Clowns--Cute Or Creepy?

Clowns have been around for a long time

clown with balloons

Clowns have been around for a long time. I remember seeing my first clown when I was a little girl. In my mind's eye, I can still see his white face, his red nose, his colorful hair and costume. He was a friendly clown, passing out balloons to all the boys and girls.

The clown that I remember was what's known as a "whiteface clown", a classic circus clown. Even though the clown was a friendly one, there was still just a touch of creepiness about him. It's weird looking at somebody with his face all painted up like that, and the heavy makeup only exaggerated his features and expressions. 

I find clowns fascinating, but not everybody does. Some people fear them enough for it to be a phobia, which is known as "coulrophobia", or fear of clowns.

Let's look at a few of the different kinds of clowns.

Photo courtesy of Keith Moseley on Flickr

The Auguste clown

auguste clown

The Auguste clown is the "doofus" of clowns. This clown doesn't act highly intelligent. His moves are zany and appear foolish.

Auguste makeup:  Makeup for the Auguste clown usually starts with a flesh-tone base, not white, and is used to exaggerate the natural features of the clown. Clowns don't use makeup to hide their features, but rather to make them easier to see, especially from a distance.

Auguste costume:  Exaggeration is the key element in an Auguste clown's costume. He might wear a tiny hat with a huge, baggy coat, for instance. The Auguste clown must make sure that his costume shows a lot of contrast in its elements so that the audience will be able to tell what type of clown he is before he speaks.

Famous Auguste clowns:  Cooky, Coco, Albert Fratellini, and Lou Jacobs

Photo courtesy of pareeerica on flickr

What an Auguste clown might wear

This is the type of zany costume an Auguste clown might wear. It's a silly looking, baggy suit, made to get laughs, and you'd be able to tell right away that this would be one of the more "foolish" of the clowns, just by the way he's dressed.

This clown costume includes a jumpsuit that has large white polka dots on a bright red background, and a white ruffle around the neck. Colorful hat is included.

The floppy shoes, gloves, horn, and multi-colored wig would need to be purchased separately.

Rubie's Costume Haunted House Collection Dotted Clown Costume, Red, One Size
Rubie's Costume $14.89

For this to be more of an authentic Auguste clown look, the makeup base would need to be flesh-tone, instead of white.

The whiteface clown

The whiteface clown is the clown most of us think of when we think of a circus clown. The whiteface clown can take on any funny personality when he performs. The whiteface clown is usually the leader of a group of clowns, and often directs the actions of other clowns. The whiteface clown is the oldest type of clown.

Whiteface clown makeup:  There are two types of whiteface clown, the classic and the comedy (or grotesque). On both types, the makeup base is white. The classic clown, which is the type most of us know from the circus, uses makeup to exaggerate his eyes and mouth, while the comedy clown exaggerates his makeup even more, to accent his zany character. Bozo the Clown is an example of a comedy clown.

Whiteface clown costume: It used to be that the whiteface clown would wear a one-piece clown outfit, but that's no longer true. These days, most any kind of clown costume goes, as long as it fits with the character being portrayed.

Photo courtesy of Mark Crossfield on Flickr

What a whiteface clown might wear

It used to be that the whiteface clown would wear a one-piece outfit, but that isn't the case these days. Nowadays he might wear a colorful outfit like this one, along with a silly hat and other props.

He'll play up his features with a white makeup base, just like it's shown here.

Men's Clown On The Town Costume, Blue/Red, One Size
Forum Novelties $31.99

This costume includes the shirt/vest combo, the pants, and the hat. Floppy shoes, colorful wig, and other accessories need to be purchased separately.

The Pierrot Clown

Forgive by Florence Hardy 

 Image available at

The Pierrot is usually a naive, melancholy, romantic. He is an acrobatic type, and communicates through mime. His costume tends to be an oversized shirt without the usual decorations you picture when you think of a clown. Instead of big floppy shoes, the Pierrot wears ballet slippers. Instead of a zany hat, he wears a plain black skullcap.

In the old days, the Pierrot would use flour or powder to whiten his face. Today he uses white makeup. The Pierrot style is different from most of the other clowns. He doesn't wear a fake nose or colorful wig. Often there's a teardrop painted under his eye. 

The Tramp Or Hobo Clown

In this category of clowns, there are two types--the tramp, who is always sad and downtrodden, having a rotten lot in life--and the hobo, who is happy and cheerful even though life has handed him a few hard blows too.

Here's a picture of Red Skelton in character as Freddie the Freeloader, one of his popular acts. Notice how his clothes are worn and patched, he has some beard growth on his neck and jaw, and he wears some white makeup around his mouth and near his eyes. Freddie the Freeloader is a hobo. Even though he might be down on his luck, he makes the best of it.

The Red Skelton Show

Sad Clown Archival Photo Poster

Above is a photo of Emmett Kelly in costume as his character Weary Willie, the sad tramp clown. You can see he's had a hard time in life, and things aren't getting better. His look is similar to the hobo, but his nose might have a bit more pink or red color on it, and the "soot" effect of his beard area is darker. 

Tramps and hobos are sometimes called "The American Clown" because the style was thought to have evolved around the time of the Great Depression, when men rode the rails looking for work, or just as a way of dropping out of society to fulfill their wanderlust.

Both of these images are available at

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Do you like clowns, or do they scare you?

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