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Japanese Fashion and Style

Japanese Fashion and Style

Ah, Japan: a fantastic wonderland of colorful snack foods, unsettlingly pretty male pop stars, and schoolgirl pantie vending machines. This eclectic and often downright crazy culture is steadily making its way overseas and knocking on our doors. Japanese food restaurants have sprouted up all over the nation like mushrooms; Japanese cartoons (anime) have become wildly popular with a great amount of people; and, while we haven’t seen those pantie vending machines yet, people everywhere are beginning to adopt Japanese street fashion as part of their day to day wardrobe.

Japanese fashion has evolved awe inspiringly since the age of the kimono. Nowadays, in addition to t shirt and jeans ensembles worn by “regular people”, there are literally a dozen or so subcultures roaming the trendy streets of Tokyo, each boasting their own unique style. These subcultures include but certainly are not limited to gyaru, Gothic Lolita, and visual kei.

Gyaru is perhaps the most Western of the three main subcultures mentioned. It’s basically a trashy, bad girl look: miniskirts, tight jeans, boots, high heels, revealing tops, blonde hair, tanned skin, and heavy makeup are all characteristic of the style, although there are varying “degrees” of gyaru; the more made up and tanned versions are called “ganguro”. Gyaru are stereotypically wild party girls who love shopping, clubbing and men.

Gothic Lolita (also known as Gothloli, Lolita, or simply “loli”), in staunch contrast to gyaru, is a very formal, conservative style. Most partakers in the subculture wear knee length skirts and pinafore dresses, blouses, cute boots or Mary Jane shoes, lace headbands, tiny tophats, and stockings. As implied by the “Gothic” in the style’s name, elements of classic Goth culture (rosaries and an affinity for wearing the colors black and white, for example) are also infused into Gothic Lolita. As in gyaru, there are other types of Gothic Lolita, including Sweet Lolita (like Gothloli with pink instead of black), Wa Lolita (which mixes traditional Japanese costuming with Lolita cuteness), and Gothic Aristocrat (more elegant and somber than Gothic Lolita, its followers don long black cloaks and mourning dresses). Gothic Lolitas are known to believe in the upholding of manners and formalities and possess a love of Alice in Wonderland.

Visual kei is widely thought of as the wildest Japanese subculture of all. Visually, its followers are drenched in a kind of insane, anything goes, punk like style with a hard edge: dyed hair, rampantly artistic makeup, ripped clothes, surgical masks, piercings, and outrageous jewelry are all commonly seen, but there are dozens and dozens of other elements as well that are not listed here. While visual kei ensembles are oftentimes imitations of the costumes that are worn by visual kei bands such as Alice Nine, The Gazette, and Kagrra, creativity is more often than not the most important aspect of putting together an outfit. In essence, it is pretty hard to determine what makes visual kei what it is because of the flexibility of the style, but generally, a visu is a wild, raging punk with a deep love of music and a desire to be themselves.

Japanese street fashion is, not surprisingly, rambunctious and unique, much like most of the other cultural aspects of Japan. There is a style for everyone, whether you be a party loving gyaru, a fierce visu, or anything in between. Schoolgirl panties or not, as Japanese culture crosses an ocean and pushes over our borders, we get a sense of variety and individuality like never before.

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