In early afternoon, the Headless Lounge was fairly quiet. The smallish room featured electric fans (courtesy of Furry Weekend America), a water station, and a curtained off area for patrons to change in and out of their costumes in private. Though the name may sound strange to some, the Headless Lounge was heavily requested among attendees wearing mascot-style costumes. The lounge offers an area for those with full-body costumes to get some air without ruining the illusion, as many don’t feel comfortable removing their heads or helmets on the con floor. It is primarily used by fursuiters (people who wear mascot-style costumes) and armored cosplayers like the 501st Legion. For costumes that don’t breathe, the Headless Lounge provides a necessary safe space to cool down and take a break.
I spoke to Lee Cox, director of the costuming track. He told me that the lounge was founded in an effort to make fursuiters feel more welcome at Dragon Con. Apparently, a full fursuit is an investment of several thousand dollars and takes a variety of specialty skills to create. I asked why, in light of the expense and August heat, people decide to wear these costumes to Con. Cox told me that wearing these types of costumes, like fursuits or full stormtrooper armor, creates a valuable camaraderie and community between people who share a common passion. The anonymity of a full-body costume also allows attendees to step out of their comfort zone and interact with people in a different way. As far as misconceptions about furries, Cox told me he has never met someone who was motivated by anything other than a love of costuming and desire for self-expression. Shows that paint furries as unsavory, he told me, are determined to find the very few that fit that description instead of representing the community itself.
Later, I was able to interview a furry, a blue dragon named Paunch (whose creator asked not to be named). He sat at the table planning his evening, paws and head set on the table next to him. He wore jeans and a flannel, with a tail tucked into the seat behind him. It was his first time attending con in a fursuit. After spending years crafting and bonding with his character, he felt motivated to take the next step and buy a partial fursuit. The tail, head, and paws were pieced together from various Etsy sellers. He told me that fursonas are essentially one’s self, but satisfied with the way things are. “So, it’s me,” he said with a laugh. “But a dragon.” Paunch’s story is not incredibly fantastical—he’s worked as a barista in the past—but rather an expression of his creator’s identity. Despite the joys of inhabiting a character, it is difficult to see while wearing the head. Most fursuiters have a handler, who keeps them from bumping into people and helps them interact with other attendees. Paunch doesn’t have a one, which can make navigating the con difficult, especially in large crowds. However, he still found the mascot head very freeing, as it allowed him to more closely inhabit the character of Paunch in his interactions.
Originally, to be completely honest, I was somewhat skeptical of furries. However, after these conversations, I understand why people choose these elaborate and uncomfortable costumes. It is simply a fun form of cosplay that allows people to express themselves in a unique way.