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HORROR FOR GOOD

Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Wares clothing and Coffee is nothing like typical Hollywood merch

Monkeypaw Productions
Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw Productions logo as seen in his latest film "Nope"
  • Adario Strange
By Adario Strange

Media & entertainment reporter based in New York

Published

Perhaps the most iconic hypnotism scene in movie history involves a teacup and a spoon in Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning 2017 film Get Out. Now, as Peele continues to hold Hollywood in his mesmerizing grip with the release of Nope, the director is quietly branding his studio beyond the realms of film and television and onto the bodies of his most passionate fans.

In Nope, Peele uses the film’s characters to reveal the his love of high-cultural IQ streetwear, primarily through vintage t-shirts sourced by the film’s costume designer, Alex Bovaird. That spawned a line of t-shirt merch for the film by designer Jide Osifeso and the film’s co-star, Daniel Kaluuya.

Monkeypaw Productions
A model wears a Monkeypaw Wares hoodie.

Those items aren’t for sale on Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions site. Instead, Peele is offering a separate line of products, including coffee and streetwear, all bearing the monkey paw logo seen on his opening film credits. But rather than cheaply made, mass-produced products typical of most celebrity merch, each item is curated with an eye toward quality.

The embroidery on the hats and shirts is thick, precise, and built to last. And unlike most celebrity merch, the labels on the back side of the t-shirt neck area, and on the inside of the brim of the company’s hats aren’t from some cookie-cutter t-shirt or baseball cap manufacturer, the tags are custom-made Monkeypaw Wares labels. That attention to detail even extends to the washing and care labels hidden on the inside of the t-shirts, which also sport custom, high-quality Monkeypaw Wares labels.

Monkeypaw Productions
A Monkeypaw Wares t-shirt.

Fun Fact: The name Monkeypaw is drawn from the 1902 short story “The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs, which involves a severed monkey’s paw that delivers three wishes to its owner, usually with horrific consequences.

Profiting from the goodwill of fans can be tricky business, if not done right

In 2021, Peele’s company filed a new trademark application in addition to its existing rights to the film and TV uses (filed in 2017) for Monkeypaw Productions, adding Monkeypaw Wares to the list of his trademarks. The official separation of his branded product efforts from his filmed content productions signals a desire to create a real business that doesn’t depend on box office numbers or TV ratings.

Adario Strange
A freshly brewed cup of Monkeypaw Coffee.

A few decades ago, Spike Lee made a similar attempt to merchandize his onscreen success. Lee launched his clothing store, Spike’s Joint, in 1990, in his native Fort Greene, Brooklyn, neighborhood, and it was a hit. In 1992, Lee opened another store in Los Angeles, but situated it on Melrose Avenue, among other hipster brands, rather than in the Black communities of South Central LA, a decision that didn’t sit well with some locals. Lee’s flagship store closed just seven years later.

Monkeypaw Productions
A Monkeypaw Wares t-shirt.

Although a fellow New Yorker by birth, Peele has since adopted LA as home following his move to the city two decades ago after landing a role on sketch comedy TV series MADtv. Accordingly, Peele’s product efforts appear to be focused on fostering talent and small businesses in the local LA community. Monkeypaw Coffee is a collaboration with LA coffee brewers Tony Jolly and Tina Amin, and a percentage of the sales of Monkeypaw Wares will go to HBCU in LA, a not-for-profit organization intended to help students from historically black colleges and universities enter the entertainment business.

Some estimates indicate that celebrities can draw tens of millions from the passive sales of merch associated with their brand. However, when a celebrity focuses on a specific and targeted line of products, those numbers can reach the hundreds of millions. In Peele’s case, if his quirky brand of horror manages to translate to non-film product sales, a number of people of color with Hollywood ambitions stand to benefit, too.

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