Slipknot are synonymous with masks in the same way Eddie Van Halen is synonymous with guitars. A fundamental part of their identity since the band's formation in 1995, the masks have served to entice and terrify in equal measure, creating a distinct aesthetic that helped them stand out in the nu metal age and endure long after that genre took a dirt nap.
Naturally, it was Slipknot mastermind Clown who first came up with the concept, shortly before the band's first ever gig on Halloween 1995. “We were all going around the room asking, ‘What are you going to wear?’” remembered Clown. “I pulled up the clown mask I had and said, ‘I’m wearing this’.”
It did not go down well with his bandmates, however.
“A few of them were like, ‘No fucking way. You can’t be the only guy wearing some stupid mask’,” he recalled. “So I said, ‘I really don’t care what you think, this is who I am and this is what I’m going to do.’ So here we are all these years later…”
Though the faces may have changed over the years (both in terms of personnel and design), the masks have become a key part of the Slipknot mythos, each album cycle heralding a complete makeover. Below you'll find a rundown of every mask design from every Slipknot era to date...
Where it all began, so far as the public at large were concerned at least. Decked out in boiler suits and masks, Slipknot arrived looking like a concept board for a Halloween remake, perfectly complementing the ferocious sound of their self-titled debut.
Appearances at that year's Ozzfest cemented them as a force to be reckoned with, the image of nine psychos flailing around the stage burned into the hearts and minds of a generation of metal fans.
Featuring dreadlocks poking out of the top and an expressionless, ghostly face, singer Corey Taylor felt his first mask allowed the band’s music to be purer. “Music then was basically a template for a bunch of hot guys to sell a bunch of shit that didn’t mean anything. We put a mask on and we’re not about our fucking faces. It’s always gonna be music first.”
Guitarist Mick Thomson’s first mask was a store-bought hockey mask, which he later changed into a black leather gimp mask. “Roadrunner didn’t like the masks,” said Clown later. “They also didn’t want nine guys in the band but I can’t tell you how many millions of dollars that label has made from us. I take pride in knowing that they were wrong and I was right.”
Guitarist Jim Root inherited his first mask from his predecessor in the band, Josh Brainard. A black bondage mask, he found it too uncomfortable to play in so adopted a jester’s mask as he thought it reflected his personality better.
The band’s most enigmatic member initially simply wore a pair of knickers over his head, before he got an old crash helmet, hammered long nails through it, and added a flashlight to the top.
DJ Sid Wilson’s mask was ever-changing, frequently altering drastically from album to album. His first was a simple gas mask, a basic but futuristic look.
Shawn Crahan’s iconic clown mask was the one that started the whole idea. “I was in the mall with a girlfriend and walked into a Halloween store. There was a clown mask there and when I put it on, I became another thing. It was $49 and I had $50 in my pocket. I was supposed to be buying my girlfriend lunch and she got all pissed off because I spent all my money on this mask. Well… she’s gone but I still have him downstairs.”
Essentially a gimp mask, with a mouth that could be zipped up and a long, phallic, Pinocchio nose that percussionist Chris Fehn would ‘masturbate’ frequently while onstage. “It reflects my comic personality,” he said. “Plus I chose it for the bondage factor.”
Bassist and songwriter Paul Gray would initially simply wrap tape around his head, before deciding on a Halloween pig mask for the band’s debut – the band had told him it reflected his self-indulgent nature. He was criticised by rival band Mushroomhead, who claimed he had stolen the idea from them.
One night, when he was a kid, Joey Jordison’s mother came home from a Halloween party wearing an utterly blank, and thus eerily terrifying, Japanese Kabuki mask. Its emotionless stare stuck with him and he adopted it for Slipknot