Friday, October 1, 2010

Fashion : Harajuku

Harajuku, also called Japanese Street Style, is actually a conglomeration of extreme, costume-based apparel styles sported by Japanese youth. The Harajuku Station area of Tokyo is the most popular showcase for these wild and varied displays of fashion on Sunday afternoons.

The pieces used to create these looks are obsessively collected from thrift shops and name brand stores as well as created and altered by hand. The point is to NEVER look similar to anyone else on the street; to somehow, within your sub-genre – remain as shockingly unique as possible.

The genres spin off and evolve continuously, and are hard to pin down and define, but needless to say  - each participant knows exactly where they fit in and what their own personal fashion references are for their particular Harajuku niche. I’ll try to break it all down a bit……
Kawaii and Decora

Kawaii translates from the Japanese as “loveable”, “cute” or “adorable”. Quite frankly the Japanese invented cute. Beginning in the 1970’s Japanese school girls adopted a new “cute” style of handwriting – injecting hearts and bubble letters, swirls and rounded characters. Although it was banned in Japanese schools (because it was so hard to read) it became popular in comics and magazines and spawned an entire culture of cute for that generation. Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Anime in general….were all the result of the Kawaii underground movement.

Kawaii Harajuku requires layers upon layers of rainbow brights, silhouettes reminiscent of childrenswear, brightly dyed hair and plastic toy-like accessories. Decora is a sub-genre that requires massive amounts of bright plastic accessories be worn simultaneously – dozens of barettes, hundreds of pins, covering from head to toe in an explosion of cheerful color.

Punk Harajuku is a theatrical version of British or American punk. Lots of punk style - without any of the actual philosophy. So although they may be dressed to the punk-nines on Sunday, they won't be late for work on Monday.

Gothic Lolita
Gothic Lolita draws references from Victorian costume and Goth aesthetic, then puts a typical Japanese spin of cuteness on it. Despite its name, sex appeal is never the point of Gothic Lolita (or any of the Harajuku styles, for that matter). Frills, petticoats, over-sized mary-janes, miniature hats and parisols (usually in black and/ or white) are mainstays.

J-rock and Visual Kei

J-rock (or Japanese rock) is a musical genre derived from American glam-rock bands of the 80's. Also called Visual Kei, the music culture and apparel is intertwined. Big bright hair, dramatic make-up, 80's influence rock style and androgeny are key components.

Similar to the American version (with a dose of goofy Japanese thrown in) Rockabilly pays homage to the King and his hey day.


Ganguru (which translates as "blackface") attempts to emulate the all American, California-girl look. A dark tan (often make-up), bleached blond hair and Barbie inspired attire accompany a sunny attitude. White make up and dark eyeliner is used to recreate a Western shaped eye and pale lips. Prior to researching this blog I wasn't familiar with this look...and no sir, I don't like. It's pretty creepy.

1 comment:

  1. Two of the punk pics are cosplayers dressed up as two VISUAL KEI rock stars, Ruki and Reita from The Gazette. :/ They're not harajuku punk, they're VK.

    Also, "ganguro" not ganguru.