Cosplay Rules – should you follow them or break them? Well, Senpai is here today to debunk and clarify some of these so-called cosplay rules!
In this post, we will discuss 15 cosplay rules and see if they’re actually true or false. This article will help you with regards to cosplaying and what’s considered proper etiquette, so you don’t have to go through awkward moments not knowing any better.
I myself have been cosplaying and running events for over 10 years while knowing a bunch of cosplayers in the community that have been around for just as long. So I feel I can make an adequate observation in which cosplay rules are right, and which ones are just bullshit!
Without further ado, let’s take a look of some of these cosplay rules:
1. “You can cosplay whoever you want!”
Wait! I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not pigeonholing you and saying you can only cosplay if you’re a certain race or body type (more on that later). This is more about cosplaying whoever you want…with some exceptions.
The truth is that you really cannot cosplay whoever you want. Well you can, but not without potentially pissing off or offending people. In other words, offensive cosplays are generally not allowed. This includes doing cosplays such as changing your skin color or cosplaying someone that’s disrespectful.
The saying, “You can cosplay whoever you want!” does come from a good place though. But you need to be careful, as some cosplays can be offensive to people. For example, it’s disrespectful to darken your skin for a cosplay, so don’t do that. Also, stay away from characters that perpetuate racial stereotypes. This is why you cannot cosplay whoever you want, and why this cosplay rule is FALSE.
2. “You have to be skinny in order to cosplay.” (Big cosplay rule misconception)
I feel like a lot of beginners and newcomers to cosplay believe cosplaying = have to be skinny first. Simply because we’re constantly bombarded with beautiful, skinny cosplay models all the time!
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with being a slim cosplayer and there are wonderful cosplayers that fit this category. But cosplayers come from a variety of different backgrounds and sizes, and you don’t have to be one specific body type in order to dress up. Whether you’re plus size or the opposite of a supermodel, don’t let that stop you from cosplaying.
Put it simply…ANYONE can cosplay.
3. “Cosplay is not consent.” (One of the most important cosplay rules)
This is one of the most important rules in the cosplay world. Just because someone is cosplaying, does not mean you can treat them differently. So if someone is doing a bikini cosplay, it doesn’t mean you can snap photos of them without asking for permission…or catcall them or start touching them. If someone is cosplaying with an elaborate outfit with an amazing prop, it doesn’t mean you can start touching their costume and playing with their prop weapon. For example, someone broke my Marth Falchion sword at a convention because they decided to swing the sword around without asking me…not cool.
Cosplay is not consent is a pretty big topic, so check out this article to learn more about it. But to simplify things, when it comes to interacting with a cosplayer…always ask for permission first.
4. “If a cosplayer is sitting down and eating/drinking, don’t ask for a photo.”
Most cosplayers are more than happy to pose for a photo for you! Nothing feels more fulfilling for a cosplayer than for someone to ask for their photo; it validates their costume and/or crafting work.
However, there are times where you should NOT ask for a cosplayer’s photo (e.g. during a photoshoot, while they’re changing out of costume). You should not ask while they’re sitting down and eating food. Bothering them during this time is not a good idea. Not only that, cosplayers generally don’t want to pose with food in their mouths, lipstick smeared everywhere and wigs are off. It wouldn’t make for a flatting picture anyway.
So wait until the cosplayer is back on the convention floor to take their photo.
5. “Your cosplay has to be accurate, so you can’t cosplay this character if you’re White/Black/Brown/Asian/Mixed.” (Fake cosplay rule that’s not true)
No way at all is this true!
Is it more difficult for certain ethnicity to cosplay? Definitely, and that’s been a big issue in the cosplay world for a while. But does that mean you’re not allowed to cosplay a certain character if you’re not the same background as that character? Of course not!
No matter what race or ethnicity you are, you have the freedom to cosplay a variety of characters. Again, going back to point #1, you have to be careful to not cosplay something offensive. But other than that, you have countless options.
6. “It’s not a good idea to compliment a cosplayer by making fun of another cosplayer.” (Relatively unknown but important cosplay rules)
“Your Elsa cosplay is sooooo much nicer than that other girl’s Elsa cosplay!”
“Your Bulma cosplay looks better on you cause you’re skinnier.”
“Sword Art cosplayers usually look terrible, but you’re the exception.”
