Cosplay – a phenomenon that almost everyone on the internet seems to be discussing lately. Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram feeds are getting flooded with images of cosplayers nowadays. While some love or despise it entirely, most people simply accept it the way it is. Be that as it may, the circle of cosplay lovers has grown from a few, hard-core fans to a huge network of enthusiasts living around the world. Now, having been in Twitter top trends so many times, cosplay has finally set foot in the world of popular culture.

Despite its growing popularity, there are still a lot of people who are unfamiliar with what cosplay is exactly. They do not understand why anyone would choose to spend so much time and money over dressing up as a character who isn’t even real. What exactly is cosplay and what do people gain from it? Let’s find out.

An Introduction to Cosplay

Cosplay is a combination of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. It is a phenomenon that involves dressing up as your favorite character and imitating their mannerisms. The character may belong to a TV show, movie, comic book, or even a fantasy or sci-fi novel. The people who partake in cosplay, also known as cosplayers, invest money and time in curating their costumes and also learn how to act like their chosen character. Along with practicing their speech style and body language, cosplayers also learn to perform dialogues and scenes of their favourite character.

Introduction to Cosplay
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History of Cosplay

Researchers and historians believe that the origins of cosplay date back to the 1970s. Back then, college students in Japan went to various sci-fi conventions, costumed up as their favourite characters from manga and anime. The term cosplay was later coined in the year 1983 by Nobuyuki Takahashi. He used the Japanese technique for abbreviating the phrase ‘costume play’ into its shortened form ‘Kosu pure’ (コスプレ). With excessive usage worldwide, the term simply morphed into cosplay.

In the United States, the popularity of cosplay soared in the late 90s and early 2000s when young Americans got fascinated by Japanese anime and manga. This way it spread across the globe and today, such conventions are held in multiple cities where attendees actively engage in cosplay. Cosplay is so famous now that cosplayers don’t only gather at conventions now. They also arrange public events at parks, theatres, clubs, cafes and a lot of other spaces – simply to celebrate and share their mutual love for fandoms and favourite characters.

The Love of Cosplay: Why Do People Dress Up in Costumes?

The motivation behind cosplaying differs from person to person. Let’s take a look at a few reasons as to why people engage in cosplay.

Dress Up in Costumes
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Source of Fun

For many cosplayers, it is as simple as that. They consider cosplay a source of fun and genuine enjoyment. Nobody can deny that. Just like playing a sport, watching a movie or even baking brings joy to many, the fans of cosplay find their happiness in costuming up. Some are passionate to the extent that they cannot imagine a life without these costumes – life would be way too boring without them.

Many attendees of comic conventions claim that even if they do not participate in cosplay, they enjoy the environment of these events which is lively and full of excitement. The energy and enthusiasm of the cosplayers is contagious to the extent that it affects others too. Many find it admirable that even in today’s world, when our busy lives lack the element of fun, cosplayers bring it in bundles to these conventions.

Self-Expression

Several cosplayers claim that the true reason they embody their favourite characters is that they relate to them on a personal level. They believe that they share personality traits with these characters, which is why costuming up and mimicking them does not feel difficult at all. It just comes naturally to them. As they cannot express their true self so easily, they find cosplay as an ideal way to do so, even if it is for a day only. This sense of identification, as they claim, helps them to explore their personality further and leads them to personal growth.

Self-Expression
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Devotion Towards the Character

Many cosplayers state that by taking up the visage of their beloved character, they reflect their true passion and devotion towards it. They use cosplay as a way to express the love they hold in their hearts for their fandom and its characters. These cosplayers choose the avatars of a variety of characters, from superheroes to even their nemeses, taking no note of how bothersome it may feel to some. A few cosplayers say that the ones who dislike their passion or call it an ‘obsession’, simply do not know how to express their love.

Develops Confidence

Some people use cosplay as a way to boost their self-confidence. They state that they spent their childhood and adolescence being bullied by their peers. Being called a ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ made them feel awkward and unwanted. What’s worse is that they lost their self-esteem on the way. However, they find acceptance in the world of cosplay. It has helped them turn into confident and emotionally strong individuals who take pride in costuming up in public. They are not ashamed of their ‘geekiness’ as they can finally accept who they are. Their fellow cosplayers, no matter how unknown they might be, have inspired them to embrace their interests and passion confidently and unapologetically.

Feeling of Belonging

Most cosplayers believe that all the people who share the love for cosplay belong to a single community, no matter which part of the world they live in. Naming it the cosplay community, its members feel a sense of belonging with one another. As they actively engage in cosplay, these people agree that they have developed a global cultural circle where their mutual hobby of cosplay can prosper. They support and protect each other against those who are hostile or dismissive of their passion for cosplay.

Feeling of Belonging
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Means to Socialize

For some people, cosplaying is a way to socialize with others. They claim that comic and sci-fi conventions have assisted them in making strong and long-lasting friendships – more than they ever had in school or college, where they were considered outcasts. At cosplay conventions and events, they befriend many other geeks who indulge in the love of comics, movies, anime or manga. What’s noteworthy is that they find this process of socializing easy as they share common interests with each other.

Competition

Among the various kinds of cosplayers, there are some who participate in cosplay conventions just for the sake of competing with fellow cosplayers. They get a thrill when they showcase their beautifully handcrafted costumes. After all, they invest thousands of dollars and days of effort to create these costumes. One reason for their hard work is that these conventions usually hold competitions where cosplayers perform on stage in front of the attendees. They are judged by a panel for their costumes and their performances. The winners get huge prizes (mostly money). Even those who lose are happy having gotten the chance to test their skills and imagination.

Fame and Career

Many cosplayers take these comic and sci-fi cons as a chance to garner fame. When they are wearing highly detailed costumes and carrying eye-catching props, they become the center of attention. Not only are the attendees drawn to look at them but photographers also gather around to take their pictures. This means that they can get featured on TV shows or even the news. They can even turn into some kind of a celebrity if their pictures circulate on social media where millions can see and admire their craft.

This is why some people have converted their passion for cosplay into a full-fledged career. There are also a few lucky ones who are approached by big media groups to star in cosplay-based reality shows like Heroes of Cosplay. Some others get offers to model for magazines while dressed up as their chosen character.

Conclusion

Cosplay is not just a way of dressing up. It’s a special kind of performance art – it incorporates both the arts of designing and acting to bring a fictional character to life. So no matter how much scrutiny or difficulties cosplayers have to face, the craft of cosplay is here to stay for years to come. Its future seems very bright and for good reason too – it’s the 21st century and everyone is allowed to celebrate their passion. Their passion deserves to be respected in the least, if not appreciated by all.