Japan is probably one of the most diverse countries when it comes to street fashion that it has become iconic. A lot has emerged from back in the day and most of them are very bold and extravagant that you don't see them anywhere else. Japanese people are not afraid to show themselves in any way possible, including brightly colored hair, intense makeup looks and fabulous outfits. One thing to bear in mind is that Japanese street fashion is often a mixture of traditional and modern contemporary. Some of these have also died down through the years after being popular for quite some time, some are now a stuff of legends while some were just short-lived. For anyone familiar with fashion subcultures in Japan, they would know that there are very distinct features of each style or subculture that you cannot confuse one from the other. But if you're one of the unfamiliar ones, this post will introduce and explain each of the most well know street styles from Japan from years back until the present time.
The fashion districts
Before we get to all the street styles available for your reading pleasure, you need to know where are the Japanese fashion trends are mostly seen. It's actually in the country's capital, Tokyo. This is where all the magic happens, particularly in the vibrant streets of the Harajuku district. This is the place where you can expect to see everything, from cool to unusual and never before seen, and from goths, to kawaii outfit wearing girls and boys. This is also the place where Fashion walk is being organized and happening, where people from different subcultures get together and parade their awesome selves for everyone to see and it is truly a spectacular sight. Though this is the place where fashionistas gather together and just be themselves, another location, Shibuya, takes its pride on being the place where you can purchase many of your street fashion needs. For more on the classy and high end side, there's always Ginza. This is where boutiques and couture fashion are found, also fine jewelry and other high end places.
Now that we've got that covered, let's proceed to 11 Japanese fashion styles and how they are distinct from one another.
This subculture is one of the most popular of the bunch, in fact, it has already gained worldwide attention and a lot of westerners are applying this style for themselves. The aesthetics is heavily influenced by Victorian era's way of dressing, it is distinguished with voluminous skirts or dresses with petticoats underneath, blouses that are ruffled or with lace and head dresses like bows or ribbons of different sizes. Socks or stockings are also a must for this look, where ankle or knee length socks are usually adorned with ribbons or lace, while the stockings are either plain or with an elegant pattern. Footwear is all about Mary jane shoes or boots.
There are a lot of substyles under Lolita, and those are, but not limited to:
The closest one to Victorian era clothing, this look is an epitome of elegance, maturity and grace, and it makes you think about tea parties and reading books. The tones of this substyle is usually very muted, like dusted red, greys, navy blue and anything along those lines, giving it a more mature appeal. To know more details about Classic Lolita, you can check it out here.
Same silhouette but with a different color palette, mostly around pastels and bright colors. The overall look is rather child-like and cute in appearance. Prints and patterns of the dresses are more into fruits, berries, cute animals and hearts or stars. Makeup is also kept simple to emphasize child-like aesthetics. To learn everything you need to know about this substyle, you can click here.
This one evolves on the darker side. The colors are mostly black, dark red or dark blue. Motifs are also included such as skulls, cobwebs, cross and the like. Makeup is also dark and gothic, can be quite heavy around the eyes.
This is the male counterpart of the Lolita style or ouji (a term which means "Prince"). Who said only females can wear this elegant fashion statement? This masculine version of this look, same as Lolita, is still influenced by Victorian era, and is based by how boys of that age would dress. This look though is not limited to only boys, girls are known to wear the look regardless of gender. The most common piece of this style is the shortened Capri pants or what they call "prince pants" that only goes above the knee along with knee high socks, blouses that are also ruffled but more on the masculine side. Hair accessories are mostly tops hats.
Originated in the 70s, Gyaru is a slang term derived from "girl", and is now pronounced "gal". You can notice that girls wearing Gyaru fashion have skin that are tanned and their hair is heavily bleached. The makeup is usually bright, in contrast to the dark skin tone and are very heavy on the eyes to make it look bigger than usual, eyeliner, eyeshadow and false eye lashes are a must. Hairstyle is what they call sujimori (スジ盛り), which is always with a lot of volume, and typically with curls and waves. Nails are fairly long and contact lenses are in use to change eye color. There are also substyles under Gyaru and they are the following:
The wearer is usually in a school uniform with the same tanned skin, bleached hair and the makeup. The skirt is a lot shorter than the regular uniform and they wore knee high loose socks. This look was everything in the 90s but has since died down significantly.
