Good cosplayers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. There are almost no limits on cosplayers except the ones they put on themselves.
I say almost, because there are some socially enforced limits that should not be crossed in cosplay.
I’m not talking about body shaming. Wear what you are comfortable in and tell the naysayers where they can go. Personally, I prefer to not see your fully detailed anatomy, but I’m not going to stop you. I will however direct you to What Men Should Wear Under Cosplay. (and hopefully I get around to the other undergarment articles for men and women soon). As long as you are wearing the minimum that should be on a beach, I am not going to complain.
There are a lot of things in society that are considered immoral, indecent, or just wrong, and there are people that will toy with the blurry lines. We let theses people pass with just a head shake or minor comment. There are however, a few things that should never be done in cosplay and there have been a few cases where people have leapt over those blurry lines. I don’t know whether they are trying to get attention, are ignorant, or just don’t care what others think, but I think it is time to make sure those lines are defined.
Good cosplayers have the common sense and decency to realize what is and is not acceptable in common society. Unfortunately, a few recent events means that an article like this needs to be written.
I don’t care who you are, or where you come from. It is not acceptable to dress as a member of a real life hate group (fictional ones, such as hydra, are that blurry line we spoke about earlier) that means we do not want to see you portray Nazis, KKK, Proud Boys, or any other group or person that discriminates, harms or purposely demoralizes a particular group of people.
NEVER, under any circumstances wear a swastika as part of your costume. If you do, then you are just telling society that you are a giant dick. We do not want to see hoods, burning crosses, swastikas or any other symbol of hate acknowledged anywhere upon your person.
Unfortunately, many of us tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and we prefer not to acknowledge what we’ve seen. We would prefer to think we didn’t see it right, that we were mistaken. We need to stop doing that. As long as we are polite then people will take advantage of it. If you see a swastika, a hood, or one of a million other recently appropriated hate symbols, then please confront the person. You don’t need to be aggressive, just let them know that you’ve identified them and that you disagree with their representation. Contact someone in authority and ensure they know what you’ve seen and have them handle it.
Recent Traumatic Events
If you want to somehow dress up as the burning library of Alexandria, a survivor of Pompei, or be a fiddling Nero go for it, no one alive remembers those events and odds are pretty good they couldn’t even name a relative that was there. If the traumatic event is so long ago that no one left alive even has a legacy of it, then feel free to reenact it. It might be on the tasteless side and walking the border of acceptability, but that is a decision that you, as a functioning member of society must make on your own.
If the event has survivors or relatives of those survivors then do not touch it as a cosplay. Tragedy shouldn’t be mocked. The Holocaust and Hiroshima are such events, another is 9-11. The survivors are still alive, the aftermath is still being dealt with and it is in the memories of many. A few years ago there was a couple that went to a cosplay convention dressed as the Twin Towers on 9/11. That was entirely tasteless and unwanted and way beyond the blurry line. Other events to avoid are plane crashes, suicides, mass shootings, or any tragic event where lives have been lost.
If you like a particular character, feel free to dress like them. In my opinion there is no problem dressing as a character that you like. If they are purple, green, blue, gray or rainbow you can play with your skin and hair color all that you want these are fictitious characters with fictitious origins and skin colors.
However, there is a problem when it comes to portraying any human character with a racial origin that is not visually compatible with your own. NEVER alter your skin tone to portray a character outside of your race. Of the character you are portraying a real human fleshtone, then stick with your own skin color.
I am glow-in-the-dark pale, so if I am showing any skin I apply a color moisturizer or self-tanner so I don’t blind people. ( Even with application of those I am still pretty pale.) A few shades darker, such as normally achieved tanning are considered acceptable limits, but drastic shade changes that make you look like a different race are not acceptable.
If you really need to know why, then I will direct you other articles that lay is out in much better detail:
– Don’t Get Why Blackface Is Offensive? Here’s Why It Is (and Why It Matters)
– All Black and White? Racism and Blackface in Cosplay
And it is not just about blackface, it’s any alteration to physically portray another human race.
There are actually about a million articles out there if you really want to educate yourself. But it all boils down to one key point.
Don’t Alter Any Part of Your Body to Portray Another Human Race
NO skin darkening, NO eye slanting, NO skin lightening.
It doesn’t matter what size, shape, age, color or skill level you are. Everyone can cosplay. Everyone is there to have fun, meet new people. and hang out with friends. Just be conscientious of what you choose to wear and how you wear it.
To see where you are taking your next cosplay, be sure to check out our Cosplay Convention List.