As attendee #safety is a very important shared responsibility of comic & anime conventions, conventions establish rules & policies for allowed #costumes & #props. These rules & policies in part reflect local, state & federal laws, as well as any rules & policies of the venue where the convention is taking place. Additional rules & policies may also be instituted by convention organizers.
Invariably, not everyone likes the rules & policies that are established, especially when they change and become more restrictive. What many #cosplayers & #costumers fail to appreciate is that the rules and policies are for everyone’s safety, both physically and emotionally.
Common Rules & Policies
The most common rules & policies that restrict what a costumer, cosplayer (or any attendee) can wear or have in their possession at an anime or comic convention are as follows:
- No nudity.
- No actual firearms, explosive devices, chemicals or devices that can release chemicals or other projectiles.
- No sharp-bladed metal weapons, such as knives, swords, ninja stars, etc.
- No sharp points on costumes that can potentially injure others.
- No dangerous blunt weapons, such as wood or metal baseball bats, or other similar blunt force weapons that aren’t constructed from foam, cardboard or other light-weight materials.
Recent Incidents Involving Safety
Where incidents have occurred, some conventions may institute more restrictive rules and policies that include many more banned items, such as in the aftermath of the man arrested earlier this year at Phoenix Comicon, who was heavily armed with real weapons and extra ammunitions. The more restrictive bans at Phoenix Comicon include the following:
- Prohibited Items
The following props and accessories are not permitted at Phoenix Comicon
- Firearms of any kind regardless of whether it has been emptied, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated, including but not limited to real and replica
- BB guns
- cap guns
- paintball guns
- nerf guns
- water guns
- pellet guns
- airsoft guns
- Toy guns
- Any other real or replica weapon that resembles a firearm
- Glass Props
- Stone Props
- Chainsaws or other gas-powered props
- Bladed metal or wooden weapons, including but not limited to
- pocket blades
- ninja stars
- metal or wooden shields
- strung bows
- bladed or sharp arrows
- Power and garden tools
- Real, replica, or simulated explosives, ammunition, and chemical weapons of any kind, including but not limited to
- Hand grenades
- Claymore Mines
- pepper spray
- Powder caps
- Cartoon bombs
- Simulated bomb vests
- Metal, spiked, wooden and other miscellaneous props including but not limited to
- Metal Armor
- Barbed wire
- Metal spikes
- Metal, wooden, aluminum, or heavy plastic bats
- Brass knuckles
- Golf Clubs
- Hockey Sticks
- Excessively noisy props including but not limited to
One surprising item that appeared on the ban list was “metal armor” as many costumers & cosplayers wear metal armor, including Star Wars & medieval costumers & cosplayers.
Other Controversial Rule & Policy Changes
New York Comic Con
New York Comic Con also created a stir beginning in 2014 when it made its costume & prop policies more restrictive, forcing many costumers & cosplayers to either give up their props at the entrances or abandoning them in the streets leading to the convention. Things became more heated in 2016 at NYCC when they again changed their props & weapons to policy so that only foam & cardboard props & weapons would be permitted:
Prop weapons and prop firearms will be allowed providing they are composed of foam or cardboard only.
In 2017, the prop & weapons policies at NYCC changed somewhat again, reflecting the cosplay rules & policies established by the venue: Madison Square Garden, but the restriction on prop weapons being composed of only foam or cardboard remained in place:
- All final decisions on costumes entering the facility shall be at the sole discretion of Madison Square Garden security.
- Your costume must not be wider than 4 feet across, longer than 6 feet, or taller than 8 feet.
- You MUST be able to easily maneuver your costume over stairs or ramps unassisted. You must be able to sit in your seat while wearing your costume, or plan to take it off once entering the stadium (limited storage space available).
- You must have unobstructed vision at all times (i.e., must not need to remove a piece of your costume in order to see).
- Armor cannot pose a threat to others by way of sharpened metal edges, spikes or bladed surfaces.
- Prop weapons and prop firearms will be allowed providing they are composed of foam or cardboard only. The barrel of all prop firearms must be covered with brightly-colored caps. No bladed weapons, no metal, no wood, no fiberglass, no PVC, no glass, no firearms of any kind including air guns or cap guns.
- Any bow-type weapons must be unstrung or strung with a low-tensile thread. All prop arrows must have soft, non-metal, blunted tips made out of foam or cardboard only.
- You may not include liquids, gels, or other substances which could cause a mess. This is at the discretion of Madison Square Garden staff.
- You may not use smoke effects, fire, explosives, or any other environmental hazard in any capacity.
- You may display your prop weapons only as costume pieces. Do not swing or brandish your prop in any way that could be considered unsafe or threatening.
- You may pose with a prop in a brandishing manner, so long as no reasonable person would interpret for anything other than dramatic effect. NYCC and Madison Square Garden staff may stop you at their sole discretion.
Rose City Comic Con (Portland, OR)
In 2017, Rose City Comic Con has instituted additional costuming rule that are causing a stir on social media for some costumers & cosplayers because it doesn’t involve props: it has to do with symbols:
- Hateful symbols aren’t welcome at Rose City Comic Con. Historical costumes can be great, but reminders of unspeakable atrocities are not appropriate – this goes for Old School Hydra and Red Skull or any other Nazis from entertainment properties. Those figures, while comic-related, are still very much Nazis. As a result, they are 100% banned, always. This includes any sort of “ironic” or satirical costumes that re-appropriate Nazi paraphernalia or gear. You won’t just be banned from that year’s convention. You will be banned from coming to RCCC for life.
This is the first outright ban on Nazi symbology and costumes by a convention to our knowledge. While some are deeply offended by this new rule, which they view as apparent denial of free speech, current sociopolitical events in the United States were likely the reason for the adoption of this rule. In some countries (such as Germany and Austria), the display of any Nazi symbols is illegal.
Like it or not, costumers and cosplayers need to be familiar with a convention’s rules & policies for costumes & props before they attend. Regardless of how any one costumer or cosplayer feels about a particular convention’s rules & policies, always bear in mind that no one is obligated to attend a comic or anime convention. If you are so offended by a convention’s rules and policies, our only advice is simply to not attend. If you do choose to attend, then your costume and any props will have to comply with the convention’s rules & policies if you want to be permitted inside.