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Will the “Real” Kigurumi Please Stand Up?

The word “kigurumi” has undergone a transformation in meaning over the past two decades, so it’s easy to see why some people assume that there are various types of kigurumi out there. In case you’re wondering, we sell the “regular” ones on Kigurumi.ca, and these are what most people mean when they use the term “kigurumi.” The “other” kigurumi are what most Westerners would probably refer to as “manga outfits” or “anime costumes.” 

So let’s level the playing field and settle on a few definitions from the outset. A “real” or “regular” kigurumi will have several key characteristics: it will portray a cute animal or fanciful creature (such as a unicorn!), it will have an open face area so that you can talk and communicate easily, and it will be specifically designed for relaxing and hanging out with friends, not for acting out elaborate anime or manga scenes. “Real” kigurumi are soft, snuggly and, yes, look a lot like adult pajamas or onesies. 

In contrast, the “other” kigurumi will be much more along the lines of what people in Japan call “animegao kigurumi.” This is a very specific type of kigurumi in which people engage in a form of masked cosplay. The emphasis here is on the mask, which must fully cover the face. Moreover, these “other” kigurumi are used to portray characters (usually female) from video games or animations, and are designed to mimic the look and feel of those characters precisely, even down to the practice of wearing flesh-colored bodysuits (called “zentai”) so that the entire body and face is covered by the costume and mask. Instead of “wearing” a costume, it is much more like you are “inside” the costume. 

So, just by this comparison above, you can see why the “regular” kigurumi and not the “other” kigurumi have caught on with Western pop culture icons. If you see your favorite pop music superstar posting a photo on Instagram, he or she will be posting a photo of someone wearing a cute animal kigu, and not some Japanese manga character that nobody knows in America or Canada. And if your favorite late night TV host shows up wearing a kigu, it will likely be a cute dinosaur with an open face, not some kind of outfit that includes a full body costume! 

You get the idea – the “real” kigurumi is much more related to the concept that Japanese called “kawaii,” which loosely translates as “the culture of cuteness.” The classic example of “kawaii” that has been embraced by Americans, both young and old, is Hello Kitty. It’s all part of taking a character, and making it as cute as possible. 

And that’s exactly what the “real” kigurumi do – they take the idea of adult pajamas and make them as cute as possible. Thus, our “real” kigurumi all have a number of features – like perky little ears or adorable little tails – that make them so adorable. And they are designed to be soft, snuggly and gentle to the touch. When you wear one, you immediately feel relaxed and happy. Sure, you can pretend that you’re a magical owl or a ferocious pink dinosaur from some animated film you once watched, but most people prefer just to be themselves – and that’s exactly what we love about them so much.