In the land of the rising sun, a rather peculiar clothing trend emerged during the 1980s in a popular district of Tokyo. Called Harajuku Fashion, in memory of the district of Tokyo where it appeared, this fashion managed to make its appearance in the Western countries in the 2000s.
The term Harajuku (原宿) refers to a neighborhood in the Shibuya district of Tokyo where is born what we call today Harajuku Fashion, a Japanese clothing style created from the desire of the youth of this district to free themselves from the very strict dress codes of traditional Japanese culture.
Let's take a look at the main variations of this casual style that can be found nowadays in Harajuku, but also in other districts of Tokyo such as Aoyama, Ginza, Odaiba, Shinjuku and Shibuya.
To create the first glances of what is today called "Harajuku Style", the young people of this neighborhood began by associating traditional Japanese fashion with Western clothing and accessories.
Proud of their originality, these young Japanese boys and girls started to show off their new embraced apparences in the streets of their neighborhood, with their unique and colorful cuts of Harajuku clothing.
The message conveyed by the Harajuku style was a desire for independence from the social pressure imposed by elders to conform to the rules of Japanese tradition.
But today, Harajuku fashion has become much more diversified. It is now declined in many sub-trends which appear all over the place, even if the essence of the Harajuku style of the origins remains present.
Japanese Lolita fashion, which itself includes many variations, has become one of the most important characteristics of Japanese street fashion and its popularity has quickly spread beyond the Japanese culture to other countries around the world.
Thought for women at first, this fashion style has several distinctive signs. Girls dressed in Lolita Fashion style usually wear skirts or dresses at mid-height or longer with underneath big petticoats, to give volume from the hips. The long or short sleeved blouses they wear are often decorated with lace, frilly or ruffled to imitate rococo or Victorian fashion.
Another distinctive sign of the Japanese Lolita style is the wearing of stockings or socks that are fairly long and embellished with lace. As for shoes, Lolita fans usually opt for Mary Janes or boots.
Unlike other modern styles such as streetwear, Lolita Style Clothing is inspired by the French Victorian period, although other trends have blended together to create different Lolita styles today that we will document below:
Gothic Lolita Fashion
As its name suggests, Gothic Lolita Fashion is a variation of the Lolita style strongly inspired by Victorian Gothic culture. Taking up many dress codes from this universe, the Gothic Lolita style is distinguished by dark tones and the use of fashion accessories decorated with atypical designs.
It is not uncommon to find representations of skulls, skeletons, bats, spiders and other popular Gothic symbols printed or embroidered on Gothic Lolita Clothing, such as the main characters in the films directed by Tim Burton.
Other symbols such as iron doors and Victorian-era architectural motifs can frequently be found printed on a Gothic Lolita Outfit. Finally, to complete their "costume", fans of this style use accessories such as caps, rectangular hats and brooches.
Sweet Lolita Fashion
The Sweet Lolita Fashion comes from the unlikely marriage between the very popular Kawaii culture of Japan and the children's fashion of the Victorian period. Children's style, which is omnipresent in the outfits and accessories, is materialized by patterns inspired by baby animals and fairy tales.
The goal is to embrace this universe is to imitate through clothing the innocence and candor of children by using representations of their own universe.
The frequent use of pastel colors in the choice of outfits enhances this effect, even if sometimes, darker shades are present in certain dresses or skirts of people dressed with a sweet Lolita outfit.
As far as accessories are concerned, cat ears, big bow ties in the hair, pretty colorful handbags and small stuffed animals are the must have of the casual Sweet Lolita style.
Classic Lolita Fashion
Classic Lolita Fashion is the variant of the Lolita style that comes the closest to the ways of dressing of the Victorian and Rococo periods. Because of this return to more classical times, fantasy is a little less of a factor in the choice of colors.
Adopting this sub-style makes you look more mature. Floral prints and plain tones are frequently used, although it is not uncommon to find more complex prints in classic Lolita garments to make it look more casual or sweet. Sober accessories such as small ribbons, caps, rectangular hairstyles as well as hair corsets complete the clothing of a classic Lolita Style.
Punk Lolita Fashion
Still very rare today, Punk Lolita Style is an experimental sub-style, which as its name suggests, mixes the punk universe with the Lolita look. This variant is rather difficult to characterize, because it sometimes seems to borrow the codes of deconstructivist fashion or to fall into eccentricity. Nevertheless, the Lolita punk look is largely inspired by the goth fashion.
Male Lolita Fashion - Kodona
Male version of the Lolita style, Kodona Fashion, also called "boy style" or "ouji", is a variant of Harajuku fashion quite popular in Japan. Inspired by the Victorian men's fashion, this style brings back some interesting pieces of clothing that almost disappeared today such as the "prince's pants".
Prince Pants are short bottoms of capri shape, which stop at knee height, and most often tastefully decorated (sometimes with lace on the ends).
