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Cosplay History To Now: Understanding Its Evolution

Depending on which camp you may be in, cosplay is either a part time hobby or a way of life. In today’s world, cosplay is more popular than ever. Even the most unsuspecting of people have at least heard of it.

In mainstream world, cosplay is people putting on costumes. But in cosplay world, cosplay serves as an outlet, expression, and art.

Mainstream and cosplay are merging to some degree, mostly due to celebrities participating in the fun as well as major cosplay events going down all over the world. But we aren’t quite there yet.

For now, most people think of cosplay as a year-round halloween with a super hero flare to it. And for most, cosplay is a relatively new gig.

Neither are true, of course.

So let’s explore the history of cosplay and get to the root of what it really means to participate.

Cosplay’s History

By August Olson – the Tacoma Times, May 24, 1912 (), Public Domain, Link

The origins of cosplay begin in the 1930s. However, it’s beginnings are a far different composite than what we have today. Back then, “costuming,” as it was termed, was merely dressing up. You needn’t not be a character. But when Forrest J. Ackerman attended an early science fiction convention, he dressed up in a costume that led to what is known today as masquerade balls.

But it was really Japan’s influence that set the stage for what cosplay is today.

Japanese college students, at the influence of Urusei Yatsura manga series and a few other television shows, began to mimic their favorite characters at local conventions. It was an idea that was conceptualized from the American masquerade, but the Japanese refined it into a much closer model of cosplay that we know today.

By the1980s, cosplay was a verifiable gig. It was no longer ‘dress up,’ it was cosplaying. And today, cosplay is widely accepted and understood as a fringe masquerade that centers around anime and superhero characters (and villains, yes villains).

So why is cosplay continuing to experience popularity and growth? Why is cosplay dating suddenly a popular vessel for fresh romance?

Cosplay’s Escapism, Pursuit of Strength

cosplayer

By sleyatxOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

People love to dress up. That’s why Halloween is so popular all over the world. When people dress up, they feel a sense of strength. They participate in a temporary escape from daily life.

Cosplay, as an art, formalizes this perspective. It puts a bow on feeling empowered and releasing your soul from the daily pressure of work and life.

To cosplay is to become something that you are inspired by. At least, that’s the end game. What starts as an idea, ends in empowerment and escape.

However, let’s not take a pass on the importance of everything else that happens between those two points.

Once the idea is born, the costume must be created. Sure, a newbie cosplayer might fully buy a costume; however, seasoned cosplayers understand that costume customizations take the experience to the next level.

The subculture learns to knit and hem. Ancient trades that most have thrown out as relic practices are suddenly a core competency of modern cosplay. The subculture tightly knits (yes, pun alert) an ambitious, energetic, intimate community of people. When community takes shape, a movement can thrive. That’s how cosplay has survived and thrived for so many decades. It’s community is woven with unbreakable fibers.

What starts out as fun develops into a dedicated lifestyle.

Celebrity Influence

Celebrities have served to increase awareness and popularity of cosplay for the past few years. Some of this can be credited to the massive surge in superhero flicks that rocket to blockbuster status in less time than it takes to decide what’s for dinner. Celebrities realize that cosplaying those characters at conventions can help advertise the movie to fans.

But celebrities and cosplay aren’t always a selfish endeavor. Sometimes, like was the case of T-Pain dressing as Leroy Smith, a character in his favorite video game, celebrities just enjoy the fun like anyone else.

Their influence has helped to mainstream cosplay like never before. Because celebrities have heavy social reach, whenever they Tweet or otherwise Instagram their cosplaying, it opens the masses up to what cosplay really is as an art. It evolves cosplay from fascination to acceptance.

The Troubles…

Cosplay isn’t unique in the sense that it avoids issues. To cosplay is to find the dramas just like you would in any other group. When people communicate and gather, they also annoy and irritate one another.

But there are ways to lessen the blows.

Be Real

Learning to knit will save you over and over. If you cosplay in a way that it appears you just tossed together an Amazon ordered costume, you won’t be taken serious. Those who thrive are the ones who pay attention to the details. That’s how you become ‘legit,’ as the cool kids say.

You can order a costume, but you’ll need to modify it in a way that upholds the authenticity of the character you’re playing. People at cosplay conventions are sure to notice your hyper-focused attention to subtle character details.

Rest assured, you gain respect through the work you put into your cosplay costume.

Keep Your Head High

It might feel weird to walk out of the house that first time dressed as a superhero. Your gait might wobble a little more than usual. You’re head and eyes might sink. That’s because you’ll feel a little insecure.

That’s a normal first step.

But as things progress, you should feel an infusion of confidence. I mean, that’s the entire point of cosplay, right? If you aren’t feeling the good high head vibes, you need to stir them up in short order. If you’re feeling the awkward jitters, your cosplay game will be off and others will indeed take notice.

Avoid The Judgey Dramas

Just like any group, the people that build it up can also break it down. Unfortunately, some people gravitate towards judgey dramas. So expect some people to judge you over your costume no matter how much work you put into it.

First, don’t participate in a judgey environment of gossip hounds if you don’t appreciate such negative energies being applied to yourself. Second, don’t worry about what the hens think. You’re doing this for you, not for acceptance.

The Wrap

Cosplay is centuries old, which certainly points to its continued growth as more than sustainable. As cosplay thrives, more and more celebrities help usher it into the mainstream. Cosplay is profitable for influencers and costume makers, although most people do it because they feel a sense of empowerment and acceptance.