At some point in the future, conventions around the country will resume, and with it, cosplayers will return to con floors to show off their latest costumes. The transition won’t take place overnight or even within a matter of weeks: it’ll be a long transition to get back to a point where we might get to a new normal.
Once cosplayers get back into the field, they’ll enter an environment that is a social-distancing nightmare. Conventions — up until this point — rely on the face-to-face interactions, while the entire purpose of cosplay is to celebrate the characters that we love and admire.
Masks seem as though they’ll be a fixture in life for the foreseeable future: a cloth item that’ll cover one’s mouth. Superheroes, for all of their might and strength, don’t seem to have prepared all that well for this eventuality: costumes like Daredevil, Batman, The Flash or Wonder Woman move around the world with their faces unmasked, but their features otherwise obscured.
With that in mind, there are some costumes that seem as though they might be perfectly suited for this new world of social distancing and of mask-wearing. For the purposes of this list, I’m skipping costumes with helmets — like what you might find on a Stormtrooper, an astronaut, or other, similar costumes — because they aren’t typically sealed or designed to filter out particles, unless a cosplayer opts to design an elaborate system to do so.
The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War
Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes actor Sebastian Stan pointed to his introductory costume from Captain America: Civil War on Instagram recently, noting that “this feels weirdly familiar…”
When he first appeared in the film, he came with a closed-fitting face mask that obscured his features. For cosplayers, it’s a built-in bit of protection for wandering around a convention floor, especially if they can add in some additional material to filter out small, airborne particles.
When this crisis first arose, I joked to friends that the first costume that might be popular at conventions would be the technicians from HBO’s Westworld. In the series, these characters work behind the scenes to clean up the hosts that have been killed in the interactive theme park, and accordingly, wear some plausible-looking protective equipment if worn correctly.
Fortunately for cosplayers, some of these items can be found in the real world. The transparent masks that some technicians wear is a real-world item manufactured by X-Shield, and in normal times, can be picked up on Amazon. Another set of technicians wear 3M’s Versailles Respiratory Faceshield Assembly. But like X-Shield’s mask, it’s currently difficult to find online for sale.
Sister Night, Watchmen
Sister Night from HBO’s Watchmen has a costume that looks like it’ll be perfect for these social-distancing days: in addition to a black cloak with a badge on her waist, she conceals her indenting with black face paint around her eyes, and a lower-face mask that covers her nose and mouth.
Plo Koon and Darth Malak, Star Wars
The Star Wars franchise is full of characters with all types of masks and helmets, but two in particular stand out: Jedi Master Plo Koon from the Prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars, and Darth Malak.
Koon is a Kel Dor, an alien from a gaseous planet called Dorin. Unable to breath the standard atmosphere found on most planets in the galaxy, he wears a rebreather to survive. Meanwhile, Darth Malak, a Jedi Knight who fled the order and eventually became a Sith Lord from the early history of the Republic. He lost his jaw in a battle during the Jedi Civil War, and was forced to wear a large metal prosthetic to cover his features. As long as the nose is covered, this could work. In both instances, an aspiring cosplayer could use those masks as a filtration system when they suit up in costume.
Freman Stillsuit, Dune (2020)
There have been a couple of interpretations on the Stillsuit from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune: a survival suit worn by desert nomads to survive in the harsh conditions of the planet Arrakis.
A new adaptation of the film is on the way later this year, and while it hasn’t been released yet, early pictures have shown that the Stillsuits incorporate a face mask that covers a wearer’s nose and mouth. In this universe, it’ll help trap exhaled vapor and keep them from inhaling dust. On the convention floor, it looks like it could be a good way to filter out any airborne particles as long as the nose is also covered.
Link’s Stealth Outfit, Breath of the Wild
Nintendo’s Breath of the Wild brought with it an entire wardrobe’s worth of costumes for cosplayers to interpret on the con floor, from fantastical armor to simple traveling outfits.
One in particular looks to be well-suited for this new world: the Stealth Outfit, which players can buy in the Enchanted armor shop in Kakariko Village. The outfit features a skin-tight top and leggings, along with armored shoulder pads and greaves. All of that is topped with a mask that covers the wearer’s nose and mouth.
Biohazard Suit, Arrival
When aliens arrive on Earth in Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 film Arrival, the scientists and military officials arrive on the scene to make first contact and do something you don’t normally see in science fiction films: they wear protection.
During their initial visits to the Heptapod’s ship, the film’s main characters don bright-orange biohazard suits to keep themselves from picking up any harmful alien pathogens. Dedicated cosplayers could do something similar — companies like Kappler and Grainger sell the suits, which feature filtration systems. However, be prepared to spend quite a bit on one: they can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars each. But, they’re designed to filter out the worst pathogens known to humanity, so they could likely handle the floor of San Diego Comic-Con.