I have to confess that I had quite a bit of trouble rustling up any sort of thoughts for the topic of this particular issue of Yipe! I have only even visited three countries, Spain of course, then here to the US and one trip down to Mexico back in 2000. I’m vaguely aware costuming exists in Spain, having seen some recent photos, and I once saw a listing for some anime convention in Mexico, so I can only assume that involves some cosplay, else what is the point really? But despite my not inconsiderable bullshit spinning skills I can’t quite work that into any sort of useful thesis about the costuming world beyond our borders.
What I do know is that the United States is huge, and in many ways almost as varied as any other equivalent landmass. We are one nation, sure, but the differences between fandoms from one region to another don’t seem all that much broader than those between, say, the UK and Sweden. I hear fabulous stories of the wet consuites in the Midwest, and wild rumours about Southern fandom. But California, well California has always been a place apart.
Even outside of fandom, California has a reputation for eccentricity. In the arts and in the sciences, politically and right down into the ground itself. Los Angeles has Hollywood, (and the San Fernando Valley, of course) and up here, right outside my window we have San Francisco, my home town. And perhaps that is at the heart of the matter. I am aware that costuming isn’t popular everywhere and that some in fandom feel they fought the good fight to not be regarded as freaks and weirdos and are therefore understandably wary and weary of the costumed types who, they feel, might make the fannish subculture seem less serious and who will inevitably be the people most likely to be approached by a reporter at any convention regardless of topic, size or ratio of costumes to civvies. This issue was evident at World Fantasy when it was held in San Jose and costumes where prohibited, despite it being on Halloween weekend (yeah, that didn’t work out) and I can understand how that attitude might persist, particularly in places where fandom is still small and the extra safety of being padded out by a multitude of fannish and peri-fannish events like anime conventions, renaissance faires and Burning Man.
But I seem to have been fortunate enough to arrive into American fandom at a time when costuming is on an upswing to say the least, and to a geographical place where it is not just acceptable within fandom but a part of the fabric of most people’s lives. Mostly I see costuming as not specifically a fannish thing, but as another form of fashion and culture, and as being all around us. This city takes particular pride in expressions of colorful individualism, almost any occasion seems to be an opportunity to dress up funny and hit the streets here; costumes are common at most races, parades, street fairs and we even seem to be in the habit of inventing new holidays to dress up for when no immediate opportunities spring to mind. You know that conversation you have with another fan in which you say something like ‘I had my gorilla suite dry-cleaned’ and everyone chuckles because, who has that conversation except fen? Well, San Franciscans have that conversation all the time. My roommate has a gorilla suit. Hell, he probably has two; the everyday one and the good one, for interviews.
So in a time-honored San Francisco tradition, for the purposes of this issue; I am declaring San Francisco a country unto itself, and telling you that costuming here is not just accepted, it’s required.
Yipe! Volume 3, Issue 5, May 2011