Weeks before Halloween, Hannah Montoya was busy crafting her first ever couples costume, collecting a blonde wig, friendship bracelets, and an NFL jersey emblazoned with the name and number of Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce. Inspired by the apparently blooming romance between Super Bowl champ Kelce and superstar Taylor Swift, Montoya’s all-time favorite singer, the 22-year-old content creator from North Carolina decided it was the right time to debut a costume with her partner.
“They’re the perfect couple to idolize from both a girlfriend and boyfriend standpoint,” she tells TIME. “My boyfriend’s super into football and I’m super into Taylor Swift, so this was just the perfect combination for us.”
Only one other high-profile pair is rivaling Taylor and Travis in costumes this spooky season: Barbie and Ken. Versions of each famous duo are expected to be seen all over the place this Halloween. According to insights from Semrush, ever since Swift and Kelce were rumored to be dating in July 2023, searches for “Taylor Swift Halloween Costume” grew by 1021.2% and searches for “Travis Kelce costume” grew by 9,400%. And per Google’s “Frightgeist” analysis of annual searches for Halloween costumes, Barbie was the overall top search for costumes nationally, while Barbie and Ken dominated searches for couples. Mattel tells TIME that Barbie is the number one costume searched for at Goodwill. On TikTok, searches for “Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift Halloween costume” have garnered nearly 427 million views, while “Barbie and Ken Halloween costume ideas” has racked up over 241 million views, with hundreds of videos of users showing off their costumes or making tutorials on how to recreate the looks.
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Unsurprisingly so: Barbie was a box office hit with a ubiquitous marketing campaign and countless merchandise collaborations, and Swift’s Eras tour broke attendance and tickets sales records, while her high-profile romance with Kelce has only increased her momentum, most recently resulting in Saturday Night Live cameos for the couple. But their popularity also points to a cultural fascination with the “all-American” couple, a concept whose most dominant interpretation is a specific reading of convention—that is, white, straight, and monogamous.
“Barbie and Taylor Swift are emblematic symbols of a specific kind of American femininity,” says sexologist and dating coach Myisha Battle. “Both [couples] are hyper representations of masculinity and femininity.”
This surge in interest in dressing as both couples marks a fascinating response to shifting views on marriage and relationships, she says. A September 2023 Pew Research survey found that 71% of Americans think that a job or career they enjoy is important to have a fulfilling life, compared to the 23% who believe that a marriage will lead to a fulfilling life. The face of marriage is also changing; Pew reports that since the 1970s, the number of Americans in an interracial or interethnic marriage has risen from 4% to 16% and that since same-sex marriages have become legal nationally in 2015, the number of same sex marriages had increased by over 60%.
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“People might feel comforted by hearkening back to a time where whiteness and heteronormativity were the accepted standard,” says Battle. “What better way to to get to that end goal of an all-American nuclear family than to be a heterosexual couple? For people who are cisgender or heterosexual, this is a way to sort of reclaim that identity in a really public way. That’s scary and spooky—it’s appropriate for Halloween.”
There’s also the element of projected nostalgia, adds Darnell-Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian and an assistant curator of fashion at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
“There’s a fantasy about that, which is why it’s not surprising people would emulate it with a costume,” he says. “My question is intention—someone like Taylor represents a reinforcement of a world that they may have once been attached to, a world that wasn’t as politically correct or that was as diverse.”
For Jerome McLeod, a 31-year-old manager in New York, dressing up as Ken this Halloween is less of an embrace of what the doll has long represented and more of a subversion of it. McLeod, who’s planning on donning a blonde wig with an “I am Kenough” tie-dye sweatshirt for his look, decided to dress up as Ken after seeing the Barbie movie this summer, where he says he was inspired by its “irony of embracing convention, while critiquing systems.” That—and he was eager to have a costume that would be easily identified.
“Instant recognition—that’s all I really want,” he says.