If you have a favorite character, chances are there’s someone in the world who has found their artistic niche in becoming that character in real life. To me, cosplay is an underappreciated and often misunderstood art. Many people don’t even bother considering it an art. But people don’t realize that it’s not just wearing a costume—it’s taking something from the pages of a comic book or a tv screen and making it tangible—creating the costume and assuming the identity of someone else.
If you don’t understand the appeal of cosplaying and maybe just think it’s a hobby for nerds that’s completely useless, I have two things to say to you. One: you’re absolutely correct about the fact that we’re all huge nerds. Two: it has so much more value than you realize.
Speaking from experience, whatever you’re wearing also might just boost your confidence enough to make you forget about your own social anxiety for a while. Cosplaying is a form of escapism, but the good kind—it’s so easy to feel confident when assuming the identity of someone else, especially a favorite character that you admire and that means a lot to you. In addition to that, receiving compliments left and right for all the hard work you’ve put into looking your best as that character is its own kind of euphoria.
For most people including myself, cosplaying is so rewarding because of the feeling of acceptance and belonging within the community. Costumes become an invitation for easy conversation with people who share your interests; it’s a hobby that makes connecting with others so much easier than I ever thought possible. You can just look at a person and immediately find joy in knowing that you’re in love with the same story, and you get to share the celebration of characters that are meaningful to you. For some people it’s not about escaping at all, it’s about putting yourself out there for everyone to see, being yourself in a space where you finally feel comfortable enough to do that.
Adam Savage said something in a TED talk that I think sums up pretty well what I’m trying to say about the significance of cosplay to me. If you’re confused right now, yes, I do mean Adam Savage from Mythbusters. Believe it or not, he’s an avid cosplayer, famous for his “one day builds” of complex costumes that end up covering him entirely so that he can attend conventions and walk around without anyone knowing who he is. Anyway, I should get to the point. He said, “We are, all of us on that floor, injecting ourselves into a narrative that meant something to us and we’re making it our own. We are connecting with something important inside of us—and the costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other.”
Grace Guildener | ’19