Five or six years ago I thought cosplay was weird. I didn’t get it.
Then I saw The Force Awakens, was introduced to Kylo Ren, and that changed things.
I’ve loved Star Wars my entire life, it’s one of my two main passions next to Boston sports. Obviously as a kid it was super fun to look at costumes for Halloween and I always remember loving the look of the Jedi, specifically Anakin’s outfit. As I got older I still appreciated a good costume or outfit but never thought about dressing up as anyone.
It wasn’t until college that I really found out about cosplay and going to conventions. I went to my first few dressed as Tony Stark (basic) and Rick Grimes but I wasn’t really enjoying it at all because I didn’t have a passion for those characters, let alone being one of them. The rest of my con going adventures (pre 2016) featured me going just as a casual with no costume…but that didn’t feel right either, I felt left out.
*Queue the Kylo Ren theme*
I’m not sure what it was about Kylo that I loved so much at first but I just knew that I connected with him. His costume alone had me interested from the jump but then the mask came off and we learned much more about him which only made him better.
My first Kylo cosplay came in April 2016, a random one I found online from a seller overseas. It wasn’t even close to authentic, but boy did I love it. I snagged it from my mailbox at college, ran back to my dorm like Charlie Bucket with the golden ticket, and put it on. It felt so right.
That particular Kylo costume was MY Kylo cosplay for years to come, until 2017 when we got a look at Ren in The Last Jedi. Immediately I was all in on this new look. I still didn’t care about 100% authenticity or 501st requirements, so after some research an order was placed at Xcoser.
Xcoser is the best place to get a Kylo Ren costume if you aren’t trying to go for the perfect, screen accurate look. I recommend them if you’re in that category.
From that point on I stuck with the TLJ look. At first I refused to the un-helmeted Kylo route but that quickly changed. I felt a bit embarrassed to wear a wig but the one I purchased from Arda Wigs was great and people have frequently mistaken it for my real hair which is always flattering.
The next cosplay upgrade didn’t come until 2019 but for those two years in between I had NO INTEREST in joining the 501st. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because it was a challenging hill to climb or because I had no interest in trooping. My girlfriend, Jamie, volunteered as tribute multiple times to make me a screen accurate tunic but I didn’t want to put her through that pain.
Something eventually clicked and next thing you know the sewing machine was in full force, stabbing black fabric with beautiful gold thread. After weeks of labor an amazing tunic was complete…however the 501st rejected it. We needed time to recuperate before the next attempt but in the meantime we made a Rebel Legion approved Ben Solo costume…so that was nice. The second attempt at the dreaded Kylo tunic came and it was approved…thank the maker! (and the judges…and of course Jamie..<3)
It was quite the road from my cheap, honestly terrible Kylo costume to becoming a member of the 501st. It was even a hell of a road from not understanding cosplay or convention going to it being one of my favorite hobbies. I’m still moderately shy on cosplay, especially telling some of my non-nerdy friends and family about it. Mostly because I don’t think they’ll understand, however I know I’ll eventually overcome that.
The main thing I’ve learned about cosplay, for me in particular, is that you have to love the character that you’re cosplaying. You need passion for that character to be able to step into their shoes or boots.
The second thing I’ve learned is that you can make some of the best friends you’ll ever find in this community. I miss those people and I can’t wait until we can go back to conventions and troops.