They are usually accompanied by men's blouses, top hats, long socks (which can go up to the knees) and many other clothes and accessories from the same period (straps, knobbed canes, gusset watches, etc.).
To take the refinement of a Kodona Lolita look one step further, we can add a period aristocratic jacket.
Another women's Japanese fashion style derived from the Harajuku style, Gyaru Fashion, no to be confused with the Ganguro look, which is one of its derivates, is a form of Japanese streetwear that emerged in the 1970s.
Very influenced by western fashion, Gyaru style strongly values girly-glam in women's clothing. Beauty tricks such as wigs, false eyelashes, false nails, and others constitute the essential codes of this style.
Ganguro Fashion is a variant of Harajuku style that gained notoriety among young Japanese women from the 1990s, reaching its peak in the early 2000s. In reality, Ganguro style takes up and accentuates the dress codes of Gyaru fashion explained in the last chapter.
Globally, this style is a real festival of bright colors in the choice of clothes, whether it is mini-skirts, tie-dyed sarongs, T-shirts, short dresses, sweaters or others. A Ganguro Girl is recognizable by its bleached hair, intense tan, false eyelashes, black and white eyeliner, etc. She most often uses bracelets, rings, necklaces and wear platform shoes as accessories.
For many people, Namie Amuro is the celebrity who first popularized Ganguro style. It is indeed by watching her media releases during which she appeared tanned with bleached hair, that many young Japanese girls tried to look just like her for the first time.
Of course, because Japanese Fashion don't have any limit, more extreme forms of this style then appeared such as Yamanba Fashion which is also called Manba Fashion.
Mostly worn by Japanese girls, Kogal Fashion (also called Kogyaru) is inspired by the high school uniform of young Japanese girls, but sexier. Indeed, the young girls who adopt this look generally have an outfit that looks close to the universal Japanese school uniform, but with a shortened skirt and longer socks.
The hair is generally dyed and decorated with a scarf. A typical outfit for a Kogyaru outfit can include a blazer or blouse for cold weather. Mostly popular in the 90s, the Kogal style now has fewer and fewer adepts.
Bōsōzoku Fashion is no longer part of the clothing trends of today's young Japanese generation, but was very widespread in the 1990s. Although it has almost disappeared from the urban landscape,
Bōsōzoku style clothing continues to be present in many Japanese artistic productions such as anime, manga and cinema. We can quote for example the amazing manga of Tooru Fujisawa, GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka).
First appeared in the late 1990s, Decora Fashion spread widely in Japan and abroad. One of Japan's pop idols, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, managed to make a name for himself in the world of Harajuku fashion, and has greatly contributed to spreading the Decora Clothing Style even before he entered the world of music.
This Harajuku sub-style uses precise color coding to distinguish Decora looks from each other. Depending on the predominant color of the clothes, we will talk about Pink Decora for pink, Red Decora for red, Dark Decora for dark tones, Rainbow Decora for a mix of colors, etc.
Typical outfits of Decora Key Fashion are composed of a plain color shirt and a hooded sweatshirt combined with a short tutu mini-skirt. The makeup is usually quite harmonious to match with the top. On the hair side, girls wearing Decora clothes look generally prefer a low ponytail, topped with a long fringe.
This last part, the most representative part of the Decora fashion, must be overloaded with lots of cute little objects. The desired effect is that the fringe as well as the front hair must be considerably concealed by these small objects.
In addition, accessories such as leggings, socks, armbands and knee socks should also be layered one on top of the other in a Decora outfit. The most common patterns on these accessories are leopard prints and dental masks decorated with designs. Decora Fashion is less popular today, but is still very popular around the world.
Visual Kei Fashion
Japanese Visual Kei Fashion is a sub-trend of the Harajuku style that emerged in the mid-1980s, thanks to Japanese musical groups.
The elements that distinguish Visual Kei Style are impressive make-up, unusual hairstyles and eccentric and dazzling clothes. Possessing some similarities with glam rock and glam metal, the Visual Kei Clothing promotes androgyny.
Over the years, a few variations of Visual Kei have managed to establish themselves as clothing styles in their own right: Oshare kei, Angura kei, Cult party kei, Dolly Kei and Fairy kei.
Oshare Kei Fashion
Oshare Kei Fashion is the declination of the Visual Kei from our previous chapter, and a variant consider to be the most advanced of its time. In reality, it is an original look resulting from a mix between different patterns, bright colors and punk fashion.
Oshare Kei Style differs from the Visual Kei style, by a makeup a little more attenuated which puts much more emphasis on the eyes. People with this look often have facial piercings.
Like the Visual Kei, the Oshare Kei Clothing style is largely inspired by boy bands such as Aicle, An Cafe, Delacroix, Ichigo69, LM.C, Lolita23q, SuG, and Panic Channel.
