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Cosplay is a portmanteau of the English words "costume" and "play" stemming from the tendency in Japanese to abbreviate and combine longer words to make concise neologisms. Cosplay was first coined in Japanese (romanized as "kosupure") to describe a hobby where Western fans dressed up as their favorite characters at conventions or in other fandom settings.
Before being introduced to Japan with the invention of this term, cosplay was primarily a hobby in American fandoms that later spread outward to other countries, including Japan. After import into Japan, cosplay was popularized in anime and manga fandoms to the point where Western fans of anime and manga re-imported the practice back to the West, where it broadened the scope of existing cosplay practices from its science fiction, fantasy, comic book and historical reenactment roots to a wider range of fandoms including animation, film and television.
Relevance to RLSHEdit
Cosplay is relevant to the Real Life Superheroes movement as it is a significant activity in fandom participation, particularly with superhero comic book fans, making it a gateway activity for those who ultimately end up inventing their own personas and design their own costumes to become RLSH. In addition, as many RLSH attend fan conventions while wearing their costumes, they are sometimes mistaken for cosplayers of comic book superheroes. Those with a higher media profile, such as Phoenix Jones, sometimes do get recognized at such appearances as their own personas though.  Moreover, there is a subset of RLSH who continue wearing the costumes of comic book superheroes as part of their charity work.