This one is exactly what it is called. Hime translates to "Princess" in English so you could say that the style is called Princess gal, and that's exactly how it looks like. Unlike the classic Gyaru look, this style is more on soft, girly colors like pink and peach, with beehive hairstyles that are either blonde or brown in color, often curled and with lots of hair decorations like bows or flowers.
This style that was pioneered by Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and was on the rage in the 90s up to 2000s. Decora was literally derived from the English word "decoration". Color palettes are a big deal for this look, they would only stick to one of these; pink Decora, dark Decora, Decololi and the classic rainbow decora. The clothes are usually shirts that are either short or long sleeved, with tutu like skirts for the bottom. Hair is usually down pigtails or ponytail with bangs, and the said bangs is where all the decorating mostly happens. The layer of colorful hair clips and other hair accessories are sometimes so excessive that you cannot see the fringe anymore. For everything else you need to know about Decora style, you can click here for the complete guide.
5. Visual Kei
Really striking makeup, hair and fabulous clothes, Visual kei is all about standing out in both stage and crowd. This was pioneered by J-rock bands in the 80s and was later embraced significantly until the early 2000s. The style is usually consisted of dark graphic tees, jackets, torn pants and leather boots. Accessories are more on the punk side like studded chokers, arm bands, belts and chains. Hair is visually wild and gravity-defying, some of which are either dyed with striking colors or just highlighted.
We have everything you need to know about Visual kei, including many of its substyles and the history. You can check it out by clicking here.
6. Mori Kei
Mori kei makes you thinks about the forest and warmth, because that's what it literally means, Mori means "forest" in English. The style is about loose layers of sheer clothing that makes the wearer looks like they are floating. The colors are usually neutral with browns, beige and pale greens. The accessories are usually hand-made and nature themed. Patterns like flowers or leaves are very common as well, and the overall look is just earthy and beautiful. More little more detailed information about this style here.
7. Dolly Kei
This is one of the most short-lived fashion trends in Japan and is loosely based on European history and antique dolls. Fairy tales of the middle ages are evident on the type of clothing they put together. The color tones are usually dark like black and some jewel tones. Patterns is also very prominent for the pieces they wear, the most common ones are ancient tapestries, flowers, lace and anything along those lines. Though the pattern game is strong on this one, the hair and makeup tend to be a lot simple than the clothes itself. Hairstyle is usually curls and waves.
Japan prides itself in embracing tradition even to present day, and one of those traditions is wearing a Kimono. This traditional Japanese clothing is mostly worn during formal events likes weddings, graduation and also in Japanese festivals. But there are people who choose to wear this style everyday. Younger generation tend to mix tradition with modernity, as they are seen wearing Kimonos with their own personal touch, whatever it may be, like wearing shoes other than the traditional geta.
A substyle for Lolita called Wa Lolita, is a combination of a traditional Kimono with Lolita elements added to it, giving it a modern twist.
9. Fairy Kei
Fairy kei is everything kawaii (Japanese word that means cute). The style revolves around cute colors like different pastel shades (pink, mint green, sky blue, pastel purple, pale yellow, etc.). Aside from that, the overall look is child-like with cute motifs such as characters (Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Barbie, Sailor Moon), fruits, cute animals and the like. Hair is usually on the wig side if the wearer doesn't want to dye their hair, but yes, it's very common to be on the pastel shade (though some retain their natural hair color) as well and is decorated with cute bows and other head dresses and pins.
10. Cult Party Kei
This look is more like a baby-doll style with clothes and dresses that are sheer and layered but with added western religious artifacts like the Bible and crosses. Color palette just stays in white, ivory and cream with a little bit of red or blue accents for the known cult party touches. Hair and makeup are pretty much very simple and light. This style has nothing too overwhelming and the distinct elements are sometimes not that obvious.
Shironuri's literal translation is "painted in white" and that is evident by the way they wear their makeup. This makeup style is heavily influenced by a traditional Geisha look. The styles are really up to them but they usually wear something that are really long in length and have flamboyant looking materials like huge laces, ruffles and feathers. Hair can be either light or dark (for contrast). The fashion is mostly inspired by goth and visual kei with a little more extravagance.
Which one of these styles did you fell in love with? Are you willing to try it for yourself? Tell us in the comments below.