So the horse head meme may have just jumped the shark (so many animals…). Tuesday night, a man in Denver, Colorado, shook hands with U.S. President Barack Obama while sheathed in equine-shaped rubber, therefore throwing the phenomena squarely into the middle of the mainstream.
The saga of the horse head meme is a strange one. According to David Wahl of Seattle-based novelty dealer Archie McPhee & Co., they helped the trend flourish. Originally, he told MTV News, the mask was an off-the-shelf factory item created some time in the early ’90s.
“It sat there and didn’t sell, and then we kind of discovered it and we thought that it would connect with our special brand of weirdo that likes our stuff,” Wahl said, adding that Archie McPhee started importing the mask in the early ’00s.
Obama reacts as he is greeted by a man wearing a horse-head as he walked the streets of downtown Denver. pic.twitter.com/QNqnXKzwzm
— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) July 9, 2014
“We marketed it as not a Halloween mask but a dash of surrealness in your day,” he said. “That’s when it kind of exploded.”
By “exploded” he means that it became an Internet craze — especially on sites like reddit. Some of the mask’s weirder appearances — like in the videos of a Japanese performance artist known Wotaken, according to Know Your Meme — may be a bit too obscure for the average Internet lurker. However, you’ve probably heard of Dobbin Horsome of Aberdeen, Scotland, who appeared in the mask on Google Maps. You might also have seen Jimmy Kruyne of Washington, DC, jogging by in the horsey head during a newscast about Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Tom Green also once donned the mask.
The unknown man in Denver is just the latest to embrace the trend — and although there are a lot of knockoffs of the mask, Wahl says that it looks as though the one that met the Pres. came from his warehouse. The mask on Google Maps and the one worn by Kruyne definitely did, he said.
“My first thought was: How did the Secret Service let that happen?” Wahl said of the most recent horse head happening. “We were super excited. It just shows popular it’s become. What was this surreal thing that people were using to show that they were strange is now something you can actually take a picture of with the President.”
So does that mean the horse head trend is Oversville, USA, Population Probably You? (It certainly has become a popular item — Wahl said the company sold the most ever units of the mask in 2013, but declined to share specific numbers.)
Luckily, a new trend is waiting in the wings to take its place — literally.
“The one that’s actually been taking off is our pigeon mask,” Wahl said, pointing out that 5 Seconds Of Summer’s Calum recently donned one from Wahl’s company on stage.
Meet the new boss, kids.