Why is cosplay a subculture?

For those who don’t know; cosplay is HUGE now!

Back 10-15 years ago and beyond, cosplay was a very niche hobby. It was incredibly casual and big projects were very difficult to pull off. According to Yaya Han in her book, “Yaya Han’s World of Cosplay,” it was next to impossible to find high-quality materials to do the great cosplays we take for granted today.

Now we can say that cosplay is mainstream now, to the point where the hobby has its own subculture.

But why is that? How did cosplay become the way it is today?

Why is cosplay a subculture?

There are many reasons why cosplay is very popular these days, to the point where the hobby itself has become its own subculture. The community is well-known for being inclusive to others and a place for diversity. Cosplay by nature promotes creativity and artistic expressions, which attracts many people from different walks of life. Cosplay is very close to the Anime and geek culture, making it easy to enjoy multiple genres. Overall, cosplay is very inviting, which is why it’s a subculture today.

In this article, I’ll give you 9 reasons why is culture a subculture, through my experiences as a cosplayer and event organizer. Through my observations, I can clearly see why cosplay is such phenomenon and how it captivates people to be a part of this community. You may be surprised why it’s such an attractive and wonderful hobby.

Alright, let’s get into it!

1. A place for inclusivity

The Cosplay Community (for the most part) is great! Photo by frankie.cheng.photography.

While the Cosplay Community may have its gatekeepers, for the most part the community in general is very inclusive. We pride ourselves in being tolerant and appreciating diversity. I believe that inclusivity is a HUGE reason why cosplay is a subculture. The fact that people from different walks of life can get together to take part in a fun hobby; that alone breeds a large and (mostly) friendly community.

I know a lot of cosplayers that have come from a place of hardship. And cosplay is a hobby is where you can either forget about those things temporarily, or be surrounded by people who can relate to your experiences. You can make some really good friends in the Cosplay Community who can help you out mentally.

2. Mental health

In the Cosplay Community, I feel like mental health is very important and at the forefront of issues. Whether it’s using cosplay to have good mental health, or discussing topics related to mental health to other cosplayers, these things are of importance. They don’t get brushed aside or ignored; mental health is in the spotlight in cosplay. And that is why many people decide to join the cosplay subculture.

I talk more about cosplay and mental health in a separate article (click here to read).

3. Similar beliefs

As mentioned previously, the Cosplay Community is very inclusive (for the most part). And that in itself allows for people with similar beliefs to come together and help each other. We believe in similar causes and open to everyone!

4. The Weeb lifestyle

Cosplayers at Otakuthon
The Weeb lifestyle is real. 🙂

Let’s face it; a bunch of us in the Cosplay Community are Weebaoos (or Weeb for short). Not only does it show our interest in all things Anime, it’s pretty much a lifestyle! While there are a bunch of Anime clubs and other social groups to meet people who are into the same thing, where else can you find just as many people as in the Cosplay Community?

For me personally, I really love being surrounded by people who are into the same things as me! I love talking to people about Weeb things such as Genshin Impact or some classic Anime series. Being surrounded by Weebs is such a wonderful thing, and in my opinion, partly why cosplay has become its own subculture.

5. Flourishing creativity

Cosplay by nature is a creative hobby. You end up creating costumes that either looks similar to the original character, or you put your own creative twist to it. The fact that you have to sew, craft and use artistic things, that alone breeds creativity.

The creative nature of cosplay brings all sorts of people together! It’s great that we’re able to share our lovely costume creations together. Cosplay is also an artistic expression. Subcultures are formed when creative artists come together to make something special. Cosplay is no exception!

6. Embodiment of geek culture

Back then, cosplay wasn’t “cool.” But now it is!

Back in the day, I can tell you that being a geek was not mainstream or “cool.” In fact, you were sometimes made fun of for being a geek!

These days, geek culture is now mainstream. It’s now totally okay to binge watch Anime or play a long session of video games.

The cosplay subculture is an example of the embodiment of geek culture. While cosplay is mainstream now, there is still the need to feel like you belong to a group of people. And that is why we still have a cosplay subculture to this day.

7. Magical feelings

If you’ve been in the Cosplay Community for a while, or you’ve attended a bunch of conventions, then you’ll know that magical feeling you get when you experience cosplay for the first time.

I remember my first experience going to a cosplay convention at Anime North. It was such a magical feeling seeing people dressed up as some of my favorite video game characters! On top of that, when I had conversations with the attendees, they knew all the geeky jokes and terminology that I was used to. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it and wanted more.

And the rest is history.

Being part of the cosplay subculture, you get to experience the magical feeling of this community over and over! And that is why many people are into this subculture.

8. Japanese culture

A photo of the Akihabara district when I was in Tokyo, Japan. A lot of us cosplayers are naturally into Japanese media such as Anime and Japanese video games!

Historically speaking, cosplay originated in Japan. It is a bit murky when cosplay literally started, but most point to the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention taking place in 1984, where someone from Japan coined the term “cosplay” to describe the attendees that were dressing up as fictional characters.

Therefore, when anything cosplay-related is brought up, there is bound to be discussion regarding Japanese culture as well. Many people are into the culture of Japan, and cosplay is tied to that country. Much like being a Weeb, it’s easy to transition your love for Anime for cosplay as well. So you could say that the cosplay subculture is potentially a branch of people’s love for Japanese culture.

9. There is no other hobby like cosplay!

Cosplay is truly special. 🙂 Cosplayer: luckyelie3173.

Last but not least, I should say it simply: there is no hobby like cosplay.

What other hobby allows you to:

  • Dress up as fictional characters all-year round
  • Normalize geek culture and all things geeky
  • Express yourself artistically
  • Attend fun events (e.g. conventions, park events, cafe meetups)
  • Show love for your favorite characters
  • You gotta love this subculture!

Summary of why is cosplay a subculture

To summarize, here are the 9 reasons why cosplay is a subculture:

  1. A place for inclusivity
  2. Mental health
  3. Similar beliefs
  4. The Weeb lifestyle
  5. Flourishing creativity
  6. Embodiment of geek culture
  7. Magical feelings
  8. Japanese culture
  9. There is no hobby like cosplay

And there you have it; how cosplay became a subculture. 🙂 I hope you found this post enlightening.

Are you part of the cosplay subculture? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!