Yesterday, Capcom revealed some new costumes for Street Fighter V. On April 25th, you'll be able to dress up Alex, R. Mika and Chun-Li for work. I sat down with Compete's Maddy Myers, the ultimate Street Fighter fangirl, to talk about what works and what doesn't.
Gita Jackson: Let's start by talking about Alex's firefighter costume -- Maddy, you wanna give me some background on Alex as a character?
Maddy Myers: Yeah! So Alex is one of the American characters in Street Fighter. Every fighter is from a different country and usually represents that country's style in terms of how they dress and behave (all the predictable complications can arise with that). Alex is from Manhattan; one of his old voice lines refers to Brooklyn street fights, so we can assume he spends some time around there. His past looks have usually featured suspenders and flannel, which might not be out of place in modern-day Brooklyn. More importantly, Alex is a character who has long been rumoured to be gay. Since he wears suspenders a lot (a classic queer dude signifier!), fans have read into that. He's also a bodybuilder, but almost everyone in Street Fighter has a physical-oriented backstory, so that isn't unusual.
Put all that together and it's interesting to see him in the firefighter getup, particularly given the connotations firefighters have for Americans. Firefighters are sexy (think, that Sex and the City episode where Samantha fucks the firefighter and wears his suspenders) but also potentially homoerotic (The Village People). Ultimately, they are an American symbol of male sexiness for ladies and for dudes. But remember, this is Capcom putting together what they think of Americans, plus the playful humour that entails.
Gita Jackson: Firefighters have also historically been part of camp queer culture. They also figure into the erotica of Tom of Finland. I will be honest here: this costume looks exactly like something out of a Tom of Finland illustration.
First of all, where's his shirt? Alex is absolutely not putting out any fires in that.
Maddy Myers: Yep. Alex very rarely wears a shirt, by the way, and seems to have an affinity for David Bowie-esque face makeup, so this is definitely not the first time he's experimented with queer signifiers:
As for whether any of this is intentional, well, that's anyone's guess. Like, is Capcom trying to say, "we know that these styles are gay?" I do not know.
I do think this quote from the Capcom employee blog post about the outfits, in general, is interesting: "The team created these by thinking what sort of jobs would the characters have, if they weren't fighting."
Gita Jackson: Maybe they're trying to follow up the runaway success of Hot Ryu.
Maddy Myers: LOL. But yeah, all of the sample sketches of Alex's firefighter uniform are not up to code; they all have either deep Vs or no shirt at all.
Gita Jackson: Alex's outfit is interesting because it makes something that already seems a little gay much much gayer, but design wise, honestly it's kind of fug.
Maddy Myers: In the final version he actually does still have his Bowie makeup on! I almost didn't notice that because he's also covered in soot. From all the fires he's putting out.
Out of all the designs, I'm not sold on the one they picked. The fire hose wrapped around his body... it's not sexy, y'all. I mean, not that it needs to be, but if that's what they were going for, I'm not into it.
Gita Jackson: Here's another quote from the post: "We think we could make an entire calendar of just screenshots of Alex in this costume." At least someone's into it!
Maddy Myers: Like everything else in this game, when it comes to sexualizing the male characters, I can't tell if this is a joke or not. This is one of those classic problems with trying to create a sexy costume for a male character in general, plus the cultural differences between what we consider sexy in America (beefy firemen) as opposed to what the Capcom designers might be into. The result gets lost in translation a little bit. "Beefy fireman" should be a home run over here, but the fireman hat is bad and the fire hose is bad.
Gita Jackson: The unbuttoned top button is playful, and suspenders and no shirt seems like a total winner, but the colour is drab and you can't actually see his chest because of the hose. And that hat! It has the classic fighting game problem of "too much shit going on."
Maddy Myers: The wings on the hat are distracting visually, plus the chin-strap. I get the "safety first" mentality of the wings and chin-strap, but when you're not wearing a shirt, why bother? It's like this design can't decide if Alex is a real fireman or a sexy fireman. CHOOSE ONE.
Gita Jackson: He'll get all his skin scalded off, but god forbid he gets a concussion.
Gita Jackson: Alright, let's move on to R. Mika.
Maddy Myers: So R. Mika as a cheerleader actually makes sense to me, given that her canonical job is pro wrestler. Or at least aspiring pro wrestler!
I buy that an alt-universe version of R. Mika might have pursued cheerleading. But I have a feeling she wouldn't be into the fact that she can't design her own outfits. She has... a distinctive style when it comes to her wrestling garb.
Once again, I really like some of the alternate designs they chose here that have R. Mika's signature gaudy heart as part of the design. The final design is a lot closer to a typical cheerleader costume that we might see here in the US.
