Is the Golden Age of Cosplay over?

8:05 pm HelenLJohnson 0 Comments

MCM London, May 2013

 While I was on my way home yesterday, I came across an article that suggested that the ‘Golden Age’ of cosplay is over. This sentiment apparently came from one of the loudest voices in the community, Ms Yaya Han. After reading through the article, and a reaction piece from Kamui Cosplay (one of the most skilled amour cosplayers in the world) I wondered myself what exactly is a ‘golden age’ and has cosplay reached it’s peak?

First of all, I’d like to note that the article is riddled with clickbait. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the so called interview was edited beyond recognition so that passing comments were took out of context. You can read it here, be warned if you use Ghostery, you will need to deactivate it as the add on flags the whole site as an advertisement.   

I’m a relatively new member to the cosplay and convention club, starting at the end of 2012 with my Tomb Raider Reborn costume. However I have sewn and made things since I was little and took textiles/fashion up to A-Level. So I had at least a good grounding to start from. I had trouble finding a job and needed something to focus my mind on. I had also began to get back into gaming and my love for Lara came back with a vengeance. I was fairly sure I could hear the little seven year old in me jump with glee when she realised she could finally have the Lara costume she always wanted. 

MCM London, May 2013

 I had seen cosplayers over the internet for a few years before then. I loved the idea, but I knew no-one who liked that side of pop culture and I became too absorbed in my studies to even try to find these people. I thought conventions were an American and Japanese thing. When I came across MCM London mid 2012, firstly I was curious and then amazed that all of this had been going on under my nose. After a bit of Googling I found many more conventions, including some that were on my own doorstep. From there I was hooked and found great comfort and pride with my Reborn Lara. By simply making the costume, I was exposed to other cosplayers, Youtube channels, blogs, websites and forums where ideas were shared. I know there is a darker side to the hobby, which undoubtedly comes with it’s high visibility online as a community. Yet all my positive experiences outweigh the bad and I know many cosplayers who feel similar.

When we look at a ‘Golden Age’ we can assume it is the pinnacle of something. That what came before it, laid foundations and what came after it could never quite match what came during that golden period. It doesn’t always mean that an artform or ideology dies out or stops becoming profitable, but critically or otherwise it just simply ‘is not the same’.  It is very contextual and lives within a period of history. The 'Golden Age' of comics set the standard for what could be called the stereotypical superhero while the golden age of Science Fiction lived in a time where we, as a population, were unsure of new technologies as people rethought their world views after World War II and the Cold War.

Let’s apply this theory to cosplay. We can assume that the ‘Golden Age’ of cosplay is one where people feel more comfortable displaying their fandom on their sleeve. The rise of blockbuster films from Marvel and DC meant that it was okay to like Ironman and if you were able to make that suit? Serious brownie points for you sir.

The ‘Golden Age’ of cosplay could mean that boundaries were crossed and skillsets increased. Youtube took off around 2008 which resulted in a steady growth of not only specific cosplay related channels but also a platform where potential cosplayers could cherry pick techniques from make up artists, photographers, crafters and stylists to apply to their own visions. The video format makes it a lot easier to understand tricky applications such as French seaming organza.

Today, cosplay as a hobby is a lot easier to pick theory. I say this because although relevant knowledge is easier to access. The money that can be spent on costuming is increasing by the year as new products enter the market and cosplayers want to make even grander designs. Perhaps it is getting to the stage where convention attendees expect film-ready costumes at every event; subsequently pushing out lower skilled or off-the-peg cosplayers. Maybe this is what Yaya means; the ‘Golden Age’ of cosplay was when you had extreme levels of trial and error on costumes as you had no idea how to make something unless you picked up tips at a convention or sporadically on the internet.

A quick YouTube search shows the variety of skills that are shown my fellow crafters and cosplayers

As a community, a percentage has become obsessed by the social brand aspect. We give ourselves aliases and create another life on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. This is a recent phenomenon, something I will touch on again in a later posts; but does this increased celebrification of a hobby mean that the ‘Golden Age’ is over?

I would say no.

I think we are perhaps only just coming into the peak of cosplay. As mentioned previously, the community is growing and people are able to tailor the hobby to suit themselves and opportunities with cosplay are becoming more commonplace. The hobby is becoming layered as many pastimes do. For example, some people paint watercolours. Within that there will be some who use cheaper materials as they simply enjoy partaking in the activity, some will take classes and go to museums to improve their own work, while a few discover their paintings open new doors for them, whether that be a local gallery exhibition or a career painting portraits.

Perhaps some of our behavior as cosplayers and consumers of cosplay art need reviewing. For me, this indicates that we are not quite there yet and I struggle to accept that a ‘Golden Age’, as a set historical time, is even a thing as it automatically assumes everything after is in decline. From comic book to Science Fiction to Hollywood, I think it is safe to assume that there are plenty of examples of fantastic works beyond the so called ‘Golden Age’. All we are observing is cultural evolution and a ‘Golden Age’ is nothing more than a significant number of people suggesting something is good. Which, let’s face it, is subjective in it’s own right.