write but couldn’t find a home.
This is everything you always wanted to know about Morphsuits but were afraid to ask.
I decided to break the ice by getting the most uncomfortable questions out of the way first. After all, the first question that entered my mind when thinking about Morphsuits was a practical one.
Since these things cling to your body like a second skin, what’s the best underwear to wear under a Morphsuit? I mean, boxers can’t be a good idea, right?
“A tight pair of boxer briefs are my recommendation,” said Lawson. “Some of our younger fans ‘double bag’ because they don’t want their junk showing, but I think that just results in more washing!” he laughed.
That might have been a bit too much information, but he brought up a more important issue to address. I had only been thinking about the visibility of underwear lines. There are more male Morphs than female, and generally speaking, it’s not polite to show off your privates. (And if it’s not that important to the wearer, it’s certainly important to everyone he encounters!)
How do you keep from showing off, you know…?
“If you’re really conscious of the ‘twig and berries’,” Lawson answered, “you can wear a dance belt or a jockstrap.” You can also wear other clothes over a Morphsuit.
Taking this line of questioning a step further, there was one thing I just had to know: Do Morphs ever go commando underneath?
“I’ve never heard of that but I’m sure it’s happened,” he replied. It turns out that aside from the obvious visible implications, there are more practical concerns as well. “Guys often keep their cash and credit cards in their boxers. We know one guy who keeps his card at the top ‘cleft’ of his cheeks.”
That particular method is not recommended. But you have to appreciate the gentleman’s creative thinking. Morphsuits don’t have pockets, after all.
“We encouraged him to wash his card thoroughly before buying anything,” Lawson added.
As someone that struggles with “sweat issues,” I couldn’t help wondering if wearing one makes you hot. Or as I put it to Lawson, “Do you ever get awkward-sweat-stains kind of hot wearing them?”
He laughed. “Hot is fine — it’s more the cold you have to be wary of. Morphsuits are surprisingly breathable. The same tiny holes that you see and breathe out of? They let air in to keep you cool. So heat isn’t a massive issue. I’ve done several events in them, from Tough Mudders to marathons.
“If it’s a boiling hot day you’ll sweat like you would if you were wearing a t-shirt. If it’s really hot, you may have to zip down to the waist.”
So, yes. If you’re prone to sweating and it’s hot out, you’re going to sweat while wearing a Morphsuit. And what was that about the cold?
“I’ve been skiing in a Morphsuit. And even with some thermals underneath, it was… a bit chilly!” he joked. With a twinkle in his eye, he added, “What I wore underneath wasn’t a concern on that particular occasion.”
NOT YOUR TYPICAL OFFICE
Considering how much fun Lawson has at what he does got me thinking about another line of questioning I’d wondered about beforehand.
“What’s it like to work at MorphCostumes?” I asked. I was pondering how that sense of fun built in to Morphsuits affected his Scotland-based office.
“We definitely have more fun than most offices,” Lawson revealed, “but people are often surprised by how professional we are. We’re the first to admit our products are about fun, but we’re very serious about doing a good job of everything from product quality to customer service.”
That shows in consumers’ brand loyalty to MorphCostumes, which is remarkably high. People don’t just like Morphsuits, they love them.
“Our job as a company is to help make the good times in people’s lives into completely sensational times,” he explained. “We can only do that if the product is priced right, arrives on time, and lasts.”
This reminded me of something I’d learned before the interview. Looking online for stories of torn or worn out suits, I was amazed to find none. I asked Lawson how long a typical Morphsuit can be expected to last.
“Costume quality has a bad rep for good reason,” he answered, thoughtful. “Over the years, we’ve heard horror stories of items missing from their package, or the costume falling to bits before the customer gets to their party. We wanted to change that, so from the very beginning we put a lot of effort into making a great quality product. It has to fit right, look right, and be used again, even though it costs more to make that way.”
Without naming names, Lawson was referencing competitors who have picked up on the Morphsuits craze and now make spandex body suits of their own. But no one else has lived up to MorphCostumes’ standards of quality. Buyer beware: that lower-priced knockoff you found at Walmart or wherever is going to rip easily and fit poorly.
“We’ve seen that people tend to buy Morphsuits for a specific event,” he went on, “like say a Halloween party or a charity run. And they have a huge amount of fun in it and then continue to wear it for lots of other occasions. Like literally for grocery shopping or a visit to granny’s house! Needless to say, it’s really important that the suit lasts.”
Fair enough, I thought. But I wanted to circle back to my original question about Morphsuits HQ. Lawson had emphasized the professionalism of the company’s offices. But come on. This is Morphsuits. What about the fun?
“We do have so many samples in the office that someone is always wearing a costume, usually under the banner of ‘product testing’,” he confessed. “We also try and go out once a month for an activity and a drink. And obviously, our Halloween party is completely sensational!”
I’m willing to believe that. The imagination boggles at what a costume company would do for its annual Halloween party. Oneupmanship must reach stratospheric levels as the years go by.
But as much use as Morphsuits must see at Halloween, what else can they be used for? I asked Lawson about what kinds of outside-the-box uses people have found for Morphsuits.
“Where to begin?!” he said, energized by this question. (He later supplied photos to go with his stories.) “We’re always amazed at what people do in our suits. Here are few of my favorites. There was a pair that flew a Microlite plane while both wearing Morphsuits. I can tell this story because they survived!” he laughed.
A graduation ceremony was another of his favorites. “It makes us really proud that people would wear a Morphsuit at one of the key moments of their lives, whether it’s for a joke or to annoy their parents!
“We once ran a competition to test drive our latest and greatest Morphsuit design. The winner said he’d meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time in the suit if he won. He did, we sent a video crew along, and they got footage of one of the most awkward images the world has ever seen.”
And here it is.
GOING FOR IT
Before we wrapped up, I had to address the 10-ton elephant in the room.
A Morphsuit is a skin-tight outfit. Some people are brave enough to wear them in public, others have no wish to be playful, while still others might secretly dream of being outrageous but can’t bring themselves to do it. This silly spandex costume speaks to issues of body image and self-confidence that we all can relate to.
So are Morphsuits intended only for the physically fit? I knew Lawson would say no to that, but it couldn’t be an easy position to defend. Morphsuits aren’t exactly forgiving. Is it even possible to get someone who isn’t brave enough to cut loose and go for it?
I asked him.
“Over the past six years, we’ve had Morphs in every shape, size, age, sex, and ethnicity. The one thing that links them together is confidence in themselves and a desire to have fun.”
Fun is one thing. But confidence? How do you find that inner fearlessness if you don’t have it?
“A Morphsuit turns its wearer into a superhero celebrity,” he replied. “Who wouldn’t want to be that?! Superheroes wear spandex and in a Morphsuit, you have x-ray vision — you can see out but no one can see in. The anonymity it gives you taps into a more fun, outgoing version of yourself, which turns you into a performer. You get attention like a celebrity when you’re wearing this crazy outfit. Try it and you’ll soon be doing cartwheels down the street!”
He’s not wrong. I’ve had the chance to wear a Morphsuit myself, and it’s nothing like I expected. It really does make you feel different. Even emboldened, in a way, but it’s not easy to describe. You’re far from naked, but you’re also not wearing “clothes.” You’re in a brand new category.
I doubt I’ll be doing cartwheels outdoors anytime soon, but regardless of where you are, something about being completely covered this way is like a license to be someone else. You don’t even think about it; you just leave your identity at the door and become a new person.
It turns out, taking the occasional break from yourself can do wonders for your confidence. Who knew?
All photos courtesy of Gregor Lawson, except where noted. Used by permission.