In Japan, Harajuku is more than just your typical neighborhood. Sure it has Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine and even the largest Daiso in the whole of Tokyo but the name Harajuku is often accompanied by another noun. And if you have been a fan of Japan and its culture for a long time, you must have heard of the famous Harajuku fashion.
To start off, the title Harajuku fashion didn’t sprung out of nowhere. This famous neighborhood of Tokyo is the headquarters for Japan’s pop and kawaii culture. The area is mostly littered with teenagers (mostly the fashion-conscious ones) and young adults. Its most famous street, Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) is a seemingly never-ending street lined with stores offering various trends of clothes and fashion and mouth-watering food outlets.
The term Harajuku fashion started when colorful, trendy, and head-turning outfits roam the streets of Harajuku worn by teenagers who yearns for that sense of freedom amidst the Japanese’s conservative culture. However, this fashion trend isn’t a new one. In fact, it started way back in 1980’s, where street performers would wear unbelievable and jaw-dropping pieces of clothing and has reached its peak during the 2000s. The street performers has dwindled down during the 1990’s but the fashion it has served continues a life of its own.
The wearers of this fashion are more than just your regular set of individuals as these are the teenagers who aim to voice out their wish for their freedom of expression, independence, and their struggle for the Japanese norm, through clothes, make-up, and lifestyle. One of the most fascinating things about this, one that you can’t find anywhere else, is that it’s not the shops that dictate fashion, it’s never the brand either but it’s the teenagers that control what the shops will start selling.
Unbelievable but downright fascinating. Just imagine defining your own fashion sense, without the pressure of influencers and big brands. This is the very spirit that has given Harajuku fashion its fame, it’s not all about the fashion itself but it’s the sense of self-rule that the teenagers have the moment they step into this famous fashion district.
If you are interested in Harajuku fashion, one of its common elements is its sense of theatrics. This fashion is well-known for being creative, colorful, and dramatic. No one will bat an eye if you wear a dress of contrasting colors, humongous multi-colored hair, and a 5-inch platform shoes as you roam the streets of Harajuku. After all, it’s all about the mix and match and the refreshing and never seen before concepts.
The Styles of Harajuku Fashion
One of the reasons why Harajuku is such a colorful and vibrant community is because of the buzzing diversity of each individual and what gives life to these colors. The disarray of colors and patterns is justifiable by the numerous styles of fashion scattered within the area. But what could these styles be? Here, I will tell you all about it.
This style of Harajuku fashion is well-adapted in different parts of the world due to its involvement with anime. If you’ve been in love with Japan and its diverse culture for a long time, you surely are familiar with this but if you’re not, the common breakdown definition for cosplay or costume play is assuming and personifying both the costume and the overall personality of a character from an anime, a movie, a game and a manga (comic book) among others.
Usually, cosplay outfits are custom-made and if not, heavily altered to perfectly copy the character’s outfits. Other than that, the cosplayer must also look for the perfect shade of wig color and styling them to the hairstyle of the character and achieving that perfect make-up. This is no easy feat at all. Cosplayers basically have to change their face shape, nose, lips and eyes by sculpting them with make-up. This requires an extensive amount of research and time just to pull off one costume and look. Big round of applause to all cosplayers of the world!
Lolita fashion can be described in a few words such as romantic, whimsical, and dream-like. This is the type of fashion that makes you want to run into a magical wood with fairy lights trailing behind you. It’s that kind of dress. Its distinctive feature is the volume of the skirt, which could either be bell-shaped or A-line skirt, and is usually assisted with a petticoat to achieve that puff effect. The blouse can be either short or long-sleeved, with details such as frills, bows, and puffy sleeves.
Diving into the Lolita style will make you realize that there’s more than meets the eye. This fashion style actually has a lot of subcultures but the commonly recognizable ones are classic Lolita and gothic Lolita, which can be differentiated with the color schemes and patterns.
A classic Lolita lean towards pieces with solid colors and florals. Their hair is usually kept at a natural tone of browns, blonde and black while their make-up is preferred to natural-looking as this gives them a more mature and classy look.
The other style of Lolita fashion is the gothic Lolita, which can also be called as goth Lolita. This particular subculture of the Lolita fashion doesn’t stray that much from the generic Lolita fashion. The only noticeable difference between the two is the motif. While the classic Lolita caters to more refreshing colors, gothic Lolita on the other hand, prefer darker colors such as black, navy, crimson and deep purples.
For their hair, common hairstyles include straight or sausage curls. Make-up almost matches the theme of darker colors as they prefer dark lipstick, smokey but neat eye make-up and a light blush.
Since Lolita is heavily inspired by Victorian dresses and norms, it is expected for those who are in the Lolita style, regardless of the subculture, to behave with proper manners and display femininity.
The term “Gyaru” is derived and transliterated from the English word “gal” and like the others mentioned above is a fashion subculture in Japan. They are most recognizable by their distinct features of heavily bleached hair, tanned skin, elongated and decorated nails, and overly dramatic make-up.
The history of this style dates back to 1990 and was based on the 1980’s action drama series “Baywatch.” The fashion was inspired by over exaggerating the American party culture.
But the Gyaru fashion style is more than that, it actually has quite an interesting story behind it. It was said to be a trend that began with young girls from wealthy and affluent families who attended top private schools. Because of their status, they are expected to act and look according to the traditional style and beauty. The Gyaru fashion is their way of rebelling against it, by completely changing their looks that doesn’t conform to their family’s upbringing.
Gyaru girls are also famous for splurging their money on expensive and luxury brands, opposing the supposed humble trait of their status, and throwing lavish parties left and right. This was deeply frowned upon by their family as this is seen as “unclassy.”
As years pass by, Gyaru, which is a fashion style for wealthy young girls, has divided into different subcultures. This caters and allows girls from different backgrounds and social status to participate in the Gyaru fashion style.
The fashion style of Visual Kei didn’t start on the streets, instead it first started on a higher pedestal. It started on stage and among Japanese rock musicians. It is commonly define as a movement and its fashion leaned more on punk-rock costumes, exaggerated hair and going for that androgynous look (exhibiting both male and female outfits)
The fashion style peaked in the 1990's and the reason why it’s so popular? Fans of Visual Kei all around the world have one thing to say. “Visual Kei sets no borders.” And other than focusing on the fashion and style, music and “just rocking out” also plays a big part as to why this particular fashion style is so popular.
Throw in the fact that these fashion style welcomes either male and female dressing as their gender counterparts. No wonder the Visual Kei lovers all around the world think that the style has no boundaries as they have the best of both worlds.
But there’s one thing that has been going around nowadays, the question being: “Is Harajuku Fashion Dying?”
We don’t know for sure but I do think that it is thriving against the drastic change in fashion and style of the current generation. So rather than dying, the Harajuku fashion could be evolving into a new kind of trend.
If you do try the classic Harajuku fashion, remember.The most important thing you can wear is confidence. Venturing into the Harajuku fashion is you coming out of your comfort zone, embracing what you really want and caring less about what others would say. The Harajuku fashion of the 2000’s has one thing to say: “Be you.”