Can a meme last for over a decade? In the case of the Horse Head Mask, the answer is yes. The Horse Head Mask is a soft vinyl and latex mask that is worn by people all over the world for humorous effect.
You may be familiar with the Horse Head Mask as a meme—I’ve seen it in videos, on Instagram, Facebook, and it’s ubiquitous as a humorous, anonymous avatar. But do you know the root and meaning of the mask?
The original horse head mask was manufactured by the Seattle-based novelty dealer Archie McPhee & Co. and made available for sale through websites as early as February 1st, 2002. Amazon.com currently features the mask for under $15, making it quite an affordable meme.
Canadian talk show host Tom Green may claim be blamed as the ignition source for the Horse Head Mask meme. He once ran an episode where he wore the mask and started screaming while shaking his head around. Over the years the meme has spread (as memes do) to become a symbol of “Anonymous:” on the Japanese web, similar to the use Guy Fawkes Masks.
Wearing the Horse Head Mask is even encouraged in The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel published in 2005. The book suggests a “Horse Head Adventure” where all travelers in a group wear a horse mask while at tourist stops on vacation. There are also stories of teams of horse head mask-wearing revelers at Burning Man each year.
So if you own a Horse Head Mask, you might not be the first to purchase one, but you should be comforted that you are not alone in your humor.