Road to Anthrocon: Interacting with Fursuiters

Suiting Up, by tiger_tomWhen many people think of furry conventions, they think of fursuits with their flashy colors, animal faces, and lots and lots of fur! Whether toony or realistic, fursuits are the most noticeable and vibrant aspects of furry conventions. They are walking, talking (or squeaking) art, most of which costs upwards of thousands of dollars. Plus, they’re downright adorable.

But it’s not all fun and games for fursuiters. Between the heat of all the fake fur, poor vision and walking around wearing basically clown shoes for feet, things can quickly go bad for them. This is why it’s up to us non-suiters to be aware of fursuiters and know how to act around them. Here are just a few tips to help you get ahead in interacting with fursuiters.

Fursuiters Are People

Some suiters can create an illusion of being their character so fully that it can get difficult to remember that they are people in a suit. This is what some call “The Magic”, referencing Disney parks character actors and the ‘magic’ of bringing those characters to life. The better the fursuit actor, the more people will get into the magic. Yet while they’re running around, barking, meowing, and generally being silly, there’s still a person in that suit, sweating their heart out for their hobby.

Your first compulsion upon seeing your favorite fursuiter may be to run up and hug them, but there are a few things to keep in mind first. Just like approaching anyone else, you need to ask first whether or not it’s okay to hug or even touch the fursuiter. Although fursuiters (or any cosplayer for that matter) are dressed up as your favorite species, they don’t always appreciate a lot of attention from strangers. Wearing a fursuit is not an automatic permission to touch them.

Snerks'n'Quirks "Hug Me" buttonSnerks'N'Quirks "No Hugs" buttonPay attention to the fursuiter’s badges. Some may have badges that tell you right off the bat whether or not they like to be hugged or touched. If you want a picture of them, try to ask first: It’s polite, and the fursuiter may have a pose or a favored side they prefer to be seen in. If the fursuiter appears to be in a rush or ignores requests, don’t block their way or try to stop them. They may be heading for a cooling room or otherwise need to get out of suit due to health reasons. But don’t get discouraged if a favorite fursuiter is in a hurry– there will be other chances to see them!

Fursuiters Can’t See/Hear You

Unless you are coming at a fursuiter from directly in front of them, they probably can’t see you. There are a few different forms of fursuit vision, and none of them provide the full range of vision that someone without a fursuit head would have. Most of the time they will only be looking at you through a hole in the tear-ducts under the suit’s eyes or through mesh in the actual eyes. Some have unique forms of vision set up and may have an even worse range of eyesight.

Because of this, fursuiters have almost no peripheral vision and will not see you approaching from their sides. There is also no way to tell where the fursuiter is actually looking since the fursuit eyes are always looking ahead or, in the case of 3D Follow-Me eyes, always seem to be looking at you. Try to approach them from the front, and call their name if you know it. Be patient, because it may take them a few seconds to find you. Don’t attempt to tug the suiter’s tail to get their attention as this can damage it.

If you are walking in front of a fursuiter be sure to give them some space. They won’t see you coming and may not be able to stop before running into you.

Fursuiters may also not be able to hear you very well. Many fursuit heads are made of layers of foam with fake fur over it. Talking to them is the equivalent of placing a pillow over your ear and having someone try to have a conversation with you. Speak too quietly and they just won’t hear a thing. Speak up when talking to fursuiters and don’t expect for them to hear you if you yell at them from across the room.

Petting Etiquette

So you’ve gotten the fursuiter’s attention and they are allowing you to hug or pet them! Great! There are still a few things to be aware of first.

Many fursuits are constructed in a way that you will not be able to tell the person’s gender. They may have a design that emulates cartoon animals or they may have padding to create a certain body shape that the wearer doesn’t have. So when petting or hugging the fursuiter, you may not know where are areas that you should not touch.

Drop-crotch designs are common among digi-grade, or animal-leg style suits. It makes their crotch look lower than it is in order to better emulate the look of an animal. This means that the suit’s stomach is generally where the suiter’s crotch is. Likewise, female fursuiters may wear chest binders or their suit may have a lot of fluff at the chest, making it hard to tell where their chest is or even if they are a female suiter. For these reasons, you should avoid petting the front of a person’s suit without permission.

Safe areas will be different for every suiter, so it is still a good idea to ask where you can pet before petting. This is likely to be the head, back or shoulders. However they may have places that they prefer over others.

If you do get permission to pet the suiter, remember to be gentle. Some suit heads are a solid resin material instead of foam and petting them too hard can hurt the suiter inside. Attempting to ‘scritch’ the fur like scratching a pet can damage the fur, especially on the head of the suit. Instead, many suiters prefer to be petted gently and in the same direction that the fur flows on their suit. This prevents damage to the suit, and also keeps the fur looking smooth and nice. Do also try to have clean hands, as dirty hands with grime or stickiness on them can damage the suit.

Fursuits are one of the greatest aspects of any furry convention. Just like cosplay brings our favorite characters to life, fursuiting allows us to bring our own personal characters out in the real world. But we do need to take care around fursuiters so that no one loses their head and so that everyone has a good time!

Do you have any other concerns about fursuits? Or if you are a fursuiter, what are some other things you prefer people to do or not do? Leave it below in the comments!

We are also looking for experienced convention goers to add contributions to next week’s article! We’re looking for more advanced convention tips and suggestions to help new and old convention goers have a smoother convention experience! If interested, please contact Inkblitz through @inkblitzer on Twitter, or by e-mail through inkblitzer(at)gmail.com.

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