A Journey into Cosplay: Understanding the Fascinating Subculture

To some, cosplaying is a hobby. Cosplaying may be a pastime for some people, but it is an integral part of daily life. If you’ve participated in cosplay or not, cosplay has become prevalent in today’s society. These costumes take an enormous amount of time and effort to make to allow people to take part in events that allow them to play their favorite characters. Cosplay is described as Halloween costumes as witches. If you’re skilled in the art of cosplay, the process is more than the act of dressing up. It is about fully engaging in the role of an individual character and performing in front of thousands of spectators.

How did this phenomenon begin? How did cosplay evolve from ‘dress up for adults’ to something that’s now considered a subculture, a symbol of one’s passion?

The History of Cosplay

Cosplay was originally known as “costuming”, but it began in the 1930s in North America. At the time cosplay didn’t require participants to mimic a character’s appearance. Instead, they just needed to dress to match the genre. That’s the way that Forrest J. Ackerman did in his futuristic attire when he attended an event in the genre of sci-fi. He was the first attendee to show up in costume, so in the following years conventions started to appear like masquerade balls and prizes were awarded to whoever had the ‘best costume.’

In the Japan Manga series, Urusei Yatsura, and the television series, Mobile Suit Gundam was instrumental in launching the movement and a wave of Japanese college students eagerly wore costumes of their favorite characters at conventions. Borrowing the practice of masquerading as characters from North America, fans would re-enact their favorite scenes, which added to the excitement, as they could display their adoration for the series.

It was not until 1984 that the term ‘cosplay was coined, which combines the terms ‘costume’ and “play”. Nobuyuki Takahashi (Japanese reporter) invented the term following his visit to Worldcon Los Angeles. He believed that the Japanese crowd would find it outdated to translate the word “masquerade” and instead used the word “cosplay” to define the idea. Fast forward to today, when cosplay is considered a subculture. In North America, it is no longer odd to see people donning costumes at events. Cosplay has extended beyond sci-fi and animation to include other genres such as cartoon characters, superheroes, and video game characters. Similarly, Japan has embodied cosplay as a part of its popular culture, especially in districts like Harajuku and Shibuya. These cosplayers dress up every day, making it common to see people who stand out from the crowd.

Maid cafes are also popular. In these establishments, a waitress dresses up as a servant to serve her customers (aka the master). This type of roleplaying might be considered ‘odd’ to some and this brings us to the issue of why people choose to participate in cosplay in the first place.

What motivates people to participate

There are a variety of reasons that people are interested in cosplay. Similar to how fun it is dressing up as a different character during Halloween, cosplayers love dressing up as characters. In the BuzzFeedYellow video, “Why I cosplay” Two cosplayers talk about how being someone else gives them confidence because it boosts their confidence. One cosplayer states, “Cosplay allows me to take on the roles of these characters.” I could live vicariously with how cool they are.” Since cosplay focuses on the likeness to the character, the focus is put on high-quality costumes and realistic roleplaying. Cosplaying can be described as acting out in a certain way. Participants are required to dress and act as the character they are portraying after they have put on their costumes.

There is a strong sense that this subculture is a community. Fans can connect with other fans, regardless of whether they’re into sewing, modeling photography, modeling, or some other form of entertainment. There is a sense of being united, and it’s thrilling to see another person cosplay in the same role as an additional character from the same show. Group photos are taken, and fan service is held to get the audience excited. There are occasions when cosplayers gather for other events other apart from conventions. People who are interested in making costumes can join sewing classes and exchange tips with others. There are also cosplay beach parties and other club events that are hosted by enthusiasts that allow cosplayers to wear their costumes at various locations.

Ultimately, what all cosplayers share is that each person goes into this hobby because they enjoy it. Even though it takes some time and commitment but the rewards are worth it. It’s not like someone spends many hours creating costumes and then put them on when it’s done. This is a great occasion to show off your love for the sport and can be accomplished by anyone willing to learn.


Although many cosplayers participate for fun, some use it to earn money. Jessica Nigri, a cosplayer, and celebrity, was popularized by the time her ‘Sexy Pikachu costume became available online. She has been a model in cosplay since then for many characters such as Connor Kenway in Assassin’s creed III, Vivienne Squall in KILLER IS DEAD, and the female Captain Edward Kenway in Assassin’s creed IV: Black Flag. She has Facebook fan pages as well as a subreddit for her. Her fandom has grown exponentially. Jessica also sells signed posters of herself and gets paid to create costumes for the latest video games that come out.

Jessica Nigri is not the only cosplayer that charges for the privilege of having their photo taken. While monetization is a way to support creators, it could also create problems. Angelia Bermudez, a Costa Rican cosplayer, ended up in a foreign country after being a victim of fraud. Although she was told that the cost of her hotel and flights were insured, she discovered that she was being duped by the owner of her accommodations and was detained. In the end, she was able to get back home due to the generous donations of her fans.

This is the risk that professional cosplayers face and, unfortunately, those who put a lot of work into their craft are either dismissed or not considered serious. What is it that makes a cosplayer professional? Are they the costumes, or how someone models them? What’s the secret to creating cosplay that is “good”?

What are the characteristics of good cosplay?

Buzzfeed’s Try Guys started the series in four parts exploring the worlds of cosplay in August. In this series, the Try Guys learned how much effort goes into a costume before attending a convention. They were puzzled by how one costume could require 700 hours of work, which leads others to think about the factors which go into creating the perfect cosplay.

