|The Best In Vintage Halloween Costumes
By AL J. Vermette
If you were a kid in the 1970’s like I was then you would
remember the Ben Cooper Halloween masks and costumes.
More than likely you too spent many of Halloweens dressed in
one of Ben Cooper sets maybe as a superhero, monster, clown,
princess, or some popular cartoon character that made up the Ben Cooper Halloween lineup. They were
plastic and paper mask and costume sets that by today's standards really, really cheap and lame but we
kids all loved them. Well in truth….back then we didn’t have too much of a choice.
In years past long before Party City and Spirt Halloween came on the scene, we kids got our
Halloween costumes from retail store chains like Woolworth or Genovese Drug Stores. These were the
classic 5 & Dime stores that you kids may have heard us old folks talk about…..you know way back in the
stone age. I remember my mother taking me and my sisters to the nearby Woolworths every year to pick
out our Halloween costumes and it was always a magical time. The store would be filled with Halloween
costumes hanging from the ceiling all on display as I walked down the aisle looking for the costume I
wanted for that year.
These masks and costumes were what was carried in my
store and each was packed neatly into their own box with pic-
tures of the character on the front and a clear plastic window
so you could see the mask within. The costumes we just
made of simple nylon plastic that you slipped into like a re-
verse jumpsuit with the opening in the back that closed by a
single tie string behind the neck. Each costume featured an
illustration of the character you were playing on the front of
the costume and the face mask was only a half mask that
only covered your face with a rubber band around the head to hold it in place. Now I said they were lame
and oh so cheesy but hey you go with what you got.
The Ben Cooper costume and mask company opened in 1937 and by the 1960’s it was the driving
force in Halloween costume production. Their oh-so cheap masks and costumes sold for pretty much less
than $2 at any given retail store and that’s like $15 in today's world. They may have been ridiculously
cheaply made….but on the other hand mom didn’t have to pay much for them either.
The mask and costume sets were at the time the best thing you could have
on Halloween other than trick or treat with some homemade costume. Before
the mass production of such costumes, kids had to make their own costumes
and use mom’s make-up to paint their faces or make a mask out of paper or
cardboard. Although not as glamorous as today's costumes that one can buy in
say any Party City or Spirit Halloween stores among many others, they were
after all the hit of each Halloween season in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
Although great for kids because they were cheap, easy, and by the time one
got sick of having it they thing pretty much dissolved and torn away by Christmas
they were not sold or marketed to adults. Grown-ups at that time unlike today
could not dress in the Ben Cooper costumes because they only came in child
size. Today Party City and the like sell costumes to both kids as well as adults that are only size different.
A 5 foot 2 boy can dress as Batman just the same as a man standing over 6 feet.
The Ben Copper lineup of costumes was very diverse in their selection when
picking out a costume and mask set. There were boys and girls costumes from
anything from devils, princesses, superheroes, monsters, TV and movie characters,
and personalities. For this future horror writer and magazine publisher, some of the
characters I went as was Funky Phantom in 1971, Spiderman 1973, Planet of the
Apes gorilla soldier 1976 and as Darth Vader in 1977 to 79 for my trick or treat finale.
For me, I will always have a little nostalgia for my childhood Ben Cooper cos-
tumes as I’m sure many grown kids of the 60’s, 70,s, and 80s have. Sadly the Ben
Cooper company ended in 1992 never again to produce the classic nylon and plastic
costumes and masks. Today kids and adults have a much larger selection of cos-
tumes to choose from, plus they are designed better and have a much greater depiction of the characters
and visions that they portray. Costumes of today owe their very existence to the costume company that