Early Years of Cosplay

 ( source : http://ow.ly/eILIt  / A-kon 2004 )

I tend to spend a lot of time digging around on the internet and I came across this list about the olden days cosplay. Now, I’m afraid I wasn’t around in the early years.
My first con was A-kon in the 1990s but I disappear from cons until 2008 when I attended Anime Expo. Only reason I did was AX moved to downtown Los Angeles and I live about 15 minutes away. I had no excuses NOT to attend.

Anyways, here’s the list :

– People using wigs were a rarity
– Ignoring your body type for character selection was a common practice
– Kodak disposable cameras were commonplace
– People with digital cameras were a rarity
– Getting a photo shoot at the con was something only really good cosplayers did
– You got comments on cosplay.com
Anime had yellow subtitles

– Showing up in costume was more important than having the absolute best
Anime screenshots were the only reference images you had to use
– For costumes you had to make them from scratch or raid your closet
– Shitty hallway photos of yourself was the norm

 Best I can guess, the list probably talks about the time either late 90s or early 2000s. A few nights ago, I posted it to my Facebook page a few days ago. Some of the comments after the jump ….

There were a number of comments made but one that really struck out was WindoftheStars comment.

I remember a lot of this and I don’t even consider myself a veteran cosplayer (started in 2004.) I think the biggest difference between now
and then is the vibe and maybe even the degree motivation as to why peopled cosplayed. It felt like back t
people cosplayed as their form of “fanart”. As sort of a banner saying, “Hey I like this anime/game/ect.! If you like it too let’s be friends because we have this fandom in common.” It wasn’t about how good your costume was, it just mattered that you loved that series/character enough to dress up as it. And when you saw a person dressed as your favorite character, it didn’t matter what they looked like (wig, no wig, overweight, skinny, male, female, good costume or bad
costume, it was just enough for you to know that, “Hey this person loves this character just as much as I do and that’s pretty rad.” Sadly, getting that vibe these days is sooooo rare. It’s become more about the glamor of art of costuming, not necessarily about love of the fandom. While I don’t think this shift is 100% bad, I do think it can be taken too far at times. I enjoy some healthy competition, and I always strive to be the best that I can personally can be, but it’s always nice to get nostalgic and remember “your roots” so to speak. 

A form of fan art is probably a good description of cosplay back then.  Although I wasn’t around in the early 2000s at cons, I do speak to a lot of cosplayers and heard some of same thoughts over and over. I’ve included below other comments of interest

don’t know whether to feel proud of being able to remember these days, or if i should start investing in a walker because i feel old now…  –
Abra Gauthier

I started cosplaying in that time in 2003, then went on hiatus for 6 years. Things are a lot better now. Believe me. – Johnny N’ Junkers

It sounds like things should go back to that so people don’t have to strive for perfection all the time – Jasmine Lillian Reed ( this comment had 49 likes)

don’t think body type should matter honestly. I think if you want to cosplay a character then you should do it, no matter what. It’s about having fun, not about being the best. If you try to be perfect you will always fail because perfection is impos
We all go to cons because we love anime, video games, etc, and it’s a place where we should all accept eachother and just have as much fun as humanly possible for a few days               –
Katherine Mahn

don’t think any of this really matters. Cosplay is about showing up with tons of others that share interest in anime, game, or certain cultures and appreciating them together. People just need to stop looking back wishing it were the same, and changing with the times. It’s
got so big, look how many people there are to meet and share an experience with!
– Chris Hallen

Oh, Ed Martinez was nice enough to link me to his A-kon 2004 photos which he took using a Sony DV cam. I think my phone has more megapixel than that Handycam 8 years ago !

Henry Wong, a cosplay photographer in Canada posted on his own page :

was between around 2005 & 2008 that many things started to change or appear: good-quality colored (non-party) wigs, lowering of prices & diversification of digital cameras, friends doing cosplay photoshoots among themselves (giving rise to cosplay photographers &
“cosplaying photographers”), more people using artbooks & printed/scanned material as references for making their costumes, costumers starting to take costume/prop/wig commissions, etc.

a few years later we saw this: more high-quality wig merchants offering
a wider choice of wigs (some of which were pre-styled to the characters
you wanted to cosplay), lowering of prices of dSLR cameras allowing more people to take higher-quality photos (given the right training/practice to use them appropriately), cosplay photographers doing private shoots with both random & usual cosplayers in photoshoot time slots at cons, cosplayers using figurines as 3D references for costumes, costume commissioners launching online costume stores & taking orders from outside their areas of living, etc.

we see (among many other things): makeup commissioners who will do your
makeup at your hotel room prior to going down to the con, cosplay videography (popularized by Acksonl), ready-to-wear costumes that people
can buy online costume stores or in-town at anime merchandise stores, non-Japanese cosplay magazines (Cosplay Gen), people working out to get the proper body type for the characters they want to cosplay & have better health, more con-goers attending cons outside their own countries
& con websites posting travel info for outside travelers, etc.

I am sure that no matter what time period it was, there were always good and bad things about it. What are your thoughts about this ? Feel free to post below in the comments or go to the original Facebook post and leave it there.