Fursuits are animal costumes made from various materials. They range from simple tails and ears to full costumes cooled by battery-powered fans. Fursuits can be worn for personal enjoyment, work or charity.
The term "fursuit" is believed to have been coined in 1993 by Robert King and can also refer to animal mascot costumes in general, as opposed to human or inanimate object mascots. Fursuits have also been featured in visual mediums as backdrops or as part of a central theme.
Fursuits are associated with furry fandom, a fandom devoted to anthropomorphic animal characters as, similar to mascot suits, they allow the wearer to adopt another personality while in costume. Fursuits are usually sold at conventions, or online by commission or auction. Due to their delicate nature, they require special handling while washing. Fursuits are comparable to costumed characters and are similar in construction to the mascots and walkaround characters used by theme parks and stage shows. The concept is also similar to cosplay, despite the latter's focus on Japanese culture.
The standard fursuit is a full body costume that consists of a head, forepaws (hands), hindpaws (feet) and a body with an attached tail. In some cases, the tail is connected via a belt to the wearer and hangs out through a hole in the back of the body. Many suits include special padding or undersuits to give the character its desired shape (this is especially present in larger characters or those of a particular gender). Owners can spend less than one-hundred to many thousands of dollars on one fursuit, depending on complexity and materials used. More advanced fursuit features include jaws which move when the user speaks, and moving tails. Furry fans make their own using online tutorials or advice from newsgroups; the suits can also be purchased online or at conventions.
A partial suit or half-suit has all of the parts of the standard suit, with exception to the body. This allows the wearer to have different clothes over the paws, head and tail, such as another costume or street clothes. In partial suits, the tail is usually attached to a belt, and the arms and legs have sleeves that can go up as far as the shoulders and pelvis, respectively.
Most recently, a third type known as the three-quarter suit has been developed, which consists of a head, arms and pants made to look like the legs, tail and feet of a specific animal, or a torso in place of legs. This type of fursuit works well for characters who only wear a shirt without pants or just a pair of pants without a shirt.
Not all furry fans are interested in fursuits, or owns one if they are. At Midwest FurFest 2006, 213 of 1441 attendees participated in the fursuit parade, while 353 of 2,849 wore suits at Anthrocon 2007. In an Internet survey of 600 participants published in 2007, the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis found 18% of respondents owned a fursuit.
Reasons for fursuiting
Furries who own fursuits enjoy wearing them for parades, exhibitions, conventions and informal meetings. Often, the suits depict a personal character and are used in a form of role play, or for expressing their owners' "true" personality. Some fursuiters do not talk while in costume to "preserve the magic" - of those who do, many use costumes with movable jaws.
Some players of live action role-playing games (LARP) create elaborate costumes, including fursuits, for their characters. They may wear a half-suit or a full suit, depending on the character's needs. Weapons and armor could be worn and used by the players; though each convention or meeting has their own rules about weapons on the convention floor. This is similar to cosplay, except the latter focuses on characters from popular media, with emphasis on Japanese pop culture such as manga, anime, and video games.
Some furry fans do fursuiting for a job or to bring attention to an event or charity. This can include mascots at baseball games and the like; but not all mascots are furries, nor are most fursuiters mascots. Many are hired through an agency to represent a character, while others bring their own constructions to an event instead. There are also several volunteer fursuiting groups across North America that either ask or are asked to entertain at various social functions. Some groups even set up their own charitable events or perform on the streets to passersby. Another reason is to go out just for fun and stroll around in their suit. Some furries believe they are connected with the animal their suit resembles and in order to feel closer to said animal they wear their suit and act as the character for entertainment.
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