Say you're at a cosplay convention. You're walking around the con floor, strutting your stuff, and suddenly... your armour breaks. Or your shoe splits. Or your gauntlet falls off. Who you gonna call? This guy. Jacob LaRocca from Rocket Props has been cosplaying (and building stuff for others) for a few years now. But lately, he's made a name for himself not for his cosplay, but for attending cons as Rocket's Cosplay Repair, a one-man workshop dedicated to patching up cosplay outfits. For free.
It sounds minor, but it's an invaluable service. Cosplay outfits can be built for show more than performance. They can be difficult to get around in. A cosplayer's hotel room — where tools and spare materials might be — can be an age away from where a cosplayer might be when their costume breaks.
Any of those factors can be disastrous for a cosplayer if their outfit ever breaks. LaRocca explains that "Many cosplayers have told me that when they are on the convention floor and a piece of your armour falls off, if they are on their way to a panel or a photo shoot, they don't want to have to turn around, trudge all the way across the convention center, or crawl into a tiny elevator to get to the cosplay repair station, when a small dab of glue, or some waxed thread will fix the problem."
LaRocca was inspired to start his service when a cosplay outfit of his own broke down and left him stranded. "Last year at DragonCon, I wore the one costume I had made for three days, and on the third day I wore it in the parade", he tells Kotaku.
"The costume consisted of pants, a heavy shirt, and a helmet, so it was pretty gross at the end. I decided I didn't particularly want to wear it for the rest of the convention. As I was de-costuming, some parts of my costume broke, so I grabbed the tools I had brought along and repaired it."
"I have always loved fixing things, so I decided it would be fun to fix other people's costumes. Within minutes of buying a piece of cardboard and writing 'Free Repairs' on it, I had about five people asking for help. I went to CVS and stocked up on some supplies I didn't have and it has only gotten more fun and more involved since."
And so Rocket's Cosplay Repair was born.
While he still attends cosplay conventions in actual cosplay, LaRocca says of his repair outfit that he tries to "break it out at least once at every convention I go to", and that once he commits to wearing it, he can be so busy ("I won't refuse a request for a repair") that he'll be unable to attend panels or get around a convention for the rest of that day.
Why free, though? Surely there's some money to be made in charging a buck or two for a patch-up and space parts? "I haven't ever really thought of charging", LaRocca says. "I really enjoy helping people, and as cheesy as this sounds, the genuine gratitude you get in return is totally worth it. If people want to tip me, I won't refuse it, as it all goes back to more supplies, but I do it for free and for fun."
And he's good at what he does. "I have been told that I have been able to repair things that the more 'serious' cosplay repair stations haven't been able to fix," he says, and I believe it. One of the more common repair jobs he has to perform is on fragile shoes that might split or wear through, which he usually patches up with duct tape. And here's how fancy he can get with duct tape:
So next time you're at a con in the US and your pauldron falls off, or your boot cracks, or your helmet won't stay on, keep an eye out for Jacob and his yellow sirens. He's got your back.
You can see more of Jacob's proper cosplay and props work at his Facebook page.