Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun, desperate gambling-addicted chauffeur and game player #456
Off the South Korean coast, Summer 2020
Series: Squid Game (Korean: 오징어 게임)
Air Date: September 17, 2021
Creator: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Production Designer: Chae Kyung-sun
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Pop culture moves at such a rapid pace these days, it’s surprising to even consider that a TV show released more than a month ago would still be topical in time for Halloween. Yet, Squid Game has already proved its relative staying power by launching past Bridgerton to become Netflix’s most-watched series worldwide after being released only a month. (And yes, I was one of those 111 million watchers, having binged all nine episodes in two days!)
Green tracksuits have been selling out across the Internet as Halloween revelers are choosing to dress as the desperate players recruited into the deadly games as well as the boiler-suited guards who oversee them… and gun them down.
For those unfamiliar with this South Korean series, Squid Game revolves around a group of 456 everyday people, with little in common aside from being desperately in debt, recruited to compete in a progression of childhood games with deadly stakes, all for the chance to win a life-changing fortune. Contestants include the gambling-addicted chauffeur Seong Gi-hun/#456 (Lee Jung-jae); his childhood friend, crooked securities investor Cho Sang-woo/#218 (Park Hae-soo); the terminally ill Oh Il-nam/#001 (O Yeong-su); the resourceful North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok/#067 (Jung Ho-yeon); the good-natured Pakistani immigrant Abdul Ali/#199 (Anupam Tripath); and the brutal gangster Jang Deok-su/#101 (Heo Sung-tae), who terrorizes the group.
What’d He Wear?
Matching athletic wear has existed in some degree for ages, though the tracksuit as we know it emerged with the development of Adidas’ warm-up suit in the 1960s. Decreasing formalities in dress and widespread popularity of athletic pursuits like jogging led to mainstream acceptance as tracksuits as non-athletic casual-wear, an association that reached its zenith as the clothing of choice for many of The Sopranos‘ heftier gangsters.
Squid Game returns the tracksuit to its athletic roots as the de facto uniform of the 456 players recruited for the 2020 competition. Given the nature of the players’ participation, the numbered tracksuits are essentially a sportier approach to prison uniforms. As Vanessa Friedman summarized for The New York Times, “it’s the normcore-ization of dystopia.”
The series has no credited costume designer and, according to articles like this, the costumes resulted from a collaboration between director Hwang Dong-hyuk and production designer Chae Kyung-sun. (And, according to the headlining photo on this Variety article, Hwang wore a track jacket matching those of his primary cast members while directing them.)
The 456 players are clad in matching teal-green tracksuits, constructed from a soft, unstructured cotton with a twill shell and terry inside. The suits have pale mint accents in the form of strips over the jacket’s shoulders and stripes down the side of each leg. Each player’s respective three-digit number is represented via patches over the left breast and the center top of the back.
The raglan-sleeved track jackets have a dark green plastic zipper fully extending from the plain waist hem up to the end of the standing collar. Mint-colored strips stretch over the shoulders down to a seam around the bicep on each raglan sleeve, with the ends of each sleeve finished with ribbed-knit cuffs. Though the players aren’t permitted to have any personal items, the jackets have vertical hand pockets.
The matching track pants presumably have an inside drawstring to tighten the elasticized waistbands. There are welted back pockets and gently slanted side pockets, which Kang Sae-byeok uses to store her smuggled knife. The sides are striped in wide bands of mint-green, echoing the shoulders of the jacket except that these extend from the waistband all the way to the bottoms, which are ribbed like jogging pants.
Each player is also issued a short-sleeved cotton T-shirt, styled like classic baseball tees with raglan sleeves matching the “ringer”-style crew-neck. The shirt bodies are an icy shade of white, printed on the front and back with each three-digit number. The short raglan sleeves and the neckband are all a forest green, just a shade darker and more viridescent than the tracksuits.
