Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A fond look back at terrible, store-bought Halloween costumes of yore

Don't worry, kids. Mickey Mouse isn't about to eat your soul.

“I don’t think the real Radioactive Man wears a plastic smock with a picture of himself on it.” “He would on Halloween!” For generations of kids who grew up wearing cheap, plastic-smelling Halloween costumes from now-defunct companies like Ben Cooper and Collegetown, that bit of Simpsons dialogue hits very close to home. These costumes were as uncomfortable and flimsy as they were inauthentic and unconvincing, with vision-obstructing masks held up only by thin, constantly-breaking rubber bands. Nevertheless, Ben Cooper and Collegeville (and, to a lesser extent, Halco) remained staples of the American trick-or-treating ritual for decades. One major reason is that these companies licensed popular characters from TV shows, movies, and toy companies. For youngsters who wanted to dress up as, say, one of the Groovie Goolies, there was nowhere else to turn. It is within the realm of possibility that readers may experience a twinge of Stockholm Syndrome while browsing through “That New Costume Smell,” a MetaFilter post which compiles links to vintage Halloween costume catalogs from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. While there, spend some time browsing through the comments, which are the expected mix of nostalgia and vitriol. An example of the latter: “My childhood Halloweens were tinged with the smoldering resentment of costume failure based on these costumes.”

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