Have you ever heard of New York Comic Con? Otakon in Baltimore? San Diego Comic Con? Anime Boston? The list goes on and on... and on! From Japanese anime to Marvel Comics, fans from all over the country come to these conventions to show off their cosplays!
Essentially, cosplay is when a fan of a comic book, movie, video game, or Japanese anime, puts together an outfit and dresses up as one of their favorite characters. While the bad blood between nerds and jocks has most likely died down, you can put these nerdy fans into perspective by comparing an avid football fan who wears his favorite player's jersey number and paints his face to a cosplayer who attends conventions. Both fans live vicariously through their obsessions!
Generally, there are three types of cosplayers:
1) Closet Cosplayers
No, this does not mean that you're hiding your dress-up tendencies like some dark secret. Closet cosplayers are the most casual, since they dress up as characters using clothes from their own wardrobe that looks similar to the character's outfit. In the hardcore cosplay community, closet cosplaying is looked down upon-- in other words: seen as lazy.
2) Purchase Cosplayers
There are many online stores where fans can purchase the full outfit of a character if they feel more intense about cosplaying, or if they can't make the outfit themselves. Most general cosplayers take this route.
3) HARDCORE Cosplayers
Certain, very avid cosplayers go through the trouble of MAKING their own clothes. That means sewing up dresses, shirts, jackets, etc. all by yourself. Sometimes, it's not possible to find clothes that look like a character's outfit, especially if you're cosplaying someone that comes from a fantasy genre. This kind of cosplayer also buys and styles their own wigs to match the crazy hair certain anime characters might have (Dragon Ball Z anyone?). These cosplayers combine creating their own clothes along with purchasing things online that they couldn't create themselves.
In the end, all cosplayers are coming from a place of love and obsession when they dress up as their favorite characters. When it gets hardcore, however, you could call cosplay an artform!
(And check out this insane iron-man cosplay!)