If you’re going to complement a cosplayer, don’t do so at the expense of others. Because you never know who you end up hurting when you insult others. For example, maybe that other Elsa cosplayer is her best friend. Or that person you said is skinny…used to not be skinny and very self-conscious of their weight.
A lot of normies do this and while I’m sure they have good intentions, this doesn’t actually compliment anyone.
So the next time you want to give praise to a cosplayer, just skip the need to bring others down at the same time.
7. “If you’re going to cosplay a character, you have to know the character and the fandom.” (one of many misconceived cosplay rules)
This one is controversial; because I’m sure some of you feel you need to know the character you’re cosplaying. But I don’t believe it’s true.
For instance, I’ve cosplayed Sasuke from Naruto but I haven’t watched all 10,000 episodes of Shippuden to know everything about Sasuke. On the flip side, I’ve asked for photos of cosplayers and started talking about the character they’re cosplaying…only to get a blank stare from them. It’s pretty obvious that they have no idea about the character they’re cosplaying…and that’s okay. You do you.
Some people cosplay certain characters because they’re popular, while others want to cash in on that cosplay hype. Everyone has their own reasons for cosplaying a certain character, and being a hardcore fan of the series may not be one of them. It’s okay, you don’t have to be.
8. “You have to cosplay someone sexy and show some skin in order to be a popular cosplayer.”
Sexy cosplay will for sure get more attention and probably more likes. But you can still be a wonderful cosplayer with many followers/likes without having to do sexy cosplays. There’s nothing wrong with doing sexy cosplays, if that’s what you enjoy then go for it! Just know that if you don’t feel comfortable showing some skin, you don’t have to.
9. “Don’t cosplay in public or outside of the convention grounds.” (one of the debatable cosplay rules)
Answer: TRUE (to a certain extent)
This one is a bit confusing, so let me explain.
Unless you’re in the vicinity of a very large convention with several cosplayers out and about (e.g. 2-3 blocks away), I do NOT recommend walking around cosplaying in public. This is for your own safety; if you’re in an area where people have no idea that there’s a convention going on (e.g. public transit), you may draw unwanted attention to yourself. There’s no hard cosplay rule saying you can’t have your costume on in public, but I personally don’t recommend it.
While in the Western world, you might be able to get away with cosplaying in public/outside of the con, in other parts of the world cosplaying in public can be considered a big no-no. When I interviewed Pikachan Cosplay from Egypt, she mentioned how she has to be careful when cosplaying in public. Otherwise, if something were to happen, society in that part of the world would blame her instead.
My other friend from Taiwan mentioned that cosplaying in public is considered rude. And being generally disruptive with big costumes is disrespectful.
While it’s true that the experiences of these two are not universal, I still recommend avoiding cosplaying in public unless you’re very close to the event.
10. “Don’t act stupid at a convention.”
Going to a cosplay convention and dressing up as your favorite character can definitely bring out the inner kid inside you. And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean you should act immature and stupid at a convention! Doing stuff like yelling on top of your lungs or being inconsiderate to others is totally not appreciated. Cons can be a stressful place and the last thing your fellow attendees and staff/volunteers want is you acting childish.
So have fun like a kid, but act like an adult. This also includes con after hours, when you have some alcohol in your system. Have fun but be respectful. 😉
11. “You must always ask a cosplayer their permission before taking a photo of them.”
Answer: True…for the most part
In general, you should always ask for permission to take a photo of a cosplayer first. As mentioned before, most cosplayers are more than happy to pose for you. And taking candid photos is considered a no-no.
But the reason why I say “for the most part” is because there are times where it’s impractical to ask for permission all the time. Some of these situations include:
- When a cosplayer is on stage during a Masquerade/Cosplay Contest. If you’re taking part in the contest and going up on stage, it’s reasonable to expect that attendees sitting and watching will take pictures of you while you’re up there.
- During a rave, a convention photographer gets on stage to take a photo of the crowd dancing. I’d say it would be unreasonable to stop the music and ask everyone in the crowd for their permission to be in the photo.
- When you want a general photo of the convention grounds, is it reasonable to ask the hundreds of people in front of you for their permission?
I have an entire article regarding photo consent at conventions.
But to sum up what I talk about: as an attendee or photographer at a cosplay convention, be courteous and ask for permission before snapping photos of a cosplayer. As a cosplayer, with so many people at a convention, there might be times where you’re in a photo without you knowing, but that’s to be expected when you’re at a large, public event.
