You’ve seen the photographs from Comic-Con and Anime Expo. You’ve watched videos of the attendees at conventions having the time of their lives. Yes, cosplayers are a unique and interesting sort, and not just because they look like super heroes.
Here are a few reasons why cosplayers are more amazing than they are given credit for.
They are brave.
Have you ever been getting dressed in the morning and thought, “Ugh, I can’t wear this. It’s too outlandish!” The thought that you might be seen by someone else as having “bad fashion sense” or “poor taste” is real for so many people.
In the world of cosplay, however, that borderline is pushed far, far back. Does your character wear a hawaiian shirt and swim trunks with a giant turtle shell on his back? Better get the shell out! Cosplayers can push away the fear of judgment from other people in favour of flying their colours high–and that takes courage.
They are loyal.
What happens when a cosplayer gets judged harshly? It happens. Someone will criticize a cosplayer for being the wrong shape or size–or even colour–to cosplay that character. The overwhelming majority in the cosplay community will not stand for this kind of behaviour!
Cosplayers stick together. If you can’t be yourself around other people in the same niche, then what’s the point? Cosplayers take that to heart, and there’s nothing better than watching a naysayer get schooled by a band of supportive cosplayers–nay, of friends.
They are resourceful.
Have you seen some of those giant robot costumes that people bring to big conventions? Eight feet tall, with lights and sounds, and fully-articulate, these costumes are phenomenal to witness. They must have cost a fortune, manufactured by some big movie company, right? Well, actually…
The dominant majority of the cosplay community made their costumes by the sweat of their own brow. The Gundam MK-II you saw was made primarily of cardboard and EVA foam, with hours of trial-and-error and research on how the joints should move. The Edward Elric’s automail arm was painstakingly built from pieces of plastic drink bottles and craft foam, painted to look like a pristine metal prosthesis. The huge Buster Sword that Cloud’s carrying around? Expanding Foam and papier-maché. Especially because so many conventions have special rules as to what your costumes and props can NOT be made of, cosplayers have to get creative.
They never cease to impress.
They are passionate.
Ever talked to someone who had a real, vested interest in something, and were just blown away by their zeal? Cosplayers are that to a tee.
What’s better, though, is that the same passion they use for making their costumes extends to making friends. There’s no better way to gain a new friend than to ask about their costume’s series or compliment them on the construction of the specific details (because believe me, they put effort into the details). They will sit and nerd out with you about this series or that character, despite having never met you before, so long as you invoke the same passion that they have.
Extra tip: Find a “Doctor Who” cosplayer and ask what they think of the 8th Doctor. You’re sure to get some passion there!
They are highly skilled.
The skills needed to be a successful and amazing cosplayer are myriad, but the ones that stand out the most are the use of a sewing machine, wig and hair styling, makeup, and conceptual design. From a professional standpoint, cosplaying can build up a great portfolio of skills to show potential employers. It can be a great tool to learn new skills. And, according to a study from Asia Pacific University, it can even lead to a full-blown career: Many cosplayers take the knowledge and skills that they acquire in their hobby and turn them into a lucrative and successful lifestyle.
They are organised.
To be fair, it must be acknowledged that not all cosplayers are super-organised. Cosplayers will often speak of the “pre-con rush” that precedes the debut of a new costume, where they are far behind their deadlines and have to work into wee hours of the morning finishing their stuff. However, that too shows a level of organisation that is unparallelled in many other hobbies.
To make a cosplay, one needs to first gather reference images and stills from the source media. Gathering those, one then has to plan out all the pieces of the outfits and source materials. Costumes next need to be built individually, using a variety of skills and tools. Items that cannot be built must be bought or otherwise obtained, adding another layer of complexity.
Finally, once all the items are finished, they have to be pieced together into the full costume, which includes styling a wig or hairdo, applying makeup, and making sure that all aspects of the costume look proper.
They are sociable.
With all kinds of social media available to the specific cosplay scene, including Facebook groups, Cosplay.com’s forums, Cosplay Archive, and even Cosplay Amino, even people who haven’t got cosplay friends nearby can immerse themselves in the community. Many colleges have anime clubs and cosplay groups. There are meetups in basically every major city. And if nothing else presents itself, there are always conventions.
Some people might think that going alone to a convention and cosplaying is an example of the non-social nature of the art form, but that’s the furthest thing possible from the truth. When you go to a convention alone, it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, hang out with other skilled and passionate cosplayers, and expand your social circle infinitely. With a little courage, presto! A new group of friends. This goes the opposite direction, too–cosplayers who attend conventions in groups tend to be warm and welcoming to those who approach them.
They are good people.
Every community has outliers–the people who body shame others, the elitists who will not socialise with other, “lower quality” cosplayers, the people who go to conventions looking only for pictures of scantily-clad con-goers.
It must be made clear, however, that these people are not the epoch of cosplay, nor are they even close to a majority. Cosplayers tend to be polite, cordial people who look out for others and enjoy being with people who share their interests. Far greater is the number of “Your costume looks amazing!” cosplayers than “You should stop cosplaying” members.
At the end of the day, when you and your new friends go to the diner down the street and sit around eating pancakes and sharing stories until 3 in the morning, you’re experiencing the reality of the cosplay community. When you head back to school or work when the gathering is over, your life is enriched by your passion, your efforts, and your friends. When people come to bully you for your taste in media, your choice to dress like a super hero, or your spending time with others like you, it is they that need the support the most.
Invite them to come along to the next con with you–maybe you’ll make a new friend there, too.
Featured photo credit: Rocket Racoon and Groot Cosplayers by Gage Skidmore via farm9.staticflickr.com