How Cosplay Began
A portmanteau of the words “costume” and “play”, cosplay is a kind of performance art where participants, both amateur and professional, accurately portray and represent characters from comics, anime, or other forms of media, by wearing their trademark costumes and accessories. But how did cosplaying actually start? Where did this practice originate?
A Brief History of Cosplay
Contrary to popular perception, cosplaying did not start in Japan. In fact, it began in North America in the 1930s where it was initially called “costuming”. Originally, mimicking a character’s appearance was not a requirement. Participants just needed to dress accordingly for the event.
That was exactly what Forrest J. Ackerman did when he attended a sci-fi convention in his future-inspired costume. In the years that followed, wearing costumes to conventions became the norm, and awarding a lucky participant with a “Best Costume Award” was considered an accomplishment.
It was in 1984 that the word “cosplay” was first established. Nobuyuki Takahashi, a Japanese reporter, was the one who coined the term after he attended the Worldcon held in Los Angeles. He thought the term “masquerade” was “too-old-fashioned” and so he used the word cosplay when he described the idea to his Japanese audience.
In Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam, a television series, and Urusei Yatsura, a manga series, were what initially ignited the movement in the country. Taking inspiration from the North American masquerade, Japanese college students dressed up as their favorite characters from the said series and re-enacted their favorite scenes when they attended conventions.
Today, the art of cosplaying has become widespread globally and it has established its own subculture. During conventions in North America, people have become more and more familiar with cosplaying. Some may just do it as a hobby, but to others, it is already their lifestyle.
The concepts and inspirations of cosplaying today are no longer limited to just anime characters or sci-fi, but it has branched out to other categories as well, such as comic superheroes and other fictional books, movies, video games, cartoon characters, and many more. Some cosplayers have even cosplayed characters of their own creation.
In Japan, cosplaying plays a big role in their pop culture, especially in the Harajuku and the Shibuya districts. Cosplaying is done on a daily basis in these areas that it is normal to see people stand out among the local civilians with their unique costumes.
Cosplay participants within this subculture all have established a community where they can unite, have freedom, and showcase their skills and talents through dressing up as their favorite characters. Through conventions, cosplayers also enjoy seeing and interacting with others and sharing their enthusiasm and their passion for cosplaying. These events are not just for cosplayers alone as onlookers also get excited to see their favorite characters come to life.
Participants join cosplay conventions for many different reasons. But for whatever the reason behind each participant’s cosplaying, the art has become universally popular and people all over the world have adapted and acknowledged it.
Interested in beginning cosplay but don’t know where to start? Take a look at our guide on how to cosplay!