Angura Kei Fashion
Wanting to get as close as possible to today's Gothic Fashion, Angura Kei Fashion wins the prize for the darkest Visual Kei sub-style.
The must-have of the Angura Kei Style are predominantly black outfits, with spikes and chains to add to the intimidating side. Dark and heavy makeup reinforces this impression.
Like Visual Kei and Oshare Kei, Angura Kei is both a clothing style and a musical genre. The most popular artists in this register are Guniw Tools, MUCC, Metronome, Floppy, and Nookicky.
Dolly Key Fashion is based on the Japanese perception of the medieval period, but also on the tales and legends of Europe.
Particularly inspired by the fairy tales compiled by the Grimm brothers or those written by Hans Christian Andersen, the Dolly Key style incorporates a lot of vintage clothing and occasionally religious emblems and symbols. The store called "Grimoire" is an emblematic place in Japan to find Dolly Kei outfits. This store has even been described as a "pioneer store of Dolly Kei fashion".
Cult Party Kei Fashion
It is directly from the Harajuku Cult Party store (the current Virgin Mary), that the name of Cult Party Kei Fashion comes from.
The Cult party Kei Style is a rather new clothing style that uses objects borrowed from Christianity such as crosses or the Bible. Many people think that this style is a variation of the Dolly Kei.
Characteristic features of Cult party Kei Clothing include crosses made of wire, clothing with layers of light colored fabric, heavy use of cream lace, satin knots, and Christian patterned prints.
Compared to other looks derived from Visual Kei, the makeup and hairstyle of this style are less extravagant. In fact, light makeup that doesn't emphasize the eyes and simple hairstyles adorned with roses are enough to achieve a successful Cult Party Kei outfit.
Fairy Kei Fashion
Fairy Kei Fashion is a style characterized by its childish look, strongly influenced by the fashion of the 1980s.
The expression "Fairy-Kei" comes from Zipper magazine, although some believe it was Sayuri Tabuchi, owner of the fashion retailer Tokyo Spank, who invented it.
Fairy Kei Style characteristic clothes look is composed of pastel tones such as lavender, baby blue, light pink, mint green, light yellow, etc.
The printed fabrics feature all kinds of childhood motifs such as angels, cute little designs and designs related to toys popular in the West between 1980 and the early 1990s. They include designs by Barbie, Care Bears, Strawberry, Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Popples, Lady Lovely Locks, Polly Pocket, Wuzzles and My Little Pony.
When it comes to hairstyling, Fairy Kei outfits are often distinguished by bleached hair in a pastel color even though leaving your hair natural is also very common. Hairstyles are simple and adorned with cute or pastel things with a scourge accessory: knots.
Mori Kei Fashion
The term Mori derivates from the Kanji 森 which means forest in Japanese. So Mori Kei Fashion takes its authenticity by exploiting the theme of nature through soft and comfortable pieces of clothing such as floating dresses and cardigans.
Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and wool are used with colors that are often pale and neutral, even if we can find floral designs or gingham patterns. The most used accessories in the Mori Kei Style are handmade or vintage, but always related to nature.
For a true hairstyle that fits this style, a Mori Kei outfit is accompanied by popularized bangs (often curly) and braids. It's a look comparable to the Dolly Kei, since women who adopt it should look like dolls, but more casual and simple.
Last but not least, Harajuku Fashion also has a variant inspired by Japanese traditional Fashion. True cultural identity recognized worldwide for its beauty and elegance, the kimono continues to be worn in the streets in Japan, especially in Ginza.
Moreover, the solemn character of this garment has been preserved. Even today, Kimono Fashion still is the most popular choice during important moments such as graduation ceremonies, weddings, and more.
Young Japanese people mix tradition and modernity by wearing Japanese kimono with fashionable accessories and shoes. This sometimes results in young people in matching kimonos with designer bags instead of the usual basket, wearing sneakers or high heels instead of clogs and many other originalities.
What does Harajuku mean?
The word Harajuku (原宿) derivates from two Kanjis; 原 (Yuán) meaning original and 宿 (Yado) which refers to "a place in which someone lives or stays temporarily".
During World War II, US army came and established their camp in the place that is known today as Harajuku district. Lots of barrack lots were built there at that time to accommodate the soldiers and new shops were also created for military families. An artificial little city was then created inside Tokyo that was supposed to last only a few time.
Today, the combination of these two terms explains clearly what Harajuku represents in Tokyo, a safe place where Japanese people can escape the stressful lifestyle in their city to express their originality and differences for a short period of time, without suffering from the judgement eyes of others.
What is a Harajuku girl?
A Harajuku girl is someone that doesn't fit in the fade and boring lifestyle that Japanese culture imposes on all its inhabitants. Someone who has kept her childlike soul and wishes to express all her originality and the person she really is inside of her heart, in all honesty, in all transparency, in the eyes of all, at least for a few minutes.