Rather than more athletic sneakers, each player is issued a pair of white slip-on shoes with plain cotton canvas two-piece uppers, elastic side gussets, padded collars, and rubber soles with diamond-textured tread around the front of each outsole. The similarity to shoes issued to actual prisoners reinforces that our gamers’ circumstances more align with inmates than Olympians… though pairing these all-white plimsolls with tracksuits also invites comparison to Tony Sirico’s eccentric Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos.
As the show continues its massive influence on Halloween costumes and casual-wear, Vans has seen a 7,800% sales spike in its plain white loafers, as reported by Variety. (For what it’s worth, Vans has proven worthy of keeping up with this exceptional demand for its classic white slip-ons, keeping a decent supply in every size available from the Vans website.) As seen in the seventh episode, “VIPS”, the players wear no socks with their shoes.
Aside from prescription eyeglasses, none of the players are permitted to keep their personal effects, which the Squid Game overseers store with the rest of their clothing, so we don’t see any sense of individualization aside from their respective numbers. This includes the players’ watches, which we got one last prominent look at while each player waited for their midnight van to pick them up on the night of June 23. To learn more about the watches of Squid Game, check out this well-researched rundown from Wrist Enthusiast.
The only time any participants are dressed in anything other than their tracksuits are when the final three are issued black tuxedoes with shawl-collar dinner jackets, white twill wing-collar shirts, black pre-tied bow ties, and black wingtip oxfords for their fancy dinner on the eve of the sixth and last game. Of course, even these dinner suits are marked with each finalist’s three-digit number on the left breast and back of their jacket and shirt.
How to Get the Look
With just about ten days until Halloween (and Gi-hun’s birthday, as we learn in the final episode), there’s still time to put together a topical—and, perhaps more importantly, comfortable!—costume based on one of the most currently popular shows… plus you’d then also have the tracksuit and white shoes ready for any Soprano-inspired costumes in the future!
- Teal-green cotton twill tracksuit:
- Zip-up track jacket with mint-striped raglan sleeves, ribbed-knit cuffs, and vertical hand pockets
- Elastic-waisted track pants with mint side stripes, slanted side pockets, welted back pockets, and ribbed bottoms
- Ice-white cotton baseball-style short-sleeved T-shirt with dark green raglan sleeves, neckband, and printed numbers
- White cotton canvas slip-on shoes with padded collars, elastic side gussets, and white rubber outsoles
The show’s popularity as well as its potentially profitable release only a month and a half before Halloween has seen an abundance of Squid Game-related costumes and clothing available:
- Squid Game tracksuit jacket set (Walmart, $14.99)
- Squid Game Official player’s costume (Squid Game Official, $59.99)
- Squid Game Planet costume set (Squid Game Planet, $24.95)
- UTPO polyester tracksuit pre-printed with numbers (Amazon, up to $30.99)
Zipping up the track jacket would render almost any T-shirt or similarly colored ringer tee to be serviceable, but costume devotees can find replicas available of the shirts available from Amazon, eBay, and Manyol.
There are also plentiful options for the all-white canvas slip-ons, which are often marketed as sneakers or plimsolls:
- Adidas Originals Court Rallye (ASOS, $38.50 & Adidas, $55)
- BP. Rolly (Nordstrom, $19.97)
- Goodfellow & Co. Phillip (Target, $19.99) — I purchased these slip-ons last spring, and I can personally testify that they are very comfortable! The navy stripe around the outsole differs from the Squid Game-worn shoes, though that part of the shoe can be easily whited out by the more obsessive Halloween celebrant.
- J. Crew Road Trip (J. Crew Factory, $39.50)
- Levi’s Lance (Macy’s, $40)
- Nike Court Legacy (Macy’s, $55)
- Solejoy Canvas Slip-Ons (YesStyle, $32.40)
- Sperry Striper II (Nordstrom, $60)
- TOMS Baja (TOMS, $49.95)
- Vans Classic Slip-Ons (Vans, ASOS, Amazon, Nordstrom, Zappos, $50)
All prices and availability up to date as of October 19, 2021.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out all nine episodes, streaming on Netflix. (My favorite episode was the heartbreaking sixth episode, “Gganbu”.)
You don’t trust people here because you can. You do it because you don’t have anybody else.