When Gwen Stefani’s Love.Angel.Music.Baby.” album took off, America became entranced by the Harajuku girls who graced the cover of the album and danced alongside Stefani in her videos.
What people don’t know is that Japanese fashion is a lot more than just Harajuku.
Harajuku is actually a place in Tokyo known for its street fashion and unique clothing boutiques. The “Lolita” look is a popular in Harajuku; similar in style to a French maid costume that is reminiscent of Victorian children’s wear.
Girls wearing the Lolita fashion often wear knee length skirts with petticoats and lots of lace. Tops are lacey blouses, and some girls even wear an apron to top off the look. Shoes are cute and child like such as Mary Jane’s worn with high lace socks and ribbons. The Lolita look can vary from sweet and innocent like a child to punk or gothic styles.
One of the fashions also popular in the American music industry is “Bape,” which is short for Bathing Ape, the name of the company. Bape can be seen on American hip hop stars like Kanye West and Pharell. Fans of the style stand out with graphic prints and bright colors that adorn the company’s collection of hoodies and graphic tees. Bape even has its own footwear collection similar to the Nike Air Force One, but designed with bright colors.
The company set base in Harajuku. The company maintains its exclusive status by producing only a few pieces of each design.
Another interesting fashion is “cosplay,” which is short for costume play. People dress up in costumes, like anime characters, and the costumes are usually similar to the furry things you see little kids dress up in for Halloween. This look is popular in Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo that is also known for its anime paraphernalia.
One time I was in a McDonald’s in Shibuya (and its particular fashion I’ll speak of next) and I saw two girls dressed in cosplay. One was dressed up as Pikachu from Pokemon and the other was Winnie the Pooh. I asked if I could get their picture but they wouldn’t let me. Just trust me on this one: they really were dressed up like Pikachu and Winnie the Pooh.
Shibuya is known for its five-way intersections that many have seen in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “Lost in Translation.” Aside from its movie fame, Shibuya is also known for its “gal,” or “garu” in Japanese, fashion that is particularly popular with high school girls.
“Kogal” fashion, which literally means high school girl, was once defined by school girl uniforms with loose white socks and displays of disposable income in the shape of designer accessories. Loose socks aren’t as popular anymore, and fans now wear regular white or navy blue below the knee socks held with sock glue.
Another outdated look from Shibuya is the “gangaru” look. It was popular in the 1990s, but I have seen a few girls sporting this look in Shibuya. This look is inspired by the California beach babe with dark tans and bright colored mini skirts and tank tops. Their hair is usually dyed blonde with streaks of various colors and the make-up is very distinct. They use white and black eyeliner to make their eyes pop and usually wear white lipstick that contrasts with the orange pigment of their faces.
A popular men’s fashion is the biker look, but with Japanese twist. The look is similar to the American biker look with leather and studs, but the Japanese seem to add an extra flair to it, making it seem more glamorous with glitter and fancy accessories.
Tokyo is home to numerous sock shops with an array of leggings, tights and socks of varying lengths and colors. It’s very popular to wear shorts or mini skirts with socks that go over the knees for girls. Flats and pumps are also worn with lacy peds of an assortment of colors.
Designer bags aren’t just for girls. Japan has mastered the use and look of the “man bag.” Men are just as stylish as the ladies and they have fashionable briefcases for work and stylish over the shoulder bags for everyday wear. I’ve never seen so much Louis Vuitton and Gucci adorning the arms and shoulders of so many fashionable men and women.
If you thought Paris Hilton’s Tinkerbell was the ultimate in pampered pooches, think again. The Japanese seem to have an obsession with mini dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to mini schnauzers to dachshunds. Not only do they like little dogs, they love to dress them. I’ve seen so much puppy couture with price tags higher than the cost of my entire outfit. They really know how to dress and treat their pups like royalty.
I have to admit the Japanese have totally outdone America in the fashion department.
Kaitlyn Dreyling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.