Get ready to feel nostalgic. Ben Cooper is back, baby.
Today, the Halloween costume business is absolutely exploding with pop culture licenses, allowing you to purchase high-quality masks and costumes based on nearly all of your favorite movies and television shows. But that wasn’t always in the case.
Not until Ben Cooper came along, at least.
Originally established by Ben Cooper in 1937, Ben Cooper, Inc. quickly began dominating the Halloween scene just a few years later. While other companies were putting out costumes depicting generic monsters such as witches and devils, Ben Cooper was setting itself apart from the pack by acquiring popular licenses like Spider-Man, Batman and “The Munsters.” They even released a costume based on Ridley Scott’s Alien, which was nothing if not a bold move in 1979. Alien was, after all, an R-rated movie.
Financial troubles plagued Ben Cooper in the 1980s, eventually leading the company to file for bankruptcy in 1988. After holding on for a few years, Ben Cooper finally ceased to exist in 1992, when it was absorbed by Rubie’s Costume Company.
Twenty-five years after officially closing up shop, Ben Cooper’s plastic masks and vinyl smocks are still remembered by those who grew up wearing them. Many of those boxed costumes, which sold for mere dollars during their initial release, are now fetching collector’s prices on eBay, proving that there’s still a demand for the simplicity of Halloweens past. And all that nostalgia, well, it has played a large part in the company unexpectedly returning from its grave.
Yes, Ben Cooper is back, and we had the chance to sit down with Ira J. Cooper, son of original co-founder Nathan Cooper, and his partner Jon Miller to talk about the exciting relaunch!
“Ben Cooper was a fond memory from the deepest recesses of my childhood when I came across it again over a year and a half ago,” Miller explained to us, detailing the events that led to the company’s relaunch. “I’ll never forget my C3PO costume that I wore for Halloween, 1977. It was like a completely visceral moment when I bought one of eBay last year. Even down to the familiar smell of the vinyl mask.”
“I had always wondered if Ben Cooper was an actual person or just a brand so I decided to try and find out,” he continued. “That led me to Ira J. Cooper, who was willing to talk to me about the family-business and how they stayed on top of the Halloween market for so long. I thought the story of Ben Cooper was as awesome as the costumes and masks that they made. I knew other people would want to hear about it, too. That was the impetus for Ira and I to bring the brand back. But neither of us could ever have imagined the immediate interest we would receive from everyone. It’s really been phenomenal to hear how beloved Ben Cooper still is all these decades later.”
Digging into the specifics of the relaunch, Ira J. Cooper laid out the plan.
“We’re being very careful to bring back the original Ben Cooper aesthetic the way everyone remembers it,” he told us. “It’s kind of a blend of child-friendly Halloween archetypes mixed with darker, edgier characters that we think Ben Cooper, Inc. would tackle if they were still around today. In 2017, you’ll start to see some limited edition collectibles here and there like enamel pins, wall décor, shirts, posters, etc. We have a website shop and will also be working with some really talented artists who are inspired by Ben Cooper Halloween art doing their own thing. We love artists and concentrate on working with folks that have a passion for masks and costumes as much as we do. If they come up with something really wild, we’re more than happy to work with them on it. It’s been so much fun to hear everyone’s fondest memories of Ben Cooper and there’s going to be some real surprises for our fans the closer we get to Halloween. Some stuff that is what you’d expect but other stuff like fashion apparel that even took the Coopers off-guard!“
Ira continued, “This year we’ll be kicking things off with limited edition offerings with companies we are huge fans of. Last year, our first offering was with CreepyCo who we absolutely love working with and will be doing more with this year. Retro-A-Go-Go is another company that we’re happy to be in business with offering super-large, Official Ben Cooper aluminum mask wall décor that is available now. There’s a couple others that we’re actively working on projects with for Halloween 2017 and will have more to say as we get a little closer to the fall. I’m superstitious by nature, so I don’t want to give up the ghost on a couple of them – but suffice to say they are some truly awesome collectibles and in-keeping with what we think Ben Cooper would love. I think fans will really love the time and attention that’s going into each and every one of these unique items and be a great lead-in to 2018, when we expect the brand to really take off.“
It was Jon Miller’s passion for the iconic brand that directly paved the way for its relaunch, and he seems incredibly passionate about its future potential on the Halloween scene.
“We love our fans and always want to hear from them, not only about their fondest memories from Halloweens past, but what they would like us to do today with our iconic costume designs,” he told us. “We’ve even had people suggest to us that we make adult size renditions of their beloved Ben Cooper costumes so that they can wear them AGAIN! The sky is really the limit, what with Halloween being as popular as Halloween now.We think Ben Cooper had a lot to do with that, along with the rise of cosplay and comic book culture in general. It’s a really nice feeling to have brought the brand back when we did, because a lot of stuff has fallen into place organically. I’m really thankful that Ira Cooper returned my phone call and was willing to open the Ben Cooper vault to me. It’s like being invited into Willy Wonka’s candy factory, only better because it’s Ben Cooper’s Halloween costume factory. It really doesn’t get better than that!”
Learn more about the relaunch on the official Ben Cooper website, where you can currently purchase a logo t-shirt that helps support the cause.
More new products are coming soon!