With Tom Hanks starring as Fred Rogers in the new biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and the critical acclaim of the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Mister Rogers hype is at an all-time high. We can all aspire to be like Mister Rogers — but in the meantime, maybe it’s enough to dress like him? While you can’t quite raid his closet, you can come pretty close to accurately recreating his outfits.
Tom Hanks isn’t the only one capable of making a realistic transformation into Mister Rogers. Whether it’s a Halloween costume, cosplay, or you just want to be more like the TV legend, here’s what you need to buy to dress exactly like Mister Rogers.
And, yes, we’re going to absolutely ignore that “sexy Mister Rogers” costume that ruined the soul of the internet a few weeks back.
Mister Rogers’ sweaters were the most iconic part of his wardrobe, so if you’re going for accuracy, it’s important to get this part of your get-up just right. Most of the sweaters he wore on the show were knit by his real-life mother, so you usually can’t track them down to a retailer, but you can get pretty close.
Rogers’ sweaters came in a variety of colors, but he’s most known for his bright red one. When Mister Rogers Neighborhood first went on air, he had button-up sweaters, but after finding it took too long to button live on camera, he switched to zippers. So where can you find this?
If you’ve tried looking, the first thing you probably googled was “Mister Rogers Halloween costume” — and you were likely met with an alleged costume that just felt off.
The “Be My Neighbor” costume kit from California Costumes is an unofficial, Mister Rogers-esque costume, complete with a red zip-up sweater, two “hand puppets,” and a vinyl wig. We’ll get to those accessories later, but the biggest problem here is that the sweater is just way off.
Rogers’ sweaters didn’t have a collar like the one in this costume. In fact, they were really cardigans, which this is just not. This one is also missing the intricate design running along each side of the zipper that was commonly seen on the sweaters Rogers wore on TV.
The good news is two official Mister Rogers sweaters do exist and are available for purchase. In conjunction with the release of the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood movie, Vineyard Vines’ new Mister Rogers collection offers an authentic lookalike of the famous red sweater. The bad news is it costs an absurd $198, and the other bad news is it’s already sold out.
But Mister Rogers Neighborhood had previously licensed a cheaper, still-authentic red sweater that’s still available, easy to find, and relatively cheaper at only $49.99 on Amazon, or $27.99 here. The only downside is that this one has a patch of the Mister Rogers Neighborhood logo embroidered on the right breast. But it’s still the most accurate sweater you’ll find, and if you’re doing this as a costume, the logo will help make sure people know who you are, so it’s not all bad.
Mister Rogers generally wore a solid white or blue button-down dress shirt beneath his sweater, which you can find anywhere. When we’re talking about the red sweater, the undershirt was usually white.
After entering his TV home, Mister Rogers would change from his dress shoes to a more casual pair of blue sneakers.
A few years ago, Reddit user u/Golden_Winged did an exhaustive investigation on just what brand of shoes Rogers wore, and wound up with this answer from The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, where a real, screen-used pair of Rogers blue shoes are on display:
“Fred Rogers wore both Sperry Topsiders, as well as Converse sneakers. And of course, they were always navy blue.”
From there, u/Golden_Winged was able to use photo comparisons to identify the specific style of Rogers’ Converse shoes as navy blue Skidgrips. Unfortunately, Converse doesn’t produce the Skidgrip model anymore. (They do offer similar styles of navy blue low-tops, but they all have the white rubber toe caps that the Skidgrips never had.)
But fear not! The Sperry shoes Mister Rogers wore are still available! According to Sperry, Rogers wore the brand both on the show and in real life, preferring their classic CVO sneaker in navy/ecru. In fact, Hanks wears these onscreen in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, too.
Another similar model you can find in stores today is Vans’ Authentic model, in navy blue. The seams are a little bit different, and they have a blue and white rubber trim that run along the sides of the white outsoles, which the Converse Skidgrips didn’t have. They’re a nice alternative, but nothing beats the real thing.
Like his dress shirt, Mister Rogers alternated between various colors & styles of dress pants, but is probably most known for khakis. That’s also how Hanks appears on the movie poster for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, so if this is a costume, you’ll probably be most recognizable with the look that’s fresh on everyone’s minds.
Mister Rogers ties varied, too. Any typical striped or small-patterned business tie will do just fine.
The most commonly seen photos of Rogers show him wearing a tie with an M-like print on it, and in the poster for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Hanks is seen wearing this same tie.
Unfortunately, it’s not available anywhere. Rogers’ widow, Joanne Rogers, generously lent Hanks some of Fred’s actual ties to wear in the movie.
However, if you want to make sure you’re recognized as Mister Rogers and are okay putting a sort of meta twist on things, good news: that Vineyard Vines dropped some Mister Rogers-themed ties, too. They released four neckties with small prints on them: King Friday XIII, Daniel Striped Tiger & X the Owl, the Neighborhood Trolley, and Rogers’ sweater & shoes. (The Sweater & Shoes tie is already sold out, but they do also sell it as a bowtie.)
Mister Rogers Neighborhood featured iconic hand puppet characters like Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, and X the Owl. No retail versions of these are currently being made, but if you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars on them, you can find some tattered vintage ones on eBay. More than likely, you won’t want to do this, so unfortunately you’ll have to compromise.
That unofficial Mister Rogers costume does feature two props that the listing boldly calls “puppets” — they’re more like oven mitts with vague depictions of Daniel Tiger and King Friday on them. If these are up to your standard, you can get them in the unofficial costume kit that includes the awful red sweater and gray vinyl hair — or, if you‘re going with one of the more realistic sweater options above, you can get grab that bundle without the sweater.
If you’re looking for a more official, higher-quality option or just want to stay loyal to the brand, the animated Mister Rogers spinoff, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, did make officially licensed plush hand puppets of its characters: Daniel Tiger (the son of Mister Rogers’ Daniel Striped Tiger) and O the Owl (X the Owl’s nephew). Daniel Striped Tiger and X the Owl were redesigned for the new show, so these next-generation kin of theirs aren’t quite in the style that you’d see in Rogers’ original neighborhood, but they’re recognizable enough. Currently, Daniel Tiger seems to be sold out everywhere, but O the Owl is available on Amazon from third-party sellers. (There’s also a puppet of Katerina Kittycat, the daughter of original Mister Rogers Neighborhood character Henrietta Pussycat.)