Unique Japanese fashion styles

March 10th, 2012By Category: Culture

Image: MADAME RiRi

Japan is famous for its unique fashion styles. Nowadays young people in other countries, especially Asia, like to imitate young Japanese people’s fashion. It has become easier for girls overseas to buy clothes from Japan online.

In this article, we introduce some unique Japanese fashion styles — past and present — that are popular especially among young people.

1. Sukeban

Image: MADAME RiRi

Juvenile delinquent girls were called “Sukeban” from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. The word “Sukeban” is a combination of “Suke (助)” which means “woman” in slang, and “Ban (番)” from “Bancho (番長)” which means “leader of the group. The style of “Sukeban” are a long skirt, thin bag and permed hair.

The word “Sukeban” was made famous by the drama (cartoon) “Sukeban Deka” in 1985 which is a “Sukeban” girl detective series. However, the word was out of fashion by 1990. The video below shows part of the drama “Sukeban Deka“.

After the comedian Yakkun Sakurazuka‘s joke abouts it, “Sukeban Kyoko” became popular again in 2005, and is still in vogue.

Yakkun Sakurazuka (Image: Yomiuri Land)


2. Takenoko-zoku

Image: MADAME RiRi

Takenoko-zoku” used to draw crowds in the 1980s. They dressed as American rockers from the 1950s and danced to music blaring out of radio-cassette recorders at the pedestrian paradise between JR Harajuku Station and the entrance to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. The dance became popular at discos. At the fad’s peak, more than 2,000 “Takenoko-zokui” members would gather on Sunday afternoons.

One of their styles was the “Harlem suit,” often in red, pink or purple. Its design was based on Japanese traditional costumes, but its silhouette is loose. It looked a little like the type of long jacket worn by Bosozoku bike gangs. The jackets were worn over loose or baggy “Harlem pants.” The video below describes “Takenoko-zoku” in the 1980s.


3. Yankee and Bosozoku

Image: Wikipedia

In Japan, the word “Yankee” usually denotes juvenile delinquents and their fashion style. Many Japanese people don’t know the original Civil War meaning of “Yankee.” The “Yankee” look in Japan is a pompadour hairstyle, wide pants for men and conspicuous print shirts for both men and women. (See image above) Bosozoku bike gangs are usually dressed in classic “Yankee” style as they ride along in the late hours of the night. “Hip Hop Yankee“, “Gyaru-oh“, and other types of Yankee fashion came later. The pictures below are examples of “Hip Hop Yankee” and “Gyaru-oh”.

Image: Wikipedia

Image: NAVER


4. Ko-gal


Image: MADAME RiRi

“Ko-gal” refers to 1990s high school girls who wore miniskirts and loose socks, preferred to dye their hair in bright colors, and had their skin darkened. (See the image above). When “Ko-gal” became popular, a lot of media publicized their fashion and their unique language/slang (You can see more information about Japanese Gal language in the article “Japanese Gal Language: What is ‘Agepoyo?’“). When “Ko-gal” became popular, many young Japanese people started to change their hair color. Famous Okinawan singer Namie Amuro was one of the first celebrities to adopt a partial “ko-gal” look. (See the picture below). “Ko” from “Ko-gal” is derived from the initial character of “Kokosei” (high school student); however it also means child (子).

Image: Wikipedia


5. Ganguro


 “Ganguro” is a variation of “Ko-gal.” Shibuya and Ikebukuro were the hubs of “Ganguro” fashion in the early 2000s. The “Ganguro” look features dark brown make-up, and orange and blond hair with “high bleach” containing silver and gray. A “Ganguro” gal usually uses black ink for eye liner, white concealer for lipstick and eye shadow. Another characteristic of “Ganguro” is using line stones and pearl powder for make-up and false eyelashes. Platform shoes, colorful clothes, miniskirts, face stickers, necklaces, rings and bracelets are also part of the “Ganguro” package.


6. Manba


Image: MADAME RiRi

Manba” has been around since 2003. The word “Manba” evolved from the original Gal fashion called “Yamanba“. The word “Yamanba” is derived from “mountain witch” which refers to a woman with disheveled white hair in Japanese folklore. (Click here to see more information about the original Yamanba.) The picture below shows “Yamanba” in Japanese folklore.

Image: Wikipedia

Yamanba” gals have disheveled white (silver, blond) hair and they get sunburned at tanning salons or make their skin dark with dark color foundation. “Manba” gals make their skin darker than “Yamanba” gals usually with a tanning method which is called “Gonguro” and “Bachiguro“. However, “Manba” are “inheriting” the “Yamanba” look, so their make-up is the same, with use of white lipstick and white eye liner. But “Manba” gals are particular about eye make-up, so they wear white eye shadow and eye liner around their eyes, similar to face painting. They draw lines at the edge of eyes with mascara, black eye liner and black eye pencil. They wear white lip gross, making the whole look more fanciful than the original “Yamanba” appearance. (Original “Yamanba” make-up is almost the same as Ganguro make-up.) “Manba” gals’ fashion style mainly consists of wearing very short skirts in primary colors and conspicuous print clothes.


7. Kigurumin

Image: MADAME RiRi

 The fashion style called “Kigurumin” became popular among girls in 2004. Kigurumi refers to anime and cartoon characters’ dolls that can be adapted to fashion. “Kigurumin” gals usually wear Kigurumi such as Pikachu from the popular anime and game “Pokemon” (see the image above) and walk around Shibuya with shopping bags. However, it was a short-lived fad and Kigurumin” gals are difficult to find nowadays.


8. Nagomu Gal

Image: MADAME RiRi

 “Nagomu Gal” are women who are fans of indie artists belonging to the record company Nagomu Records in the late 1980s. The men’s version of “Nagomu Gal” was called “Nagomu Kids.” When the popular “talent” Tomoe Shinohara made her debut, many girls imitated her unique fashion style called “Shinorah.” The video below is Tomoe Shinohara’s song’s promotion video.


9. Lolita fashion

Image: MADAME RiRi

 “Lolita” is one of the most famous Japanese fashion styles. “Lolita” fashion expresses the prettiness of little girls with a touch of seductress. “Lolita” fashion has been around for a long time overseas, but Japanese teenagers have put their own interpretation on it. Wearing clothes that you love without caring about others’ criticism is the way of “Lolita” fashion. Nowadays, “Lolita” fashion does not seem to be so popular in Western countries where teenage girls like more mature and sexy styles than the cute look of little girls.


10. Decora-chan

Image: MADAME RiRi

The “Decora-chan” look appeared about the same time as “Shinorah” (You can see more details about “Shinorah” at “7. Nagomu Gal”.) in 1988. “Decora-chan” girls love wearing cheap accessories. (See the image above) The fashion magazine “KERA” shows “Decora-chan” fashion, which is baby pink frilly blouses, polka-dot balloon skirts with lace petticoats, strawberry print leggings, dyed pink hair and cheap accessories.

So what will be the next fashion style? Please feel free to share your ideas on past, present and future Japanese fashion styles


Source: MADAME RiRi

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • christinanolanXD says:

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  • It’s not big in the UK yet, still occupies a small niche. I’m trying to get the word out 🙂

  • Kayla Osiecki says:

    Lolita is actually quite popular among young women in the western world. There are a lot of online forums for Lolitas in the Americas and Europe and these girls often host big meetups so they can get dressed up in their finest skirts and dresses and socialize. Usually involves tea. ^_^

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