Of all the classic costumes for Halloween or any other occasion, mad scientist costume ideas rank high. It's an easy costume to put together if you want to go simple, and anyone of any age can wear it and be instantly recognizable. The cackle, on the other hand, takes a bit of work to master.
The Classic Mad Scientist
The stereotype of the mad scientist is almost as old as science itself. Peopole who spend their lives investigating that which was hitherto, unknown and seemingly unknowable, must be a little unhinged. Of course, the ultimate mad scientist is Viktor von Frankenstein of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein and the 1931 film that immortalized him and his monster creation.
Less immediately popular but absolutely recognizable is Rotwang, the mad scientist of the 1927 film Metropolis. Obsessed with power and completely off the rails, his laboratory was the model for many film sets to follow and his appearance: the flyaway hair, wild eyes, black leather gloves and white lab coat have been copied again and again.
Standard Mad Scientist Costume Ideas
The basic look for the twisted genius is simple. A lab coat (usually white) wild hair, and gloves. But there are many variations on the theme. For example, the coat might be worn backwards, as a surgical gown, creating a slightly scarier look. This is enhanced with props such as protective eyewear and intimidating instruments of your choice. Black shiny boots finish off the look effectively.
As mad scientists evolved towards being figures of fun rather than fear, their look gradually took on more comic aspects. A lab coat worn over a garish tie became the standard theme, and many mad scientist costume ideas will include a red and white spotted bow tie or something equally absurd. Rather than goggles that give a Dr. Strangelove look, oversized black-rimmed glasses are worn. And instead of heavy black boots, the preferred footwear is red tennis shoes or high-tops with striped socks. This look was made popular by Christopher Lloyd in the Back to the Future movies and is still a draw today if you want a funny costume.
Scientists and Assistants
Many mad scientists have a lowly henchman of sorts to do some of the dirtier work. Mad scientist costume ideas work well for a couple, as someone can be some version of "Igor." Very distinctive in the satirical film Young Frankenstein, Igor is a hunchback who dresses all in black and wears a hood. He addresses his boss as "master."
If you are good at sewing and construction, you may want to try emulating the Muppet doctor and assistant: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker.
Modern Mad Scientists
While the mad scientist costume never goes out of fashion, the concept of the mad scientist is not as prevalent as it was after World War II and throughout the 1950s. That isn't to say that he doesn't show up. Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reinvented the mad scientist to unique effect as an online musical, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The doctor wants to be evil, but is mostly funny. As played by Neil Patrick Harris, he wears a lab coat that buttons at the shoulder, huge black goggles that mostly sit on his forehead, and elbow-length black welding gloves. Dr. Horrible makes for a good group mad scientist outfit idea, as you can also include the girl of his dreams, Penny, and his nemesis, Captain Hammer. For help putting together a costume, you can go to the official fan site Doctor Horrible, and see all that fans have already done to re-create the look and help others do the same.
The Importance of Props
While it's not absolutely necessary, props do add to the fun of a mad scientist costume. Look for plastic beakers and Petri dishes and the like. If you know someone who works with props professionally, they might be able to create a bubbling device for you - that will place you high in the costume contest for sure!