Cosplaying isn’t something new, but it is always relevant. Whether you like it or not, it is growing and spreading around the globe. Are you wondering, “What is cosplaying, anyway?” It essentially means putting on the costumes and makeup of fictional characters that people love and fantasize about.
Usually, when people talk about cosplay, they think of anime and manga enthusiasts who dress up as their favorite characters. This is true, but since it has spread to the Western culture, it now involves anyone who dresses as a character from TV shows, movies, comics, video games — you name it. These days anyone can become a cosplayer. All it takes is a bit of dedication and of course, some money.
How Cosplay Started
When looking into how to become a cosplayer, you should first learn about how cosplay started.
You might think that cosplay is something new, that it erupted all of a sudden out of nowhere. However, its roots date back to 1908, when Mr. and Mrs. William Fell dressed up as their favorite characters from the newspaper comic — Mr. Skygack and Miss Pickles.
As it was referred to at the time as “costuming,” it did not really catch on and become mainstream up until 1975 when the famous musical comedy horror film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was first premiered. The show was famous for its unique costumes for both female and male characters.
Japan caught up to this later on in 1984 when Nobuyuki Takahashi first visited the World Science Fiction Convention — Worldcon in LA. He was so amazed by the masquerade that he reported about it in Japan in “My Anime” magazine and coined the term kosupure. Later on, it spread around Japan through various magazines.
It might have started outside Japan with people dressing up for movies and series fandoms, but now, whenever someone thinks of cosplay, they relate it to Japan. Today, it’s one of the biggest industries in Japan, with thousands of people dressing up and cosplaying as their favorite characters.
The Huge Cosplay Industry
If it wasn’t evident by now, cosplaying is a huge industry for costume making and marketing of movies and video games. Some major companies even hire cosplayers to advertise their new upcoming products by wearing costumes from their game or a movie during a convention.
Certain major conventions like Gamescom and especially Comic-Con have truly helped the rise and popularity of the industry. One of the recent Comic-Con conventions has had a whopping number of 130,000 cosplayers attend it. Think about how much money that is per person for tickets. You can see how and why the industry grows so fast.
The cosplay industry has grown immensely over the past few years, and its earnings have never been higher, mostly because of social media and streaming services, such as Twitch. The industry is worth more than 45 billion dollars. With so many people joining in all over the world, it is not that big of a surprise. See why it is an industry with huge potential.
Top Cosplayers, Events, and Competitions
We’ve mentioned already a few events where cosplayers can show off their hard work, dedication, craft, and talent. However, there are many more of them. The first-ever convention was held in NYC in 1939, and it was called the “1st World Science Fiction Convention.” At the time, this whole thing was just starting out, so it wasn’t as big and glamorous as it is today. As of today’s conventions, almost every country has its own major event. Several of the most popular ones are PaxPrime, WonderCon, Tokyo Game Show, Japan Expo (which is actually not held in Japan), etc.
We’ve talked about all these events, but we didn’t cover the most important thing about them — the cosplayers themselves. Some of them are quite popular worldwide. We’ll name a few top cosplayers if you want to check them out and see their amazing work.
One that almost everyone has heard of has got to be Jessica Nigri. Yaya Han is another great cosplayer. While some cosplayers buy their costumes from designers, Yaya Han makes her own outfits. This is not the case with every model or cosplayer out there. But some of them do this since it’s part of their hobby.
Issues That Cosplayers Face
Sadly, even this wholesome industry faces the problem of discrimination and harassment.
More and more people come out saying how they have been discriminated against or harassed by creeps. It’s not just women that are victims by these people — men are too. Discrimination comes in different shapes and forms, but it’s mostly sexual, racist, or any other kind. It is a huge problem, and conventions are trying their best to fight against it and keep everyone safe and happy.
There is even a movement called “Cosplay is Not Consent.” It exists mostly because, for some reason, people feel like, just because someone is dressed provocatively, it’s an open invitation to be either touched or taken a picture off without cosplayers’ permission. Of course, this is far from the truth. Just as you wouldn’t touch any stranger on the street, you shouldn’t do that on these events either.
That’s not the only problem though. Cosplayers are generally discriminated against for who or what they are dressed as. For example, there have been cases of guys and girls being harassed because they are cosplaying as a character of the opposite gender. Because of that, these cosplayers usually have to wear zentai or stylized masks to hide their identity.
Cosplaying has quite a long history, dating back even before Mr. and Mrs. William Fell first dressed up — that is, if you consider masquerading cosplay. You can even say it all started in the 16th century. Nonetheless, cosplaying is a great pastime for some and more than a hobby for others, no matter whether they like to dress up or admire the amazing skills of cosplayers.