Gita Jackson: I think the costume really embraces the positive, vibrant spirit of Mika. While it's a pretty typical American style cheerleader outfit, the mask and shoes gives it a really sporty look.
Maddy Myers: Oh, by the way, R. Mika is Japanese and from Japan, even though all the trappings of her aesthetic (dyed blonde hair, blue contacts, pro wrestling and... cheerleading?) are what we might associate with a stereotypical "All-American" vibe. Here my Japanese knowledge fails a bit since I don't actually know if the cheerleader is fetishized in quite the same way as it is here. Over here, it's definitely a big deal.
Season 4, episode 10, in case you were wondering.
Gita Jackson: Weirdly this costume reminds me of something from one of the seasons of Project Runway, where they had to design female wrestler outfits.
One of them made an outfit for a wrestler with an "all American girl" vibe, and they put her in a similar knee socks with racing stripes get up. While it's still sexy, there's an innocence here that seems really genuine and sincere. Mika seems super hype to be cheerleading. It doesn't seem too far off from what an actual dancer would wear.
Maddy Myers: I also love that she's traded in her usual dual pigtails for a single ponytail with a pom-pom barrette. Also, her mask has the white lining to match her outfit. The mask is the one part of the ensemble that is a holdover from her wrestler persona and not something a cheerleader would wear.
That said, I'm not super wild about the colour scheme. Orange and red and blue? I know R. Mika loves garish colours, but it's a lot, especially with rainbow pom-poms. That said, it's clearly in-character, as we've said.
Gita Jackson: In the sketches you can see they tried out some other colours, but what they really needed was fewer colours. That said, I'm glad red is the dominant one. Really seems to suit her.
Maddy Myers: It's almost a magenta red in the screenshots, which is a really great colour on her.
Gita Jackson: All in all, it's really cute. But now let's talk about my favourite: Chun-Li, office lady with legs for days.
Maddy Myers: This might be the first Chun-Li outfit I've genuinely liked. Ever. I would wear this.
Gita Jackson: This is more professional that what I wear to work on a daily basis, even with the slit all the way up to her hip.
Maddy Myers: I understand the value of her classic costume with the massive puffed sleeves, simply for the sake of nostalgia, but Chun-Li's propensity to wear puffed sleeves that are bigger than her head is cartoonish. That's fine, but it's nice to see her in an outfit that she could actually wear in real life as opposed to within the cartoony auspices of Street Fighter.
I love that the final outfit is a combination of two of the sketches. There's the pin-striped skirt from the first sketch, and the beautiful gold belt and jewellery accents from the second sketch:
Gita Jackson: You've mentioned to me before that Chun-Li is a goody two shoes cop, and this is the first time I feel like that's reflected in her costume.
Maddy Myers: Yes! Chun-Li's real-life job was a cop, during which time she pivoted into focusing on fighting M. Bison and his crime syndicate. I guess in this alternate universe she's an office worker. If this outfit is any indication, I'd say she's a high-powered CEO at the top of her game.
Gita Jackson: Those gold accessories are luxe. I think this is the first costume of the three that doesn't look over-designed.
Maddy Myers: I actually love that she's wearing ballet flats. Practical!
Gita Jackson: God, that's cute. What really does it for me is her hair and glasses. She looks like she's going to give me a harsh but fair yearly performance report.
Maddy Myers: The glasses are almost Bayonetta-esque, which is way more "sexy librarian" than we usually see from Chun-Li. She's had some sexy costumes before, but never this particular fetish, haha. Give me a six-month evaluation, Boss Chun-Li!
We keep talking about the gold accents, but I just really love the tiny touches here. The gold buttons on the shirt! The cufflinks!
Gita Jackson: The watch is incredible. I'm not a watch girl but I want that watch.
I like that this is sexy, but in a grown up way. This isn't just a lot of skin, it's a whole vibe and aesthetic.
Maddy Myers: Right? This is one of those scenarios where Chun-Li's personality, which I've always envisioned as anal-retentive, gets translated into some killer fashion. Matching your watch to your outfit takes a level of dedication and planning. Also, the jacket sleeves have an ever-so-subtle puff at the shoulder, harkening back to her other life where she's friggin' obsessed with puffed sleeves apparently.
Overall, I think this is a very fun concept for alternate costumes. It makes me imagine another reality for these characters where they're actually happy and successful. In Chun-Li's case, that's almost tragic, since her entire life revolves around fighting this terrifying force that killed her dad, changed the direction of her career, and probably necessitated a lifetime of therapy. This outfit is on point and it makes me feel hopeful that there's a different version of Chun-Li somewhere who's successful and emotionally healthy and killing it.
Gita Jackson: I'm really glad that Capcom subscribes to the many worlds theory.