November 14, 2013

This "Define Cosplay" Shirt Gets It All Wrong - Updated

Anyone who wears a costume in public is brave. It's not easy to put yourself out there in the world. Some people are 100% comfortable and don't care what others think or say, but many are not. This horrible t-shirt goes to the heart of cosplay fears, and it's not okay.

This "Define Cosplay" shirt is on sale at Hot Topic. It says cosplay means "do it right or not at all."
Screw. that.

There is no "right" way to cosplay. If you can't sew and instead make a cardboard version of a costume, that's fine. If you apply rule 63, that's good too. Not the right shape, height, color of the character you're cosplaying as? Doesn't matter. Cosplay the characters you love, have fun, and don't pay attention to what anyone says about it.

I hate the message this shirt screams. Hot Topic may not have designed it, but they could have rejected it and used the opportunity to create a tee that communicates a positive message about cosplay. Maybe they need suggestions. I have a couple:
- dress up like whomever you want, it's all right
- do it, have fun, everyone wins

It's bad enough for those of us in the community, but what kind of elitist signal is this sending to non-geeks or people who want to cosplay and have been too shy to do so? It's bullying captured in a t-shirt. Ugh.

h/t Molly McIsaac

UPDATE 11/15: Hot Topic replied to me on Facebook about the shirt: Hot Topic wrote: "Hey Amy, thanks for reaching out. We are sorry you found the shirt's message to be negative. We intended the message to encourage cosplayers to go all out. That said, we're removing the shirt from our site in response to your feedback."

UPDATE 11/17:  Geeks Are Sexy posted about the cosplay shirt and this post today, and I think their post was misleading. I was far from the only person who spoke out against the cosplay shirt. Molly McIsaac, Jessica Merizan, and several others did via Facebook and Twitter. When I left a comment for Hot Topic I at no point said "take down this shirt", I asked what's up with the negativity? They replied to me with the message above which they also copy/pasted to almost everyone who commented about the tee on Twitter and Facebook. There's no way a store would pull something down because one person didn't like it. That would be dumb.


  1. Well said. Take it down, Hot Topic!

  2. Well said, I use to shop at Hot Topic back in high school. Now I am glad I avoid that place, I hope the backlash from the community will make them pull this product off the shelves.

  3. It's so ridiculous. If they have any sense, they'll pull. What an absolutely horrid message. Definitely not impressed, Hot Topic. I thought they wanted to cater to geeks with all their fandom-related merchandise. This is not the way to do it, this is only going to piss people off.

  4. The shirt has been officially pulled, and no longer sold. Im happy for this, but after reading their response on the matter, Im even more angry than before. All they did was copy and paste a response and tell people "it wasnt our intention,". They did NOTHING else! They pride themselves on being a store of uniqueness and open minded merchandise, and they cant even pull up a real response to what they caused? Ridiculous.

  5. They don't pride themselves on anything but making money--they're a nationwide retail franchise. Hot Topic is not punk rock!

  6. Just to play devil's advocate does no one else see the irony in this shirt? A black t-shirt is [i]not[/] cos play ^_^ it would be like a white t-shirt with black text sayin 'I only dress in black'

  7. Cosplay is so Cos-played out as it is.

  8. Cosplay is so Cos-played out as it is.

  9. Update for those who haven't saw: Hot Topic replied to me on Facebook with the following note: Hot Topic wrote: "Hey Amy, thanks for reaching out. We are sorry you found the shirt's message to be negative. We intended the message to encourage cosplayers to go all out. That said, we're removing the shirt from our site in response to your feedback."

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. It's good that they responded and took the shirt down. Though in their attempts to monetize subculture, Hot Topic usually gets things wrong. I've always found their commodification of punk rock insulting.

  12. Amy, I appreciate your position and opinion. Likewise, you should respect the opinions of the people that do happen to agree with this shirt. You're imposing your viewpoints on other people, and look what you have done. You have removed an option for people. Everyone has the right to express their opinion, much as you have done, whether or not you like it. Now for the record, I agree with you. Cosplayers are very brave and this shirt does undermine that to a degree. Still, people have their rights, and your opinions have infringed on that. How do you reconcile that, reasonably?

    1. Hi, Zane:
      Actually, nowhere in my post did I tell anyone they have to agree with me. Nor did I even say, "Hot Topic needs to take this down." I did express my unhappiness to the shirt with them via Facebook, but I didn't rally everyone or even encourage people to contact Hot Topic. I only stated my opinion, which I am entitled to do. I also didn't say others weren't allowed to like the shirt.

      People who like the shirt and its message are welcome to also write a post about it and contact Hot Topic to let them know they support the shirt and would like them to put it back in stock. I wouldn't speak against anyone who did so.

  13. Though you had a right to voice your disdain about the shirt they never should have pulled it just because one person had a problem with it.

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