Being a big fan of anime and other things, I always feel the need to have something on my person that shows it, whether it’s a keychain, pins on my bag, or an anime T-shirt. A few years ago I actually wrote all about how I “wear” anime on my person all the time in a past post. There I described how, over the years, I’ve always kept little fan trinkets on me, like pictures on my school notebook or charms on my phone – the “how” of advertising my fandom if you will. But today, I wanted to look at the “why” and “why not” of people who like to publicly show that they’re anime fans and people who don’t…
It always puzzles me when I see people who I know are big fans of anime (and/or other similar hobbies like video games) yet they never have any kind of anime paraphernalia on their person ever – no anime keychains, bags, wallets, or even shirts on non-work days. At every anime convention I’ve been to I always see a few people who don’t have any “nerd” stuff on them whatsoever and I’m like, “C’mon, we’re here to celebrate our love for this stuff! It can be the one day of the year you wear that Evangelion shirt you’ve been saving at least!”
But maybe that’s just me and someone can be just as passionate about anime completely internally, without feeling a need to advertise it externally. The feeling I always have to want to showcase my fandom actually started back in middle school and early high school when I first got into Pokemon, but only on a private level mostly. So during the height of my Pokemon craze from 1999-2001, my room at home was completely covered in Pokemon posters, stickers, toys, figures, plushies, and anything else you can imagine…but it stopped there. I only wore Pokemon shirts once in a while on non-school days and didn’t have anything Pokemon on my backpack, notebook or anywhere else. It’s not that I didn’t want to show my love for Pokemon publicly as well as privately, but as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, most of my classmates in middle school were snobs who thought Pokemon was just for little kids and anyone who likes it is a dork. Nowadays I wouldn’t care what they think, but I was a shy kid back then and didn’t want to bring on any bullying. So I just kept my Pokemon fandom on the private level in my room and amongst the few friends I had who also liked it.
High school is where my world was opened up in terms of discovering that I wasn’t such an unusual person for liking Pokemon and anime, and that there are plenty of people my age who are just as passionate about it. I finally started to extend showcasing my fandom into the public level: I started wearing various anime T-shirts to school as well as on weekends, I covered my school backpack in anime and Pokemon pins and keychains, and put anime pictures on the cover of my school notebook. At first I was nervous that doing so would illicit bullying like it probably would have in middle school, but thankfully that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite happened – thanks to advertising anime on myself, I struck up fun conversations with schoolmates who were also fans, some of which I’m still good friends with today! And I continued keeping anime stuff on myself throughout the rest of high school and my five years in college, and likewise I continued to make new friends who shared my interest that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise if I didn’t wear anime shirts or keep anime pictures on my notebook.
So that’s why I’m all for advertising my fandom any chance I get. I would have missed out not only on a lot of great friendships if I had kept my being an anime fan hidden, but I would have missed out on countless little encounters and conversations with fellow fans. Even if it’s just someone passing me on the street saying, “Hey, I like your shirt,” things like that brighten up both our days. Anything that brings fans a little closer together, no matter how insignificant it seems, is what I want to strive for. My room is still totally covered in anime (which reminds me, those photos are two years old now. My room has changed since then so it’s time to make a 2014 version!) and I always have anime, Pokemon, My Little Pony, etc., keychains on my keys, pins on my bag, and charms on my phone. On days where I’m mostly gonna be home all day, I’ll wear plain shirts, but any day I know I’m gonna be out and seen by people, I’ll always wear one of my anime or other “nerdy” shirts. Of course I can’t wear anime shirts or keep my bag on me at work, but I do have some My Little Pony necklaces and Pokemon, etc., pins I wear with my uniform (the managers don’t care). And thanks to that I’ve gotten lots of positive comments from customers and their kids. Work can be a miserable place so you gotta create your own fun, and mine is subtly advertising my fandom and seeing which customers notice ;) Whether it’s a fellow anime fan complimenting my shirt or bag when I’m out, or little kids ogling the My Little Pony or Pokemon stuff I wear at work, I think encounters like these are a good thing and bring a small bit of joy to an otherwise dull day.
Even though I have my reasons for always wanting to advertise my fandom, I know plenty of people who don’t. Since I’m not one of them, I can only speculate on their reasons based on external experience, but I think it boils down to two. The first is just general shyness and fear of being mocked. An adult, especially a guy, might get awkward glances if they’re wearing a shirt with a cute moe girl on it for example. Or maybe people don’t fear being mocked so much as not wanting people who are ignorant about anime to see their shirt, bag, etc., and ask them “What’s that?” and then they have to go and explain it. A desire to be inconspicuous and not wanting to draw attention to oneself could be a factor too. Someone might really love anime and have anime stuff all over their room, but if they’re a shy or introverted person, advertising their fandom out in public might create more anxiety than it’s worth. But surprisingly, none of these negative situations have ever happened to me whenever I’ve worn anime stuff. People who like it will give me positive comments, and people who don’t will just ignore me or just give me a weird look. I’ve never had anyone make fun of the anime stuff I wear or ask me a bunch of annoying questions. So if you’re afraid of that, I would say you have nothing to fear XD It could happen of course, but from my experiences the positive encounters greatly outnumber the negative ones.
And the second reason people don’t advertise their anime fandom out in the open could be because they want to keep a strict divide between their “private self” and their “public self.” Anime and other hobbies are only for one’s private life and shouldn’t mix with the public image one displays out in society, whether it’s at work, school, going to stores, or even with certain friends and family members. While that’s certainly their priority and it doesn’t make them less of a fan – and I know there are certain situations where I put my fan advertising away completely too – I personally can’t divide myself like that. Anime and my other hobbies are a big part of who I am, and I’m also all about openness and honesty, so if someone really wants to know me, I want them to know that I like this stuff. They don’t have to know how much I like it – that can come gradually if necessary – and if they think less of me because of it, that’s their loss. As one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Seuss goes, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” =)
So now I’d like to ask my readers, are you someone who likes to advertise your anime fandom out in public by having anime keychains, shirts, pins, etc.,? If so, do you mostly get positive reactions from it like I do? Or are you someone who prefers to hide their anime fandom from the public eye? If so, why? Is it for the reasons I described or something else?