On a tan couch in a typical student apartment, Dante, Sparky and Kurue gathered to open up about a part of their lives many might not know about: fursuits, conventions and fursonas—these are the interests that bind the three together and make them apart of the furry fandom.
“If you ask ten people what the furry fandom is, you’ll get ten different answers,” said Sparky, a freshman majoring in computer science.
Furries are people who are interested in anthropomorphic animals – animals with human-like characteristics. According to them, this interest often stems from a love for cartoon characters that popularized the anthropomorphic concept. While this is the common definition for what it means to be a furry, those within the fandom each have a unique and personal connection to it.
The trio belongs to UCF Furs, a group dedicated to bringing together furries in the UCF area. Dante, Sparky and Kurue are the fury personas, or “fursonas,” that the trio goes by. In their everyday lives, Sparky and Kurue are actually Danny and Matt, respectively. Dante wished to only go by his fursona name.
Dante, a senior studying human resources management, found the furry fandom in the sixth grade after dressing up as Clifford the Big Red Dog at school. He said he enjoyed performing as the character and fell in love with the costuming aspect of the furry fandom.
“I looked more into mascoting when I got home on the Internet and that’s how I found furry,” Dante said. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever that you could have your own character and have your own costume.”
Many people within the fandom create their own fursonas.
“It’s basically if you could be any animal in the world,” Danny said, whose fursona is a blue, pink and white husky named Sparky. “Pick your favorite animal, however you would want it to look and however you would want to personify that.”
Danny said his fursona has helped him open up and become more extroverted.
“Sparky’s a lot more outgoing, a lot more friendly and a lot more chipper,” Danny said. “I guess when I get in the mindset of being Sparky I turn away from being the shy, introverted guy and become a bit more outgoing.”
Some furries express themselves by wearing “fursuits.” A fursuit is a full-body costume that brings a person’s fursona to life. Depending on the size, materials and complexity, custom fursuits usually range from $1,000 to over $4,000 for more intricate or high-tech suits. Advanced suits can have features such as wings, moving ears and LED lights.
Dante was able to express his passion for costuming by selling half of his vintage video game collection for his own custom fursuit, which cost him $1,600 and resembles a 6-foot-tall golden retriever.
“I’m more of an introvert in real life, but when I’m in my costume I’m a lot more extroverted and active,” Dante said. “My fursona is basically the goofball side of me.”
Fursuits are common within the community, however not all furries own one or even aspire to own one.
While furries find the freedom to express themselves within their community, sharing their hobby with those outside of the fandom can be difficult. This is caused by a lack of mainstream popularity that can lead to people being misinformed about the furry community.
“My mom thought it was kind of strange because she saw an episode of ‘ER’ that basically had a TV version of furries and she went off of that,” Dante said.
While not everyone fully understands what the furry community is all about, Dante, Matt and Danny don’t let it affect their love for the fandom.
“I treat it like how you’d treat any other hobby,” Dante said. “Some people like to build model airplanes. Some people like to draw cartoons. I like to put on a costume and perform.”
“In the end, the furry thing is a hobby,” Danny added. “It’s something that we do on the side. We’re still human beings; we still go to work; we still have goals and we still have friends and families.”
With thousands of furries coming together at conventions such as MegaPlex, which is held annually in Orlando, it’s easy to make connections.
“The community is mostly based online, so you’ll meet people from across the globe,” Danny said.
As a worldwide community, furries can be found at all ages and from all cultural backgrounds.
“The fandom is so diverse,” Dante said. “You have everyone from people who are unemployed to doctors and CEOs. Any kinds of work that people are in, there’s probably a furry involved.”
Matt, a junior studying information technology, founded UCF Furs with the same goal conventions have: to help furries connect with each other.
“I made the group just to bring people together,” he said. “If you’re a furry it’s pretty open. You meet a lot of people and there isn’t a barrier of culture, or something like that.”
If you are interested in learning more about UCF Furs, you can find them on Twitter @UCFFurs and at their website http://ucffurs.tk/.