I hear the question all the time. Why do I cosplay? Why does anyone take the time and money to run around in silly costumes? Why is it so important?
To the outside observer, sure, it sounds rather silly. It sounds like a bunch of people who never quite grew up living in a little fantasy bubble. But to so many people, myself included, cosplay is so much more than just throwing on a costume and playing dress up. For every time I’ve heard someone ask “why cosplay?”, I’ve heard someone else say “cosplay saved my life”.
Cosplay is a form of self expression. We see these characters all around us, in books, games, and movies, and we see a part of ourselves, or something we want to be. I have characters in my repertoire whose fictional struggles remind me of something from my own life, and that gives me strength to face my own challenges. It’s nice to imagine someone you look up to, real or imaginary, giving you the thumbs up and saying, “Look at you! You got this!”
Cosplay builds self confidence. I’ve met so many people at conventions, a lot of them saying they wished they were brave enough to cosplay, but they’re too shy or scared. But the thing is, it has a spiraling effect. Your first cosplay can be made up of thrift store clothes and a cheap Halloween store wig, and that’s fine. The first time you step out onto a convention floor to hear someone shout “Oh my gosh, you’re ________! You look amazing! I love you!”, there’s nothing like that in the world. Ad that makes you feel pretty damn good about yourself.
Cosplay is a social thing. Again, I’ve met a lot of people at cons. Some of them have become extremely close friends, and in fact, my whole group of friends from high school cosplays together. It’s nice to meet other nerds, and to know you’re not the odd one out. You may be odd, but you definitely aren’t alone 😛 Unless you’ve experienced it, the social side of cosplay can seem a little weird. You can run up to a complete stranger, and after a salute or a few lines of a theme song, you’re chatting like you’ve been friends since kindergarten.
Funny story time: one of my friends, who usually doesn’t accompany me at cons, hung out with me at Anime Expo once. I admit I’m rather shy a lot of the time, but cons and seeing my cosplay friends is a little bit different. So many people came up to say hi to me that my friend looked at me, asking “how do you know this many people? You never talk to anyone”. And to be honest, I don’t really know; it just sort of happened!
Long story short (too late, I know), cosplay is such an important thing, especially to me. It’s had a tremendous effect on my life and so many others I know; I don’t know where I would be without it.