Cosplay, or costume play, is the process of dressing up like popular pop-culture icons, present and past.
From Deadpool to Sailor Moon, cosplayers dress up as all kinds of different characters across multiple genres, including, but not limited to, comics, gaming and anime. Cosplaying generally takes place at conventions, or cons.
There are hundreds of cons throughout the year across the U.S. alone, but some prominent ones are San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con and Dragon Con in Atlanta.
According to The Article’s An Overview of Cosplay, cosplay started in the late 1930s when Forrest J. Ackerman dressed up for a sci-fi convention. In the following years, more and more people started to dress up for various conventions.
This led up to a 1984 con where a Japanese reporter by the name of Nobuyuki Takahashi coined the phrase cosplay when he thought calling the act, masquerading, was too boring. The act and art of cosplaying is an ever-growing part of fandom. Some cosplayers can even make a living through cosplay. For example, cosplayer Yaya Han created her own clothing line specializing in cosplay.
So why cosplay? Well according to Austin Moddrell, a Maryville, Missouri, resident and avid cosplayer,
“It gives you the ability to step outside of yourself and be a character...no one knows who I am, so you can walk into a room of strangers and relate to them.”
Austin has an extreme passion for cosplaying and has spent at least 80 hours on his most recent cosplay of Nightwing, spending an estimated amount of $100 on fabric and EVA foam. Austin cosplays because he can relate to all cosplayers, and this gives him a real sense of community.
After answering “why cosplay,” the next question is who cosplays? According to The Daily Dot’s “Investigating the ‘Psychology of Cosplay’,” 81.4 percent of cosplayers do not think that cosplaying relates to their careers. The largest percentage of participants, 9.3 percent, identified in retail or sales, the story reports.
The article also states that the majority of cosplayers are white (81.2 percent) females (74 percent). Extroverts or introverts? Well again, according to The Daily Dot, the differences between to the personality types are equal to the average non cosplayer, stating:
“Whether or not cosplayers were more introverted or extroverted was tested with a series of 12 questions known as the “Eysenck Personality Questionnaire” that asked things like “Are you a talkative person?” and “Do you enjoy meeting new people?” The results showed that these cosplayers were not more extroverted or introverted than the average person, and there was no substantial difference between genders.”
Another statistic measured is the education level of cosplayers, which shows that 42 percent of cosplayers hold a degree from a four- year institution. So who cosplays? It seems that the answer to that question is anybody with an interest in pop-culture, although statistically speaking, if you cosplay, you are probably a white female.
A major aspect of cosplay is in the fabrication of the costume. According to a 2015 Eventbrite study done on cosplaying, cosplayers can spend upwards of $500 on the materials needed to build the costume and log around 44 hours of total fabrication time. Costume fabrications can range from simple fabrics to elaborate EVA foam armor and weapon designs. In some cases, cosplayers will even use real metal when designing their costumes.
One reason people put so much time and money into making these designs is to enter cosplay contests, where you can win big bucks and the respect of other cosplayers.
There is also a social aspect of cosplay. Cosplayers who meet at cons usually stay in contact and plan their next con together through social media.
Social media plays a factor in the cosplay culture. Some cosplayers sell prints of themselves as specific characters and social media is a prime marketing platform in doing so.
The cosplay community thrives on various social media platforms, Tumblr, being a major platform where cosplay photos and cosplay fabrication updates are posted.
This enables cosplayers to interact across the world and keep up with the latest trends and creation methods. Social media has enabled cosplay to grow and prosper more so then it ever has.
Cosplaying has been a cultural phenomenon for 100 years and is steadily growing in popularity. Propelled by social media, it has formed a subculture of its own and represents all parts of fandom including comics, gaming, and anime.
While the question of who cosplays is a simple one, the more difficult, and perhaps more intriguing question, is why?