Gyaru is another prominent fashion subculture that exists in Japan. Gyaru is a Japanese way of speaking “gal”, which basically means girl or young woman. The term is just an umbrella term that refers to anything related to it. Hinting from this, one can deduce that gyaru is heavily Western-influenced. According to an article from Wikipedia, It is rumored to be inspired by the popular late 1980s American action drama series Baywatch, which also appeared on Japanese television. The fashion style was probably created and then popularized by Pamela Anderson's role in the show at the time. It is rumored that gyaru was an exaggeration and over-representation of American teenage party culture in Japan. And just like what this suggests, the gyaru fashion is very western-centred that goes against the norms of the Japanese fashion.
The gyarus are often known for their physical attributes such as their tanned skin, brown-colored or bleached hair, overly expensive bags and clothing wear, and just like what the photo suggests, mini school girl skirts.
The gyarus are often known for their physical attributes such as their tanned skin, brown-colored or bleached hair, overly expensive bags and clothing wear, and just like what the photo suggests, mini school girl skirts. They are prominently seen gathering around the major places of Tokyo such as in Shibuya and Harajuku. The gyaru are often seen in groups that they call the “gyaru circle” where people of the same gyaru subculture interact and socialize.
The gyaru culture emerged during the early 1990s with the kogyaru fashion style, a subculture of gyaru that were heavily centered on schoolgirls shortening their school skirts, having colored nails, and colored hair. Nobody really knows how this subculture emerged to that chart but eventually, people were starting to take notice.
Societal expression and history
It is also said that the gyaru fashion is an act of rebellious expression from the girls who are not satisfied with the cultural norms of beauty in Japan, practically wanting these norms to be demolished and accept change. Basically, the gyaru fashion wants a more liberated society where anyone is open to express the style that they want to go for, and be beautiful in their own way without society having to judge what they do with their faces and outfits altogether. Since the beauty standard in Japan is often associated with silky, pale, white skin, the gyaru subculture wants to eradicate that standard to pave way for other beauty expressions to carry on, hence why the gyaru is almost always known for their tanned skins. It is also important to mention being a part of the gyaru subculture means you have to tan your skin always, so being part of the community itself means costs. That is why most of the people who identify as gyaru are often rich kids who want to break the norms of society. Also, one of the reasons why they do this is to give people who are less fortunate a voice when it comes to the fashion and beauty norms. You might wonder why and how does this affect them, well, in Japan, people who are often having tanned skin are often associated as a person living in a lower social class since most of them have to work under the heat of the sun for longer periods so it is normal for these people to have tanned skin. But, the problem lies in the fact that the Japanese beauty standard dictates that in order for someone to be pretty or handsome, they have to have a pale white complexion like that to a porcelain. Now, in order to battle against this standard, the gyarus are making a statement by consistently tanning their skin, again, trying to reform the established norm of society.
The rise of the gyaru culture in the early 1990s also meant a new demand and hence, the fashion industry complied. Ever since then, the industry started to make fashion magazines that center on the gyaru and its different subcultures. One of the famous magazines of gyaru fashion is Egg Magazine. Even the emergence of fashion brands started that centers on gyaru fashion, though most of the time these businesses are concentrated on the different niches that they want to engage in.
Gyaru in modern times
Despite the popularity of gyaru when it first came to rise, the gyaru fashion and aesthetic today is greatly declining. Nobody really knows what the reasons for this decline are. But an article from Tokyo Fashion mentioned that one of the reasons could be the rise of globalization that paved the way for international fast fashion brands that sell cheap clothing to enter into the fashion districts of Tokyo, where the gyaru-centered businesses once were. Taking note of the fact that gyaru fashion is incredibly pricey, when these fast fashion brands came to Japan, this led to an opportunity for consumers to try a new way of fashion without really having to break the bank. Since the products that these brands offer are also fashionable themselves, and not only that, but these can also be defined as the peak of western fashion - the main influence of the gyaru fashion itself, there was no longer the need to buy expensive clothing for the people who wants to go into the subculture aesthetic. And since the demand is getting smaller for these gyaru businesses, some are forced to close themselves. But nowadays, there are still a handful of gyaru-centered businesses, but not as many as there were back in the days.
And because of the fact that fewer gyaru businesses are present in the modern days are giving less opportunities for new enthusiasts to try out the aesthetic on themselves. But that aside, the gyaru fashion is also having a turn in the modern days, especially with Neo Gyaru, where the gyaru fashion is mostly not even noticeable anymore as the fashion itself is starting to blend in the crowd. Most likely, you will only be able to recognize a gyaru with the makeup that they are using. Aside from the identifying feature of the gyarus which is a tanned skin, the gyaru is evolving to accept the norms of the beauty standard - having pale, white skin.
Also, the decline of influences such as the Egg Magazine, which is really popular in the community, almost considered the bible of the community, stopped its operations last 2016 due to its failed turnover to go digital and failed to adapt to the change. Given this tremendous change from the heavy influences of the community, there has to be some kind of effect to its readers.
Gyaru subcultures and niches
Speaking of niches, the gyaru culture has a lot of different subcultures in itself, but we are going to talk about the most common and popular niches just to give a head start of the fashion.
Kogyaru, or Kogal, is a subculture of the gyaru culture that centers around schoolgirls. Kogyaru literally means high school girl so that’s one way to remember it. The subculture itself is known to be the very first gyaru subculture of the gyaru culture and the most popular one.
An example of a kogyaru that I could think of depicted by anime is Aiura Mikoto from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. And just like Mikoto who has thick colored hair that is curled (though the color is debatable since the anime presents a world where everybody is born with different hair colors aside from black), her long, decorative nails, her phone with lots and lots of accessories attached, and her tanned skin, the kogyarus can be depicted just like her.
But nowadays, the kogyaru has slowly changed and the term itself is no longer just about the gyaru community, but it can also refer to a trend in fashion.
Hime literally means “princess” in Japanese, suggesting that the hime gyaru aesthetic refers to a princess-like aesthetic. The Hime Gyaru aesthetic is often linked to Lolita fashion due to the fact that its elements have a lot of similarities to that of Lolita. However, Hime Gyaru is a totally different subculture from that of Lolita.The physical elements of hime gyaru is centered on what you would imagine a princess would wear in fantasies. Heck, they’ll even sport a tiara if they want to. Basically put, the hime gyaru is known for their large beehive-style hair, long nails, and heavy makeup. As for their clothing, they normally use clothing that is bouncy and has a lot of frills and laces. The colors of their clothing often come in the pink and white mixed palette as to define their femininity. These pieces also come with repeated patterns such as florals and gingham.
There are still a lot of brands that sell for the hime gyaru in Japan so they shouldn’t be hard to find.
And lastly for this list is Kuro Gyaru, which is one of the most prominent styles of gyaru. With the goal of spreading the kuro gyaru aesthetic to the world, the aesthetic has held true from its roots. Aside from the fact that they are called kuro gyaru due to the dark tan that they put on their skin, the kuro gyaru are often seen sporting huge headpieces, commonly sujimori hairstyles. Unlike hime gyaru, kuro gyaru shows a little more skin. They also sport a lot of faux leopard prints with their clothing and wear furry leg warmers often.
The gyaru fashion and community is widely known in Japan but there recently, its popularity is starting to decline. But still, the gyaru community still exists, just like the kuro gyaru, with their goals held high. There are still a lot of gyaru communities that are waiting to be discovered by newbies who are interested in knowing them. There’s even a community for gyaru men, so that's interesting!