It's no secret that Japan has one the most diverse and unprecedented fashion trends in the world, there are many fashion styles that even non-Japanese people are embracing as their own way to express themselves. You'll find the most unique, colorful, and sometimes really extreme fashion styles, some of which would gain side eyes and perplexed looks in other countries, but in Japan, they are just casually walking around the streets specially in well known fashion districts in Tokyo which is Harajuku and Shibuya with no fear or care of being judged. Japanese subcultures has really come a long way with a lot of them rich in history. Substyles of many of its popular street fashion are emerging here and there.
Visual kei in one of the most popular subculture in Japan and has been known all over the world, and under this subculture emerged multiple sub-sets which are;
- Kote kei
- Eroguro kei
- Casual kei
- Anguro kei
- Kurofuko kei
- Oshare kei
Related: Visual kei fashion: All you need to know
But we're going to focus on the last one on the list above. It is one of the most distinct substyles under Visual kei and you'll know why later in this post. It certainly has the same aesthetics, same hair styles, makeup, clothing but with a different set of color palette, motifs and music, with a lot on contrasting and clashing colors due to the combination of dark and neon colors. While Visual kei tend to be on more darker colors, Oshare kei on the kawaii side of the scene, bright colored costumes, hair, loads of cute accessories and brighter makeup.
What is Oshare kei?
It is a substyle of Visual kei that became known from the start of the millennium (2001), and as opposed to Visual kei's darker tones and music style, Oshare kei is more on everything colorful, bright, cute and cheerful, even the music is a a tad different with hints of pop, dance and electronic which are more upbeat. Oshare means fashionable and the translation means "Fashion conscious" in English. One of the first bands to emerge from this scene was Baroque and An Cafe. Oshare kei music, same with Visual kei, tend to be influenced by hard rock and punk rock but with a touch of pop and other genres. This kind of music had been accepted as part of this subculture over the years.
Costumes or their clothing style is very similar to Visual kei by all means, but with pieces that represents anything cute, dazzling and colorful, with some key elements of Decora style in some cases. Like VK, Oshare kei fashion also aims to be androgynous. Most of the clothes layered together have cute characters, patterns (animal prints or polka dots) and other kawaii centric prints but with darker pieces, Visual kei style. The main concept is to look cute but not too kawaii to look like Fairy kei or Decora, so instead of using pastels, they use neon colors or any other striking colors. The coordination of dark and bright colors is what makes it cool and unique. Jackets is also one thing to include with the look, most common types are fluffy ones, or something with animal prints, or any other cute patterns like rainbow stripes. Other pieces like ripped jeans, cuffs, biker chains, arm warmers, knee high socks or full on stockings and some other accessories like studded bracelets and chokers also make the list. Makeup can be heavy just like Visual kei with dramatic eyeliner but with more brighter colors for their eyeshadows. Hair can be over-the-top with gravity defying styles with bright hair dye or highlights. Accessories are also supposed to be over-the-top and a lot. It can be just anything cute and colorful like rainbow beads, charm bracelets, wrist scarves, etc.
When Oshare kei emerged in the year 2001, its music were initially into punk rock and glam rock, and the aesthetics were more darker and less colorful, very similar to Visual kei. But it began to expand itself after years in terms of music style and fashion, different genres has been included to the mix like pop, dance or electronic music, making this genre quite a standout. They focus on more upbeat tunes and cheerful lyrics mostly about love and friendship, just all about being positive and happy. Since 2001, a lot of bands had been appearing making names for themselves in the scene, each and everyone have their own different tones and concept with their rock music mixed with pop, dance, techno, or even jazz. Some of the existing bands under this genre are An Café, Charlotte, Canzel and SuG. You can read about some of the said bands below.
This band has been around since 2003 and is an obvious visual representation of Oshare kei. Their music is often described as Harajuku dance music which had gained mainstream popularity in both Japan and overseas. The band has been active in the scene until January 2010, where they announced that they will be on break and went into a two year hiatus. They came back into the spotlight in 2012 until 2018, where all the band members, with the exception of the band's lead Miku, announced their departure from the group.
Charlotte is definitely one of the pioneers on the scene. They were formed in early 2000s but did not begin "officially" until 2001 when Mitsujou, the group's supports guitarist, joined the band. This Oshare kei band's concept is school, that is why most of their outfits are inspired by Japanese school uniforms. Their concept is also reflected in their music because it emits a light feel to it, with songs about youth and school life. They stayed in the spotlight until April 2011 when the group's vocalist, Kazuno, sadly suddenly died due to an illness.
Is a Oshare kei band formed in 2006 and their music is identified as "Heavy positive rock." The group has made quite an impression due to their type of music which, of course, having glam rock as a base, but with traces of pop, hip-hop and dance to it. As for the visuals, they often look trendy and different. Their popularity extended not just in Japan, but also in Europe, in fact, the band did a tour in November 2015 to 5 European countries which are Germany (where they are also signed with CLJ records), United Kingdom, France, Finland, and Russia.
This Oshare kei band was somehow short-lived but they were popular when they first came to be. The group was formed July 2007 and were in the scene until September 2010. During their active status, their music was known to be of punk rock and electronic music combined, which gives sort of sci-fi feel to it. The band's vocalist Icchi announced his retirement from the music industry then, but the remaining three of its members, Shiina Mio, Haku, and Yukimi, went ahead to form another group which was later known as UNiTE.
Shiina Mio, Haku, and Yukimi of Canzel later on recruited Yui as their lead vocalist before forming UNiTE, one year after Canzel was disbanded. The band's name was literally derived from the word "unity" or "united" maybe because three of its members were former bandmates who all came together again to continue what they started. This group is known for their stunning visuals, stage presence and a unique take on the music genre.
Visual kei and its substyles are really an epitome of both stunning and shocking. The fashion statement or usually called kei fashion, are also worn by people in Japan even though they are not rock music enthusiasts, it can be a style on its own and that's one of the best thing about this subculture. Anyone can walk up the streets donning Oshare kei outfits as long as it fits their preferences and that they are very comfortable with their fashion choices. This kind of substyle further proves that Japan can stretch fashion with no boundaries and that music doesn't limit itself to just one genre, but a combination of many.