Thursday 17 January 2013

Cosplay Culture:Fad or Phenomenon?

The Culture Of Cosplay:Fad or Phenomenon?

If there is one thing that seems certain when considering whether the Culture Of Cosplay is a Fad or a Phenomenon, it's that there is a global interest in all things associated with dressing up as your favourite Sci Fi, comic book, anime or video game character. Up until a few months ago, I really didn't know much about it, so let's take a look at some of the things I've discovered.
Spiderwoman Cosplay
Cosplay short for "costume play", is considered a type of performance art in which participants wear costumes with accessories that represent a specific character or idea. Drawn together by similar interests, Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role playing.

I was of the opinion cosplay first gained popularity (and recognition) through loyalists of the original Star Trek series (to which comic con and other similar events owe their existence) but favorite sources include broader Sci Fi and TV, comic books, anime and manga, and video games (some are actually creative enough to opt for their own character or idea creations) inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see gender switching (women are free to recreate male characters as their own female interpretation) and men secure enough in their sexuality often dress as female characters (apparently it's great fun)


In this day and age (more sexual freedom and expression) there is also a subset of the culture centered around sex appeal, participants specifically choose characters that are known for their attractiveness and have no qualms about wearing revealing costumes. Using the tools of today many they create social networks and websites centered around cosplay activities, while forums allow the passionate to share stories, photographs, news, and general information.

The rapid growth in the number of people cosplaying as a hobby since 1990 (coinciding with expanded use of the Internet no doubt) which has made the phenomenon a significant aspect of popular culture (in other words, cosplay is more than a fad, it's here to stay) In Asia it's so much a part of the culture it actually influences Japanese street fashion.

The term cosplay was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio Studio Hard while attending the 1984 Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon. He was so impressed by the event and the costumed fans he reported in both in Japanese science fiction magazines. According to wikipedia, the coinage reflects a common Japanese method of abbreviation in which the first two moras of a pair of words are used to form an independent compound. Costume becomes kosu (コス), and play becomes pure (プレ).

Cosplay costumes vary greatly and range from simple themed clothing to highly detailed outfits. It's generally considered different from other costumed practices like Halloween and Mardi Gras as the intention is to accurately replicate a specific character, rather than to reflect the culture and symbolism of a holiday or event (costume ball)

Cosplayers often adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray,

and are sourced from any movie, TV series, book, comic book, video game or music band (although the practice is most often associated with replicating anime and manga characters)

Most create their own outfits, dedicating much time to detail and quality, and as such the skill may be measured by how difficult the details of the outfit are and how well they have been replicated. With the difficulty of replicateing some detail or materials, cosplayers often educate themselves in crafting specialties such as makeup and face painting, textiles and sculpture,  fiberglass, fashion design, woodworking, spot welding and other such use of materials in the effort to render the look and texture of a costume more accurately.

Most cosplayers wear wigs in conjunction with their outfit in order to further improve the resemblance to the character (this is especially necessary for anime and manga characters who often have unnaturally coloured and uniquely styled hair) 

Many dedicated cosplayers also engage in various forms of body modification (contact lenses,

copying tattoos or using permanent marker to replicate special markings, body paint, permanent or temporary hair dye, spray-in hair coloring, body piercings or face painting)

the goal is to  match the character being portrayed as closely as possible.

More simple outfits may be compensated for their lack of complexity by paying attention to material choice, and overall excellent quality. The process of creation may be very long and time-consuming, making it a very personal journey and achievement for many which are greatly appreciated by fellow and non cosplayers alike (as a non cosplayer I know I've been impressed) The more taxing, and often expensive process is known to unite and is considered a part of the culture.

Manufacturers produce and sell packaged outfits for use in cosplay, in a variety of qualities often sold online or purchased from dealers at conventions. There are also a number of individuals who work on commission, creating custom costumes or props designed and fitted to the individual (some social networking sites for the culture have classified ad sections where such services are advertised) while other cosplayers who prefer to create their own costumes still provide a market for individual elements, accessories, and various raw materials, such as unstyled wigs or extensions, hair dye, cloth and sewing notions, liquid latex, body paint, shoes, costume jewellery and prop weapons.



The increasing popularity of Japanese animation outside of Asia during the late 1990s led to an increase in American and other Western cosplayers who portray Japanese characters. Anime conventions have become more numerous in the West in the previous decade, now competing with science fiction, comic book and historical conferences in attendance.

Although the term "cosplay" is Japanese in origin, costume play was originally a hobby from the United States. Science fiction fan Forrest J Ackerman attended the 1939 1st World Science Fiction Convention dressed in a "futuristicostume", including a green cape and breeches, based on the pulp magazine artwork of Frank R. Paul.  
 Ackerman later stated that he thought everyone was supposed to wear a costume at a science fiction convention, although only he and his girlfriend, Myrtle R. Douglas, wore one and he rarely wore one to any future convention. The hobby was then later picked up by the Japanese and reinvented by Americans and has more recently spread throughout South America and Australia.

Western cosplay's origins are based primarily in science fiction and historical fantasy fandoms, it is also more common for Western cosplayers to recreate characters from live-action mvies or TV series than it is for the Japanese who tend to focus more on anime, manga and video games.

Like their Japanese counterparts at these gatherings, cosplayers meet to show off their work, take photos, and compete in costume contests. Convention attendees are mostly seen dressed up as Japanese animated characters, but many others dress up as Western comic book characters, or as characters from movies and video games. Differences in taste still exist across cultures.

One day I wanna rock a sexy SWTOR or Super Hero costume at Comic Con. but I don't want anyone to know
Anime Bus: Menace (Queen's Blade) Cosplay
Some (riske) costumes that are worn without hesitation by Japanese cosplayers once tended to be avoided by Western cosplayers. Today... not so much.

Dragon*Con 2012 by Sp3ed Demon, via Flickr

COSPLAY GIRLS                                              VS.                                     COSPLAY MODELS
There has been much debate of late that not all cosplay girls at conventions are not actual cosplayers and only dress to impress because it's there job. Many cosplay girls dedicated to the culture often label themselves as nerd girls with a passion for most (if not all things) nerdy. It's no longer just a mans wolrd, women (cosplay girls) ave interests in Sci Fi film and TV, video gaming, anime and comics in a way never seen before, coupled with more freedom for sexual expression and a greater acceptance of natural body types (vs. the lingering waif look of the 70s) To be honest, there is so much appreciation in all aspects of the culture that I don't think it really matters much (to guys less so at least, lol)

Cosplay has influenced the Japanese advertising industry, where they are used for event work previously assigned to agency models. Japan's burgeoning anime industry has been home to the professional cosplayers since the rise of Comiket and the Tokyo Game Show. The phenomenon is most apparent in Japan but exists to a growing degree in North America and other countries as well.

Combine all of the elements of this growing industry with all of the cosplay friendly elements (internet, social networking, CGI technology) and you will see the culture of cosplay is not just a fad, but the latest phenomenon. Click the video below to see how creative cosplay makes lovers of the genres.

To see some cool pics I've found, check out my Board "Nerd girls of the 21st-century" on pinterest at

you can also follow me on!/

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