Fursuit

Fursuits are custom made animal character costumes, owned and worn by members of the furry fandom and cosplayers, commonly known as “furries”; a furry who wears a fursuit is called a fursuiter. The term is believed to have been striked in 1993 by Robert King. Fursuits are made in a huge range of different styles, from cartoonish to highly realistic.

Unlike mascot suits, which are generally affiliated with a team or organization, fursuits shows an original character created by their wearer, and are often better-fitting and more complexly crafted, with features such as a moving jaw.

History

The concept of a fursuit can be imprinted decades prior to the term “fursuit” ever being coined, to at least as early as the year 1947, with a German Shepherd dog suit being a core plot element of Edwin Corle’s “Three Ways to Mecca”. An early fursuit worn by former Disney mascot wearer Robert Hill and based on the female character “Hilda the Bamboid”, appeared at the first ever furry convention, ConFurence 0 in 1989, but most furries of that time simply wore ears and tails, influenced by their intersection with the anime and sci-fi fandoms. Fursuits did not become widely known until the mid-1990s and till the rise of the Internet, which led to the spread of ideas on costume making.

Most early fursuit making was done by the suit’s owner using guides suggested by members of the community, with one of the most prominent being Critter Costuming, a 2004 manual by Adam Riggs. However, by the mid-2000s, the demand for high-quality fursuits was high enough that fursuit making became a doable business. Furries began to commission specialized makers with their custom designs or open-ended requests. Including used suits, the industry now sells millions of dollars’ worth of suits every year, and organizations such as sports teams are increasingly commissioning custom-made fursuits for their mascots.

Fursuit construction

Fursuits originated due to being discontent with the quality of mass-produced mascot costumes, Fursuit making is a growing industry, with new costume makers who handcraft custom suits entering the market every week. A few dozen of these makers are highly respected and command prices up to 4,500 dollar or more for a full suit, while there are several hundred more who charge less, usually between 1,000 dollar and 3,000 dollar. Some of these, however, are “fly-by-night” operations or make suits of sub-par quality, leading to the proliferation of fursuit review sites to weed them out. There is heavy turnover of these smaller makers, with only a third of them able to stay afloat, due to suit-making being labor-intensive, and requiring a unique style and a following.

People also sometimes make fursuits from scratch as a hobby without opening a business themselves.

In order to make them fit correctly, many fursuit makers utilize “duct tape dummies” that are made of the wearer’s body. They are made with faux fur that is sometimes sourced from places like the Los Angeles Fashion District. A single suit can take more than 200 hours of work and sell for thousands of dollars.

Fursuits can be expensive to clean, although many modern-day suits are machine-washable.

Types of fursuits

Besides the typical full-body suit, the partial suit, where the suit’s body is substituted by normal clothing, is a popular variation. Three-quarter suits only include part of the body, like the torso or legs, appearing similarly to a funny animal character. Quadsuits are one of the most challenging and expensive types of costumes to make, and involve the wearer walking on all fours with arm extensions to create the illusion of a real animal. A plush suit is a suit that is made to look like a stuffed animal/plushie. There are also fursuits made of other materials, such as spandex or latex.

Fursuits can range from cartoon-styled to hyper-realistic. The most popular animals for fursuits to be based on are dogs and big cats. They may also be based on fictional animal hybrids. Some suits may include integrated technology, such as LED lights and programmed expressive eyes.

In culture

Fursuits are heavily associated with the furry fandom by the general public, despite the fact that only about 15 percent of furries own a fursuit, mainly due to their cost being prohibitively high. They may also be seen as overtly sexualized due to negative coverage from shows like CSI, though this is typically not the case. Furries who own a fursuit often base them on a “fursona”, an anthropomorphic character that represents themselves.Dedicated fursuiters may own as many as a dozen suits based on different characters. Despite being stigmatized as “bizarre”, many members of the furry fandom aspire to be society’s highest earners, in part to afford expensive fursuits and associated furry art.

Fursuits are usually worn to furry conventions such as Midwest FurFest and Anthrocon. Some fursuits of existing characters are made for the purposes of cosplay and are worn to anime or gaming conventions. They are also worn in public, though this often requires a spotter or handler to ensure the safety of the performer from things like rowdy people, exhaustion or accidents due to limited vision.

Esports champion SonicFox became notable in the gaming community for participating in and winning fighting game tournaments while wearing a partial fursuit of their fursona created by fursuit maker Yamishizen. They later ordered two new fullsuits from the same maker.

Reasons for fursuiting

A person who wears a fursuit generally falls into one or more of six categories for wearing them:

  • Job

Many people wear fursuits as a real life job. This can include mascots, though not all mascots are fursuits, nor are all mascot performers are furries. Many fursuiters are hired through an agency to represent a character, while others bring their own creations to an event. 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.

  • Charity

Some fursuiters wear their suits for non-paid charity work, such as events for social causes (animal rights) or visits to children hospitals or wards for entertainment.

  • Event entertainment

Other furries enjoy wearing their suits for parades, exhibitions, or conventions for simple personal fun or crowd entertainment. They may also wear their suits to small, informal meetings among local furry fans.

Some may get permission to perform in or outside of a shop or event, while others may simply wear a suit in a major area, such as a mall. However, some cities have no-mask laws, so individuals seeking to wear their fursuit in large, public places should check first if it’s allowed before performing at that location.

