The Cosplay Identity

In my last Blog I talked about how “Fan Identity” in sports fans is directly linked to “Social Identity Theory” and “Imagined Community”. However, this blog I will be focusing on the fan effects behind “cosplaying” fandoms. A special thanks to ronaischafer for bringing up this potential topic in the comments in my last blog. There are some very big similarities and differences in the dynamics between the relationships between cosplaying and their fandom and sports fans and their fandom.

Within both these subcultures, there is a strong sense of community. Whether one enjoys sewing, modeling, or photography, fans are able to interact with others who are in the same fandom. There is a sense of unity, and it’s thrilling to see another person cosplay as the same character or another character from the same series. This leads us again into “social identity theory” where cosplayers identify themselves through their choices of cosplay. However, cosplayers do not usually share “one team” per say. Cosplayers usually switch cosplays at different events, as they are usually fans of multiple different fandoms. This takes away some of the negative emotional aspects that the sports team fandoms display. Cosplayers do not suffer from the same emotional outbursts that sports fans do from their fandoms because they are usually less invested in one single fandom or “team”. This gives them a different sense of “imagined community”, where instead of seeing themselves as a bunch of “competing fandoms”, like sports fans do, “cosplayers feel as if all cosplayers are part of the same “imagined community”. The medium of cosplay provides an immediate familiarity between a individual and a stranger. Making it much easier to connect with strangers regardless of which fandoms they are portraying. This socially accepted rule that individuals are allowed to like multiple fandoms makes it much easier among cosplayers to bond over their “imagined community” then it does for sports fans.

A cosplayers identity and behaviour can drastically switch depending on his current cosplay. A study found that cosplayers who have a stutter actually stutter less when they are cosplaying because they naturally try to emulate the behaviour of their “hero”. A cosplayers behaviour can change based on what their costume is like. It was found that cosplayers who wore a mask  were much less self aware than those whose costumes did not have a mask. This could be because the anonymity that comes with masking may allow cosplayers to more feel liberated from their everyday appearance, allowing their true “inner” self to feel more prominent. On average cosplayers report that they feel a higher sense of self worth when they are actively cosplaying than they normally feel. This could be that, on average, cosplayers put a lot of time and effort into how they look during a cosplay, and this self-esteem boost could just be a side effect of putting effort to make yourself look good. However, this could also be because cosplayers have a self esteem boost when socializing with others for their “imagined community”.

In conclusion, cosplay “fan identity” is still firmly grounded in social identity theory and imagined community, but for different reasons and with different results. Cosplayers are less likely to have major emotional outbursts as a result from their fandoms, but still benefit from the effects of the imagined community. Their sense of self identity is tied to the type of cosplay they are performing, but on average they all experience a rise in self-esteem while cosplaying. Many us the community as a social lubricant to meet with others in a setting where they feel comfortable. It is less of a “us” and “them” mentality of the sports community.


  1. Stranger than fiction: Fan identity in cosplay
  2. Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and Costume Wear
  3. Identity theory and social identity theory
  4. The sports fan identity

6 thoughts on “The Cosplay Identity

  1. Really interesting post! I wrote a similar blog about identifying with fictional characters in stories, and how it helps individuals be more sympathetic in understanding social situations. I think the power of fantasy in an form is amazing and fun! I want to become a speech pathologist, so I really like that you mentioned it helping with kids who stutter! I found another article that backs up this claim, it’s a program that kids take in a school setting where they play role-playing games, and this has been shown to reduce their stuttering even in other situations!


    • Yes I found the stutter part was quite interesting as well. It seems that most stutters can be made worse due to “roll entrapment” and “vocalization stereotype”. This means that individuals who stutter could believe that they cannot speak without stuttering, and that they are just so use to it their speech feels natural when they stutter. However, roll playing as another character could free them from these two effects, making them force themselves to speak in manner which they believe that their “heroes” speak.It’s a very fascinating phenomenon and this paper does a very good job of explain gin the two phenomenon’s that i mentioned.


  2. I’ve been enjoying these blogs and talks a lot. Have you looked into religion?

    I found an article that explores how social identity is constructed around religion, and religious teachings. I find their might be a connection to these identities and following a doctrine, text, or content. There a lot of parallels to explore!

    Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2010). Religiosity as identity: Toward an understanding of religion from a social identity perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 60-71. doi:10.1177/1088868309349693


    • This is a very interesting idea and I will think about exploring it in my next post. I do see how there could be a large amount of parallels, including how “imagined communities” and “social identity”. As a social identity anchored in a system of guiding beliefs and symbols, religion ought to serve a uniquely powerful function in shaping psychological and social processes. I found this article very informative on the subject and went very in depth into the potential ties between religion and social identity theory.


  3. Cosplay allows the person to be someone who they admire, it allows people to step out of their ordinary lives and forget about the stress and issues of their life and be a great hero or mutant or anything they desire. It actually helps individuals achieve self gratification, personal fulfillment and it makes good, happy memories for them. Activities like cosplay are proven to help with stress and anxiety, an individual can be a different person when doing their cosplay, so they get to forget about their issues and identify as another this significantly lowers the stress on the individuals.


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