Rob Shostak has the best Toronto-themed Halloween costume every single year

A look back at one man's love for his city expressed via costuming


This past Halloween weekend, Rob Shostak went out as Honest Ed’s. Carefully balancing the store’s blinking garishness and hand-lettered quaintness, it was this year’s Toronto-themed costume to beat.

Shortly after tweeting this fact, however, I was reminded that every year, Shostak’s is the Toronto-themed costume to beat.

So I got in touch with the Quadrangle Architects artist and designer to ask about his past get-ups, why he chose them, how he made them, and what they say about his love for this city.

His remarks have been edited.

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Nariman Mousavi

Honest Ed’s (2016)

“Every once in a while, something pops into my head and then I put it down on the list of possible costumes. So Honest Ed’s had been on my list for a couple of years, but with this being its last year, I thought it would be a fitting kind of tribute to the 68 years that it’s been around.

“I spent, like, three weeks building this thing, putting solar-powered LEDs into it, and then putting the lettering on the pants.

“I don’t usually tell people what my costume is gonna be so it’s a surprise to absolutely everyone. But I told my friend Chris Rouleau, because he runs a group called Ligatures, and they are basically typophiles who do workshops and markets and that kind of stuff, so he helped me source the lettering that I would need to paint on my pants. He sent me a file that had outlines of all the letters.

“I designed it all on my computer. I make 3-D models usually, and then I laid out the pants in Illustrator. And then I just spent every night after work coming home and cutting and painting and gluing for hours on end.

“The lights flash. I went to In/Future, and I saw one of the artists had these LEDs, like fairy lights, that were in the trees. So I emailed them and asked where they got them from. They have several flashing sequences, and they’re solar powered, so I kind of charge them up during the day and then they’re ready to go for the night that I need them.”

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courtesy Rob Shostak

Trinity Bellwoods Park (2015)

“Trinity Bellwoods is where I live, basically. I spend most of my time in the summer there.

“Every even year, I do a large building for my costume, and then every other year I do something a little bit smaller. This was my smaller year.

“So I made a blazer that had grass on it, and then I put the gates at the bottom. And one shoulder had the SkyDome baseball diamond on it. Then I traced all the pathways. And on the back, I had empty, crushed beer cans that were left behind by partygoers.

“I tried to find a white squirrel, which is impossible to do, so I had to make one out of a dog bed that I bought at Dollarama. I found a pattern online, and then I just kind of sewed it up.

“I made a floral bowtie out of an old tie that I had, and I wore a gingham shirt because it’s kind of like a picnic thing.

“And then I had this little, to-scale Toronto Parks sign that I wore on my head. I printed it out, made little sticks, covered them in the right blue, and then just put them in a headband.”

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courtesy Rob Shostak

City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (2014)

“Halloween was a few days after the mayoral election, so I thought it was the right time to do City Hall.

“It’s made out of cardboard. I wore the Council Chambers as a hat, and on my shirt were the different pieces that make up Nathan Phillips Square.

“I printed off the pattern of the towers’ windows and walls. I don’t remember what scale it is, but it’s to a correct scale.

“And the most difficult thing was drinking, so I made hand holes in the window side, so I could pop open these advent-calendar-like doors so I could hold a beer. And then for one of them I made three different cut-outs: one of Doug Ford, one of Olivia Chow, and one of John Tory, so that on the day I’d wear it just after the election, I could put the correct mayor on the inside.”

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courtesy Rob Shostak

Bike Post and Ring (2013)

“I’m a cyclist. I love cycling. I’m an advocate for safe cycling. I have an artwork at the Gladstone now about cycling infrastructure in Toronto. And so I went as something I use basically every day, which is the bike post.

“I took a shirt and sewed it so it had the ring groove on it, and I wrote what’s written on the post (‘City of Toronto. Lock bicycle to post’). I wore all silver with a hat kind of like the one on the bike post.

“I made the bowtie for it as well. I like to make bowties for my costumes. Neckwear is very important.

“The post and ring is a very iconic Toronto design. And so it’s like, I appreciate the design that went into making such a simple thing that you just lock your bike to. So this was kind of my way of promoting that. That design ingenuity is a very Toronto thing.”

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courtesy Rob Shostak

OCAD (2012)

“OCAD has a very special place in my heart. Because when I was figuring out where to go to architecture school, I came to visit Toronto — and as a Montrealer, we’re born-and-bred Toronto haters. But I had such an amazing time with a friend of mine that I knew here.

“I walked around, and I saw Will Alsop’s Sharp Centre. And I just kind of fell in love with it at that moment. I realized that a city that can build a building like this, that can allow this building to happen, is not as terrible as I was told it is. It’s a city that I want to be a part of. Seeing that building was one of the reasons why I decided to go to school here and move here 11 years ago.

“I’ve always pictured it as this kind of alien that just walked into Toronto and just kind of planted itself there. So I kind of made that.

“It is an almost-to-scale model of it, but the pattern is basically 100 per cent. The windows are all cut-outs, which are exactly as the windows are. And the legs are exactly the same legs that they have on the building. And then I had to find a red tie to make the fire escape, so I made a red tie, and I sewed all those legs. And then I figured out how to wear it like a backpack and walk around.

“And then for the tenth anniversary of the building in 2014, some people at OCAD tracked me down because they wanted to put it up on display. And I got to meet Will, which was super amazing.

“He turned to me and was like, ‘Oh yeah, I love this costume. I have this photo of this costume.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m the guy in that costume.’ And he looked at me, he’s like, ‘No, you’re not.’ I’m like, ‘Yup. This is my work.’

“So it was really great to meet him because I like his work: it’s crazy, it’s bold, it’s colourful, and I love that.”

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courtesy Rob Shostak

TTC Subway Map (2007)

“When you see the map, it just looks like someone with their arms stretched out it has that kind of shape to it. So I got some party streamers, and I made a lot of little circles, and I printed out all the things that are on the map, like the compass rose and the different paragraphs of text that they have, and the ‘Ride the Rocket’ slogan.

“I didn’t want it to go high, so the Yonge-University line heads down my back instead of going vertical. Then when I put my arms out, you get the Bloor line. The easternmost stations were on an extra stick.”

Toronto Lamppost (2011)

“The posters that are stuck to it are very Toronto the one I remember was ‘Hot Male Model.’  And it had a working light as well.

“As for the button to cross the street, they have similar things everywhere, but those are the ones that we have here. So I made a model of that and put it in my belt, so that people could press my crotch to cross the street.”


“The reason why I do this is because I love this city. And how you show someone you love them is to make them gifts. Like, the first hashtag that I have in my tweet about this year’s costume is #TorontoIsMyBoyfriend. I write that a lot because I love this city. And I feel like we belong together in a way. And so this is kind of my way of showing my love for this town that is easy to shit on. So I like doing it for that. Just because I love it here.”

jonathang@nowtoronto.com | @goldsbie

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