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Cosplay – The Origins

Cosplay – The Origins


What is cosplay? 

Cosplay is many things to many people, a hobby, part of themselves or a form of performance art. Cosplay is an amalgamation of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’ with the actual term first penned in the mid 1980’s and is accredited to Nobuyuki Takahashi who wrote about the costumes and the people wearing them after visiting WorldCon. It is very young when compared with the other hobbies and communities it is typically associated with but nevertheless cosplaying has grown tremendously and blossomed into a fantastic culture of it’s own.

Now just because Cosplay is very new doesn’t mean that the notion of people wearing costumes is, if anything it’s very far from it! People have been dressing up for many centuries in one form or another, as spirits during rituals, portraying characters in plays and of course making yourself look as ghoulish as possible at Halloween. From America to  Africa the culture of wearing costumes is a shared one, while some wear it for fun, others wear them to remember their heritage and some even do for religious and ceremonial purposes.

Cosplaying at conventions has grown more and more popular since its  earlier days where only a few would participate but since then the art of cosplaying has expanded so rapidly all over the world that you can’t attend a convention these days without spotting cosplayers, in fact it’s harder to spot people not cosplaying than those in full costumes. Although the majority of cosplays tend to be centered around the characters from video games, anime and manga, cosplaying of superheroes from comics as well as characters from popular tv show characters is growing in popularity.

My first experience of seeing so many people cosplay and act like their characters will never leave me. Witnessing that freedom gave me the courage to actually wear underwear over my tights. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I would have cosplayed I probably would have giggled and said no but now I will jump at every single opportunity I get. Who wouldn’t want to be someone else for the day? Don a wig and run around not giving a flying toss about what people say? 

From the first time ‘cosplay’ was coined as a term it seemed to awaken a beast made of wigs, contacts and a plethora of costumes. Cosplay spread all around the world like wildfire to Canada, Russia, Brazil, Ireland and the list goes one, no convention can call itself with complete without cosplayers. Although the level of cosplay in Asian countries seems to be amazing with many regarding these countries as the pinnacle or height of cosplay talent there are cosplay stars from all over the world making their mark in the cosplay community. Some notable cosplayers would be Francesca Dani, Omi Gibson, TwinFools, R.D. Peoples and Jessica Ngiri are some on the rising stars in the world of cosplay. 

Cosplaying is relatively new but it has made an impact on con scenes all over the world but as popular as it is in Japan that was where it is believed to have originated. One of the earliest documented cosplays was documented in 1939 at the First World Sci-Fi Convention in New York. But if you don’t only think of cosplay as something to be done at conventions then the history of cosplay gets much more interesting. 

So our journey into the world of cosplay begins, as an enthusiast and cosplayer I’ll be looking at how the culture has changed since the 80’s and what sort of subcultures have grown within this global costume community.