1. Attention to Attention to

It is crucial to prepare for cosplay events and take your time when putting on the costume. Although on-lookers may not be able to distinguish between two different wigs or fabrics they will be able to tell the costume doesn’t look attractive. Avid fans will also notice the absence of certain details (such as a wristband) Therefore, multiple pictures should be analyzed before making the costume. What catches the eye more than any else is the way that the costume sits on the person. Therefore, cosplayers should make sure that it is a good fit for their body type, even if they are of the same body type as the person they portray.

Cosplay is about the way you appear. Makeup can help accentuate the look, particularly in the case of characters with unique features, such as whiskers, elf ears, etc. If a cosplayer wants to portray Naruto as Sage, they must pay attention to the orange/red hue of his eyes.

2. Creativity

Fans have full creative freedom to make their characters look more attractive if they are identifiable. One of the most well-known ways to alter the appearance of a character is to make a gender swap. Gender swaps alter the gender of a character and alter the outfit accordingly. The Try Guys, for instance, decided to gender-swap with the male version of the Sailor Scouts.

It is also possible to alter the costume to suit an alternative theme, such as steampunk or Victorian. It’s a fun way to express your creativity. But, it might not be possible to locate an image of the reference. The addition of too many modifications risks onlookers not recognizing the character, and it can be tiring to endlessly answer the question “Who are you supposed to be?”

3. Confidence

The confidence of a person makes them distinguish themselves from other people wearing the same costume. The way a person is dressed and how they interact affects the overall experience, even though it can be uncomfortable for first-time cosplayers. But confidence can be built when the person is willing to expose themselves in the public. Kristen Lanae is a cosplayer and a shy woman who credits cosplay for making her feel more confident. In an interview with the Daily Mail, she says, “I have always been extremely shy and quiet, but when I am dressed in costumes, I am a riot. I’d say that it is due to all the positive reactions I experience in costume.”

There is plenty of community support for those who want to participate in cosplay. You can post pictures of your progress and get help on how to make a particular object or piece of clothing. Fans can support their co-workers by commenting on their social media profiles to show appreciation. However, with any art, there is always a risk that people may not appreciate the beauty or may find it confusing. Cosplay is the art of the physical. That means there are a lot more risks than just not knowing what the cosplayer is wearing.

Cosplay The Risques

1. Sexual Harassment

Certain characters are designed to be provocative and may have high school uniforms or spandex bodysuits. The fans can lose sight of the people inside these costumes and get caught up in fantasies about their favorite character. This is a problem because several cases of sexual harassment have been reported by cosplayers who are looking forward to attending conventions. Some women have been groped and others have been made to leave due to not fitting into a specific costume. Therefore, organizers are trying to bring awareness to this problem by implementing anti-harassment guidelines. At New York’s Comic Con, attendees can be able to see a huge sign that reads ‘Cosplay Is Not Consent to be a part of the convention’s festivities’ and that everyone should be treated with respect.

Cosplaying as a character should not invite sexual harassment or lewd comments. You should have fun with it and not be afraid of harassment.

2. Judgment

As previously stated there are a few fans that are caught up on how a character should be in reality. In the end, judgment is passed on to cosplayers who don’t look as they would in real life, which is the wrong practice for this art form. Shapes and sizes are possible. It is not acceptable to be judged on their appearance because they do not fit the body of the character. Yaya Han is a well-known cosplayer that is a fan of all cosplaying bodies.

Everyone should have a wonderful time playing cosplay. Although there are some negative aspects within the community, there are plenty of positive aspects. Hence, people should not be put off from playing their favorite character. Cosplaying provides the opportunity to make connections with others who have similar interests, and a chance to be another person for the day. This is a great way to show your fandom and meet other people with similar interests. In the end, how often do you ever get to see Naruto take a lunch break with Superman?

Cosplay has evolved from masquerading into an art form. Although it can be considered mimicry, some individuals put their creative twist into their costumes and overall appearance. What once was a hobby has allowed participants to make careers out of cosplaying, which demonstrates the prevalence of cosplay in society. It has become part of the subculture, and can no longer be considered ‘dress up for adults’.

Cosplay can be described as an art form since it lets people express their creativity by transforming into different characters. Like all other forms of art, begins with enthusiasm and then becomes tangible once the person decides on how to make it come to life.

Works are cited

Ashcraft, Brian, and Luke Plunkett. Kotaku 22 October 2014. “Where is the word “Cosplay?” Comes from. Web.

BuzzFeedVideo. Video clip online. Youtube, 2 Aug 2015. Web.

BuzzFeedYellow. “Why I play cosplay.” Video clip. YouTube, 9 September 2014. Web.

Don. “Jessica Nigri.” Know Your Meme News. Cheezburger Inc., n.d. Web.

Gallagher, Luke. Gallagher Luke. Web.

Kondolojy Amanda L. “Playing Dress up for Adults The History of Cosplay” Cheat Code Central, n.d. Web.

Morgan, Maybelle. “Shy Cosplay Fanatic Reveals How Dressing as Iconic Action and Fantasy Heroines Aided her in overcoming a lifetime of low self-esteem.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, 27 Jul 2015. Web.

Mexican, Darth. “Cosplay Crisis: Scammed And Left In Another Country.” The Geek Lyfe. GhostPool.com 14 July 2015. Web.

Raymond, Adam K. “75 Years of Capes and Face Paint: A History of Cosplay.” Yahoo, 24 July 2015. Web.

Romano, Andrea. “Cosplay Is Not Consent: The People Fighting Sexual Harassment at Comic-Con.” Mashable. N.p., 15 Oct. 2014. Web.

White, Kaila. Azcentral. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web.

The image featured was taken by Florea Flavia.

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