Is it okay to cosplay in public?
If you’re new to cosplay, you might be wondering if it’s socially acceptable to wear your costume out in public. Will people look at you funny? Should you hide your cosplay in front of “normies?” It’s definitely a question that comes up pretty often and I’m here to answer it for you.
Is it okay to cosplay in public?
There is generally no rule saying you cannot cosplay in public, so if you wanted to, you definition can. But depending on where you are, it may not be appropriate or wise to cosplay in public and draw unwanted attention to yourself.
So in this post, I’ll go through various scenarios when it’s okay to cosplay in public and when it’s better to keep your cosplay out of the public eye. By the end of this post, you can make your own judgment on whether or not you want to cosplay in public or not.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
WHY do you want to cosplay in public?
I think this question is truly underrated. While many ask whether is it okay to cosplay in public, we should ask why you want to in the first place? In most places, unless there’s a cosplay convention taking place, it’s considered unusual to wear cosplay clothing outside on the street. So what is your purpose for wearing cosplay? Is it to take cosplay photos? If so, then there are ways to do this appropriately without drawing unwanted attention.
If you just wanted to wear cosplay just for the heck of it, then you definitely can. But you may get attention you do not want, and unfortunately that’s just how it goes with cosplay, even at conventions. Remember that many people in society are unaware of the cosplay fandom, so for them, seeing a cosplay in-person will be unique to them. No one has the right to harass or bother you of course. But if they’re puzzled or look at you funny, it’s likely because they’re not used to seeing cosplay in real life!
If you want to cosplay to do a private photoshoot
If the reason why you want to cosplay in public is because you want to take some cosplay photos outside, then that’s a totally different story. Cosplaying in public and feeling safe or comfortable don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
If you need to travel to a convention while wearing cosplay
The easiest thing you can is just wear your regular clothing to/from the photoshoot location, and then change into your cosplay when you reach your location. When you’re done the photoshoot, just change back into your regular clothing.
I put my costumes in a bag, or use my coat to cover up. And I place my wig in a handbag with a small mannequin head or tall water bottle to hold the wig together.
Depending where you live, you could just get away with wearing a cosplay in public and no one will bat an eye or bother you.
But where I live, too many weirdos that would harass me. So that’s why I choose to conceal my cosplay in public when I schedule a photoshoot outdoors.
Again, it’s up to you if you feel comfortable wearing a cosplay in public. But if you want to be on the safe side and not draw unwanted attention, then you can conceal your cosplay or change into it when you get to your photoshoot location.
If you cannot conceal your cosplay in public
Let’s say you have an elaborate cosplay that’s impossible to conceal or put inside a bag. Like a fancy Hatsune Miku dress. It’ll likely be hard to cover that up in public. Then I would suggest asking a friend or family member to drive you to the photoshoot location spot. Or even better, if you have your own wheels, you can drive yourself there! It would probably be a lot better than having to wear it around a bus or a train.
Worst case scenario, you can always call a taxi/Lyft/Uber to get there.
What is it like to cosplay in public?
If you’re wondering what it’s like to cosplay in public, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You can have some fun and friendly interactions and on the flip side, you can have some downright scary experiences.
On one hand, cosplaying in public can totally be fun! Having a colored wig and dressing up as a fictional character can get you a lot of attention. When some people look at you, they will smile back, especially if you dress up as someone they like.
You might even have a friendly conversation with someone. They’ll ask what’s the occasion, complement your cosplay or even ask for a photo! It can be pretty cool actually.
But on the other hand, cosplaying in public may get you some negative reactions. I have friends who have cosplayed in public and were made fun of out loud, and being called derogatory things at them. In one extreme circumstance, a couple of cosplayers in my group were being harassed and stalked by these two guys for cosplaying in public. By the way, if this ever happens to you, get help immediately and call the authorities.
So while I’d like to say that cosplaying in public is totally cool and you’ll be fine, but unfortunately I cannot. Again, it’s up to you on your comfort level whether you want to or not. But if you want to avoid the headache, hassles or even potential negative reactions of cosplaying in public, then I would recommend concealing your cosplay until you reach your destination.
If you want to know how to properly pack for a cosplay convention, click here to read my full guide about it!
It’s much easier to cosplay in public during a convention weekend
With those things being said, it is much easier to be cosplaying in public when there’s a large convention happening in the area. Take Fan Expo in Toronto for example. During Fan Expo weekend, there are thousands of cosplayers at the convention in Toronto, with many of them wandering around the downtown core throughout the weekend. So the public generally knows there’s a “costume event” happening, therefore it becomes more normalized during that time to cosplay in public.
So if you wanted to cosplay in public and not be the center of attention, you’ll find to have an easier time when a big convention is happening in the area.
And there you have it; a rundown on whether if it’s okay to cosplay in public.
Now you know what it’s like to do so, and the decision is yours whether you want to or not. If you do, you know what to do to keep yourself and your friends safe and comfortable. But if not, then you know the alternatives on what you can do instead. If you have any other questions regarding whether to cosplay in public, let me know in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!
Yeah I usually do #3, that seems like the safer route. Though I’m not the type to cosplay at whim in public, and only do it in a convention setting.