Last weekend I did some volunteer work at the Comic Con held at the convention centre, and was the first event I have been to where there was a prominent presence of cosplayers. So here we are.
The word cosplay is a shortening of the ‘costume play’ which is usually performed and even entered in competitions at events where fans gather. Through cosplay, fans live out an existing fictional character in a combination of costumes that they’ve made (or bought) and makeup, inspired by pop culture. These outfits and enactments are a physical manifestation of the fan’s immersion into the fictional worlds of their favourite anime, tv shows, games and movies.
Cosplay, being a global hobby, is quite popular in Japan and the U.S., and continues to become more popular around the world. International competitions aren’t uncommon, such as the annual World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya, in Japan.
Yet while cosplayers are primarily seen in fan conventions and competitions, cosplaying also involves a more casual element; with ‘hallway’ costumes that are worn without intent of competition. While costume design is often related back to professional prop and costume designers of theatre and film, cosplay illustrates this is not necessarily the case; it can be an amateur hobby and a lived experience.
In Dick Hebdige’s article Subcultures: The Meaning of Style, (1979) Hebdige defines subculture as a form of cultural resistance; defying the dominant ideology, and as a result, become perceived as drastic group (i.e. punk). The fandom that embodies cosplay has been understood as a subculture which only partially responds and subverts mainstream pop culture, due to the activities and appropriations they act out in their cosplay (Fiske, 1990). Therefore this subculture can also be compared as another, more accepted form of consumer behaviour (Jenkins, 1992). The comic con event I went to had many stalls of products related to a number of trends and topics which worked back into subculture, the celebrity guests there, comic book authors, illustrators, etc.
Fiske, J (1990), Understanding Popular Culture, 2nd ed., London and New York: Routledge.
Hebdige, D. (1979), Subculture: The Meaning of Style, London: Routledge
Jenkings, H (1992), Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York and London: Routledge.