The History Of Cosplay From The Past To Modern Day

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Today, cosplay is considered cool and fun. Many Instagram influencers are cosplayers, and they attract attention specifically because of their hobbies. It; ‘s popular today to seek all sorts of characters to impersonate. 

You can opt for something more mainstream like the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Game of Thrones. Or you can consider games, like Overwatch or Helldivers 2 cosplay. However, it wasn’t always so popular. This article explores the origins of cosplay and when this hobby became mainstream.

The Origins

Unsurprisingly, the origins of cosplay can be traced to Japan — this country always creates something unique that starts trending in the future. It originated in the 1970s, coined by a Japanese reporter, Nov Takahashi, who noticed fans dressing as characters from sci-fi and fantasy movies at a Worldcon event in Los Angeles. This hobby quickly gained popularity in its home country, especially among anime, manga, and video games fans.

Some historians suggest that cosplay originated sooner. They claim it was inspired by Japanese theater, specifically kabuki, that used change of costumes, makeup, and performances. 

The similarities in the detailed costumes, makeup, and performances of kabuki and cosplay indicate a cultural connection between them. In Japanese culture, it has been a long-standing tradition to dress up as characters from stories or plays.

As mentioned, Japan creates trends, and then they spread worldwide. The popularity of cosplay started to rise in the United States in the 1980s, aligning with the increasing impact of anime and manga in Western society. In the early days, cosplay events in the US were cozy gatherings where fans shared their love for Japanese pop culture, frequently taking place in small venues or hotel rooms.

Anime and cosplay conventions in the States appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One of these early events was the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Comics Convention in San Diego, California, in 1970. While not solely dedicated to anime or cosplay, it included programs related to Japanese pop culture, such as a panel on Japanese animation.

In 1981, New York City held the inaugural anime-specific convention in the States, named “AnimeCon,” arranged by the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization.

The Rise Of Cosplay Popularity 

It was in the 90s when cosplay started to be more generally accepted and mainstream, and not something that people considered “nerdy.” Although, in the 90s this word definitely didn’t have the positive connotation that it has today. Nevertheless, in the 90s, conventions became more regular.

These weren’t the first events for fans of different characters, as the first one took place in 1984, at the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. The main reason why the 90s were significant was because of the attention.

The media attention towards cosplay surged, making it a popular topic on internet forums and message boards. As a result, many conventions started to focus more on cosplay activities.

In the 2000s, cosplay became a hot and trending topic in mainstream culture. Television shows and movies began featuring cosplayers, catapulting the hobby into broader public awareness. Social media platforms also played an important role, albeit not immediately, as cosplay became popular even before networks gained mainstream attention.

Cosplay itself evolved during this time, with fans delving into more futuristic, complex, and creative costume designs. Additionally, the fashion industry recognized this trend, leading designers to create clothing and accessories inspired by cosplay aesthetics.

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