Asking for permission to take a photo – a cosplay rule you should follow if possible? Yes. But it’s also pretty much impossible to enforce in every situation during a cosplay convention.
12. “Only women can cosplay and cosplay well.” (Fake cosplay rules!
This one I got from one of my IG followers and it’s an interesting one that’s definitely false. Again, I say we get bombarded with so many beautiful female cosplayers, that we may forget that are also plenty of other great cosplayers who don’t fit this category. There are so many awesome cosplayers that are not female or identify as a female.
13. “You can’t cosplay that character because I’m cosplaying them.”
If someone tells you that you can’t cosplay a character because they don’t you want copying them…they’re completely wrong. The only exception is if you guys are doing a group cosplay and you’re choosing which characters from the group you want to do.
But just because your friend cosplayed someone you like, doesn’t mean you can’t do the same character as well! If anything, having a character you both like is great in terms of cosplay budgeting. You can offer to buy or borrow the costume from your friend when they’re finished with it, saving you BOTH a lot of money!
14. “Low budget/casual/closet cosplays can look just as fabulous as an expensive cosplay.”
As I mention in my closet cosplay ideas post, you can look amazing in a low-budget cosplay and on the flip side, look like trash in an expensive one! There are a lot of factors to looking good in a cosplay than just money, such as: using the right material, the craft and design, makeup and skin care, props and accessories, your photo posing skills, etc. All these things play a role as well.
So if you’re like many cosplayers who are strapped for cash, you don’t have to break your wallet to look good in a cosplay. Consider doing closet cosplays. Or going on budget-friendly cosplay stores such as Taobao.
Last but not least…
15. “Cosplaying is supposed to be fun.” (The most important cosplay rule of them all!)
It’s not cosplaying if it ain’t fun. Nuff’ said.
BONUS: Cosplay Rules that get broken all the time
Here are some other cosplay rules that are all true, but get BROKEN all the time due to various reasons…
“Don’t take photos in the dealer’s room”
Answer: True (but not very enforceable)
Taking photos in the dealer’s room is generally not the best place. It blocks the walkways for other attendees. And photos taken inside the dealer’s room generally don’t look great. But hey, sometimes you see an amazing cosplayer while shopping for Weeb products. You just gotta ask for a photo!
“Don’t exceed your hotel room capacity”
Answer: True but it happens all the time
Cosplayers are broke and hotels are expensive, so that hotel room that’s meant for 4 people is gonna have more like 8-9 people in it.
“Lobbyconning is bad”
Answer: True but it’s part of the convention experience
I wrote an article about the ethics of lobbyconning a while back! While it’s preferable to pay for a convention to support it financially, lobbyconning is to be expected. There are bigger problems that con organizers deal with…like badge swapping.
“Take a shower and wear deodorant”
Con funk is a real thing at conventions. Hopefully when conventions return, there will be great emphasis on hygiene. During a con, remember to follow the 6-2-1 rule: (at least) 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals and 1 shower PER DAY.
Here are 15 Cosplay Rules and whether they’re true or false:
- “You can cosplay whoever you want!” FALSE
- “You have to be skinny in order to cosplay.” FALSE
- “Cosplay is not consent.” TRUE
- “If a cosplayer is sitting down and eating/drinking, don’t ask for a photo.” TRUE
- “Your cosplay has to be accurate, so you can’t cosplay this character if you’re White/Black/Brown/Asian/Mixed.” FALSE
- “It’s not a good idea to compliment a cosplayer by making fun of another cosplayer.” TRUE
- “If you’re going to cosplay a character, you have to know the character and the fandom.” FALSE
- “You have to cosplay someone sexy/show some skin in order to be a popular cosplayer.” FALSE
- “Don’t cosplay in public or outside of the convention grounds.” TRUE
- “Don’t act stupid at a convention.” TRUE
- “You must always ask a cosplayer their permission before taking a photo of them.” TRUE
- “Only women can cosplay and cosplay well.” FALSE
- “You can’t cosplay that character because I’m cosplaying them.” FALSE
- “Low budget/casual/closet cosplays can look just as fabulous as an expensive cosplay.” TRUE
- “Cosplaying is supposed to be fun.” TRUE
And there you have it; 15 cosplay rules debunked for you! I hope this post helps you with cosplay and conventions. Now you no longer have to worry about doing something wrong, because now you know all the cosplay rules in and out!
Do you agree with my views on the cosplay rules? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below!