  • Role-playing

Some Role-players create highly elaborate costumes for their characters, including fursuits. Half-suits are usually created for role-playing games, though some role-players use full-body suits. These suits wear elaborate clothes and costumes of their own, depending on the theme of the game.

  • Spirituality

Some people (usually otherkin,therianthropes or furry lifestylers) also fursuit for reasons of expressing what they feel is their inner animal self. Most of them try to make their suits as realistic and lifelike as possible.

  • Sexuality

There is a perception stereotype in and out the furry fandom that fursuit sex is practiced by all fursuiters, thus consider the fursuit a sexual item. Some suits may contain elaborately designed/recreated sexual features (sexual organs), while some wearers have simple cut accesses on the suit.

Construction and maintenance

Main article: Construction of fursuits

  • Performance

A key part of playing a character in the suit is an engaging performance. The most expensive fursuit in the world will be useless to someone who lacks the knowledge to use it. Looking good is important, but not as important as acting.

How the performer acts in costume reflects on how others relate to them. If the desired character is bouncy and bubbly, then acting that way is required to communicate it to spectators.

The design of the suit plays a part in some of the moves that can be done. For example, some fursuiters with floppy muzzles nod their heads up and down rapidly to simulate laughter or enjoyment. This cannot be done with suits with a rigid muzzle, or no muzzle at all.

  • Body language

Fursuiters can speak while on costume, typically to their handler(s), other fursuiters, and/or close friends. More elaborate fursuits are built with some form of talk-jaw, either physically (the fursuit’s lower jaw being attached to the fursuiter’s chin or pressed physically against by the fursuiter’s lower jaw in some other holding fashion) or by the use of mechanical/electronic devices, which enables the fursuiter to “talk”.

Alternately, fursuiters may only speak in some limited fashion, either with a terse vocabulary or simply using as few words as necessary.

Some fursuiters do not speak in costume due to a variety of reasons:

  1. To preserve the anonymity or conceal the gender of the performer

  2. The design of most suits muffles the voice of the performer

  3. Most animals don’t talk

  4. It might cause an unwanted break of character

  5. Because they just don’t want to

  6. Because of this, acting in the suit is mostly about body language. A fursuiter may wiggle around excitedly, shiver in fear, stomp around in anger, or hang their head in sadness.

What is a fursona?

A fursona is a furry-themed avatar which furries use “to represent themselves when interacting with other members of the fandom,” according to a recent paper by social psychologist Plante and fellow Anthropomorphic Research Project members Dr. Sharon Roberts, Dr. Stephen Reysen, and Dr. Kathy Gerbasi. “Nearly every furry has a fursona,” Plante said. “It’s well into the high 90s — 97 or 98 percent.”

Crafting a fursona involves picking an animal — real or mythical — to represent yourself as, or, less commonly, designing a new mythical animal for yourself. Fursonas typically have names and are often the inspiration for artwork or fiction, but the degree of investment in them can vary. “For many it’s just a cutesy avatar to represent yourself to people,” Plante said. “For others, it’s much more deep and meaningful.”

What kind of people are furries?

Surveys suggest that furries are overwhelmingly male and white, are disproportionately likely to be gay, bi, or trans, and skew younger, with an average age in the mid-20s.

The 2012 survey synthesis estimated that 79.2 to 85.7 percent of furries at conventions were male, as were 78.3 to 84.6 percent of furries active online. A majority were atheist (44.36 percent) or agnostic (9.47 percent); 23.19 percent identify as Christian, 3.94 percent as Pagan, 1.91 percent as Wiccan, and 13.72 percent as “other.”

Convention attendees were a bit older (24 to 27.1) on average than online furries (23 to 25.6) but in both cases the group skews quite young. Perhaps reflecting that, only 3.8 percent of furries have one or more children, according to survey evidence. Furries don’t make significantly more or less money than the general US public and tend to be significantly more left-leaning politically. And they’re much likelier than the public at large to report a non-straight sexual orientation, with well under 30 percent reporting exclusive heterosexuality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was the first Fursuit?

According to late fandom historian Fred Patten, the first official furries were born in the early 80s, with Osamu Tezaka’s 60s TV show Kimba the White Lion one of the community’s earliest influences.

How much is a Fursuit?

As Atlas Obscura reports: a lot, and a lot. For the professionals, creating a fursuit can take anywhere from one to 6 weeks, costing the buyer upwards of 3,000 dollar depending on the features and custom requests of the clients.

What is the best age to get a Fursuit?

The truth is there is no age barrier. You would need a decent paying job and the ability to save up. I recommend getting a fursuit around the age of like 18 plus because by then most of your body has stopped growing.

Why are Fursuits so expensive?

There are hours and hours of work that goes into making a fursuit, from the cutting of materials to the sewing and gluing, but they also have to ensure that they’re getting your character down. For that reason, professional fursuit makers often equate their prices to their ability to make a suit.

How much do furry artists make?

At an unsteady time to be a professional creative, furry commissions offer stable supplementary income for many artists. Sara Jensen, a 28 year old artist in Minnesota, estimates that she makes around 500 dollar drawing ten or so illustrations per month.

Conclusion:

Fursuits are custom-made animal costumes owned and worn by cosplayers and members of the furry fandom, commonly known as “furries”; a furry who wears a fursuit is called a fursuiter