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Types of Clowns




  • The WHITE FACE Clown is the typical circus clown. There are two quite different types of WHITE FACE Clowns; the Pierrot or European White Face and the Grotesque White Face.

  • The PIERROT White Face Clown is the most artistic of all the clowns and is usually the clown in charge. His make-up is all white, with regular features (eyebrows, nose, and mouth) painted on in black and red. All exposed skin including his neck and ears, must be white. His head is covered by a white skull cap with no hair, and a cone shaped hat. His costume is well fitted, full gathered, ruffled type suit with a ruff at the neck. It should be white, with colored trim. It may be quite elaborate and very elegant. Shoes may be large or small, but should be simple.

  • The GROTESQUE White Face Clown is a bit less artistic and a little more like the Auguste in spirit, but still a WHITE FACE CLOWN. All exposed skin, including neck and ears, must be white. His features may be black or other colors, as may other facial decorations. His nose may be too large or too small, his rear may be exaggerated and/or his stomach may protrude. His costume may be well fitted or it may be too small. It may be elegant with metallic, glittering fabric or it may be comical with bright colors. He may wear a white skull cap or a wig, including a full AFRO. The color should be bright; it may be red, blue, green, yellow, rainbow, or just about any color he chooses except black or dull brown. His shoes should be outlandish but the colors should complement his costume.


  • The AUGUSTE Clown is the character clown; he is the prankster, the rabble-rouser. He is the most slapstick of all the clowns; his actions are wilder; broader than the other types. The AUGUSTE Clown gets away with more and bigger pranks. When appearing with a White Face, he is the brunt of the joke; but with the Tramp he becomes the instigator in control of the situation. His is the most comic face. His make-up is a flesh color (pink or reddish or tan) instead of white. His features (usually red or black) are exaggerated in size. The mouth is usually thickly outlined with white, which is often also used around the eyes. Outlining is very important. Gradual shading of colors is often used. He will usually have a ball nose, but there are many exceptions.

  • He almost always wears a wig - usually red, yellow, or orange. The wig may be full or one with a bald center (colored the same as his 'flesh') with a fringe around the sides and back. The hair may be straight or curly. The full AFRO is usually not appropriate. His hat is usually too small - just sits on top of the wig or bald spot. However, normal sized bowlers or caps are sometimes used. Its material may be the same as the coat or pants, or it may be entirely different. The color should complement some part of the costume.

  • The original AUGUSTE (German meaning "foolish") Clown wore a costume in which he could play jokes on other clowns that often backfired on him and/or do 'prat falls' and other tumbling exercises when he is the butt of the joke. This costume consisted of baggy pants, a knit-neck type shirt or one with a very large or very small collar (sometimes he wore a bib or shirt front that curled up), and large, loud colored shoes. He seldom wore a coat, but when he did, it was always way too big or too small. His costume was a tailor's nightmare. The typical fabric was a large plaid; the brighter or more gaudy the better. Each piece (pants, shirt, coat if worn, tie, or hat) had a different design, i.e. horizontal stripes, vertical or diagonal stripes, polka dots, plaid(s), etc. The color(s) of each piece were bright and would clash with as many of the other pieces as possible. Each part of the costume was a misfit; it was either too large or too small. In recent years (especially in competition) the AUGUSTE's costume has moved closer to that of the grotesque white face clown. Although the various items of his costume may still not always fit his costume now often fits correctly. More often than not his costume is now coordinated, and may be very elaborate, using glitter type fabrics. All in all, he looks more like a 'Show Piece' than a 'foolish' clown.


  • The TRAMP/HOBO character is the only true North American clown. This character grew out of the tramps/hobos who rode the freight trains across the country looking for work. Although the TRAMP and HOBO clown is considered a single category, each is unique. The main differences between these subcategories lies in the areas of attitudes and costumes.

  • The TRAMP believes the world owes him a living; that his condition is caused by others. He wants (and expects) everybody to feel sorry for him. He does everything in his power to avoid work. This shaggy vagabond is the individual for whom nothing ever goes right. His face and neck are colored to make them appear dirty and unshaven. Red is added to the beard line to make the face appear sunburned, and the mouth and eyes are white where the tramp has wiped away the dirt with his hands. The eyebrows should be small and worried looking. He may have a drop of glycerine or similar material to make a tear running down the side of his face. His expression is usually SAD and/or SOULFUL. Many times tramps use their own hair which has been ratted up to look shaggy. If a wig is used, it should be one of the darker, duller shades. The TRAMP is ragged but clean. His costume is usually a two or three piece suit which is extremely worn and ragged. The rips and tears may be left open, patched (with ragged patches- not neat iron ons), or pinned together with large safety-pins. The color is usually black or other dark color, but may be brown, grey, or tan. The vest, if one is worn, may be a dark mismatch. The shirt can consist of a worn and full of holes red 'long handles' or a worn out regular or work shirt. The color of the shirt should be something other than white. The necktie should NOT be flashy. It should be a regular tie that is worn out. A clothespin, a mousetrap, or other article might be used as a tie clasp. A rope might be used for a belt or suspenders.

  • The HOBO wants to be a HOBO; he may be down but he certainly is not out. He often appears to be HAPPY. A HOBO usually will not ask for a 'handout', preferring to work for it. He will take a job-but usually not for long because he wants to move along to someplace else. His face is much like the tramp's make-up except in the expression. He is apt to smile, and his eyes generally appear larger, more wide awake, open, and HAPPY looking than the tramp's eyes. His costume is quite similar to the tramp's, but may contain brighter colors in various parts. His vest is likely to be a bright color, as are many of his patches. His shoes should be the same as the tramp's. The TRAMP/HOBO category is the only category in which the use of any kind of color gloves, gloves with holes, gloves with fingers cut off,or the complete absence of gloves is permitted. However, if gloves are used, they should be CLEAN but APPEAR DIRTY, STAINED, and WORN. The overall effect of make-up, costuming, and performance must compliment the character portrayed.

  • Famous tramp/hobo clowns include Emmett Kelly,Sr., Red Skelton, and Otto Griebling.


  • The Character Clown is just that. A character of a real life person.

  • This category will utilize one of the make-up categories of White Face, Auguste or Tramp/Hobo for the facial features.

  • Beyond the facial design lies the Character. This could be something such as a Policeman, FireFighter, Band Director, Baseball Player, Skydiver, Racecar Driver, etc.

  • The only “requirement” is to have a distinct clown face and the character be recognizable.

  • Some people have the misconception that a character clown is copying a person in history such as Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, etc. However, it has been discussed by many and in just about every clown group or organization, the definition states the character must have a clown face from one of the three other categories.

Much of the above information was from a CLOWN ALLEY article by Bill "Billy" Lozon.

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