REPOST: The cosplay economy: How dressing up grew up

Pop culture can have a massive impact on the economy. Even the relatively simple concept of dressing up as a fiction character (costume play) has brought—whether directly or indirectly—considerable revenues to the industry in which it is most associated with. Here’s an interesting piece from The Independent:


Cartoon character: Svetlana Quindt makes a living from the medium /


To the cynical, it may seem like a childish hobby, but, says Katryn Furmston, it’s not just a release for the disenfranchised, it’s giving people vital skills and even launching design careers

Comic conventions have steadily risen in popularity over recent decades and, as a corollary, cosplay – dressing up as a favourite character – is becoming more than just a hobby to many people. You only have to look at some of the costumes to realize the effort that some people put in – whether that involves handcrafting or sourcing the perfect piece – to realise the devotion involved.

The most recent major events in the UK have attracted record turnouts. More than 133,000 cosplayers attended the London MCM Comic Con event in May this year. When you consider that tickets can cost more than £20 per person, it suggests this strange new industry is generating money for the UK economy. And it’s not just tickets to events – people often spend upwards of £200 on materials, paints and fixings to make their costumes.

There has been a debate on whether the rise of cosplay has been a sign of hard economic times: young people without jobs spending far too much time wanting to become someone or something else. James Pethokoukis, a columnist and fellow for the American Enterprise Institute think tank, wrote – referencing mainly the cosplay craze in Japan – that “any rise in people fleeing reality for fantasy suggests problems with our reality”. Citing surveys that showed that young people in America are now less likely to spend their time playing and watching sport, economist Adam Ozimek argued that this is just a sign of changing youth culture – and actually, reflected a relative rise in prosperity: “I bet being a fan of cosplay is more correlated with higher wages than being a fan of football.”

But regardless of the numbers, it’s the creativity of cosplay which really enthuses me, as a teacher of design. Cosplay is giving (mainly young) people a new-found creative output. Many will have skilled up in researching properties of materials to the point where they become real masters of those materials. Creative skills such as sketching and design development also become the norm for many people who were novices.

For a large number of people, cosplaying can be the start of a lifelong journey into a design career – whether this be costume design, SFX make-up or product and prop design. For instance, the person who first got me into cosplay, Sorcha McIntyre, launched a graphic design career after attending events. It opened the creative doors to a vocation by giving her a chance to display artwork and exhibit her design flair.

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