Japanese culture is rich and diverse. Japan is a nation that is full of diverse subcultures. Tokyo is a place where no matter what your taste is, you will find a collection of subcultures. Undoubtedly, Tokyo is one of the world’s leading fashion capitals alongside New York, Milan, and Paris. Tokyo is having a large population of progressive fashionists and creative thinkers who are willingly taking risk of completely redefining the movements.
Subcultural fashion in Tokyo, Japan is unique. You will see people wearing bodysuits to a good old pompadour. It is because Japan is having a unique and long history of subculture fashion even if they are bizarre. Some modern iconic fashion movements in Tokyo are bright, colorful, and attractive.
Fashion Subcultures in Tokyo
One of the most iconic Japanese fashion subcultures is Lolita. This style is influenced by an ultra-feminine take on the Victorian tradition and Edwardian style of children’s clothing. Lolita subculture originated in the early 2000s as an offshoot of the Gothic and Aristocratic styles during the Visual Kei movement. The mainstream of all Lolita subcultures is more feminine, girly, and cute style. It is dominated by pastel colors and shades of pink.
The Lolita style is so complete that within the movement there are other sub-movement families. Some of the major subcultures of the Lolita movement include the punk, gothic, country, and sailor Lolita styles. Out of these, the most notable of Lolita subcultures have to be Goth-loli that is also known as Gothic Lolita or Dark Lolita.
The classic Lolita fashion is having a foundation from Victorian-era fashion but with overtones of Gothic fashion. If you are thinking to try the Lolita subculture, then try black on black with heavy eye makeup, blocky stripes, and Beetlejuice bows.
Without a doubt, Visual Kei is one of the most influential fashion movements in contemporary Japanese culture. The name Visual Kei is so comprehensive that it contains several smaller subsets of fashion movements. In short, the moment became popular during the 1980s. There was a rise of bands like X Japan that mixed the ideologies of heavy metal, punk, and glam rock in Japan.
Visual Kei subculture fashion is defined by its elaborate hairstyle and make-up. Also, the gothic undertones define gender-binding. It was a Japanese response to Western glam rock bands that were popular around the time of Visual Kei’s debut. In the mid-1990s, the movement’s popularity began to wane. However, during the 2000s, Neo-Visual Kei, a modern incarnation of movement brought back the style to the scene.
The Rockabilly is by no means a Japanese invention but it has only been adopted by Japanese fashionistas. If you head to Yoyogi Park in Harajuku on weekends of the year, you will find a collection of Rockabilly-style dancers. They will be performing in front of a large gang of fans and passers-by. These guys show that for a lot of people, fashion is not just a way of dressing, but a way to spend life.
About 30 years ago, the trendy suburb of Harajuku was hit by the Rockabilly scene. The international charms and slick bad boy styles get the attention of city kids and denim enthusiasts. Although like many styles of fashion, the popularity of Rockabilly has waned over the past few decades. Still, you will find a few devoted fashionists preserving the tradition in Harajuku.
If it is dancing at Yoyogi or running a vintage shop in the alleys of Ura-Harajuku, also known as Urahara, you will see at least one devoted person sporting Rockabilly on the streets of Tokyo.
One of the flashiest modern and controversial styles in Japan is the Gyaru movement. The title Gyaru comes from the pronunciation of Gal in Japanese. It is one of the popular American teen cultures with overdone make-up, distinctively blond hair, a dark tan, fake eyelashes, and extra-glamorous accessories. Also, there can be glitter nail extensions. This fashion movement was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
People in Tokyo used to wear slogan T-shirts, big hair, and multi-colored plastic jewelry. It was the time when Euro-pop music was famous. The backbone of Gyaru culture was Shibuya and like Lolita styles. It was easy to spot Gyaru fashion around Shibuya 109 Mall, a towering department store. It was dedicated to the Japanese subculture.
Gyaru devotees are hard to find these days, but if you stay in the area long enough, you might see one, because when Gyaru girls are out, they are hard to miss.
Mori Gal is difficult to define unlike the other fashion subcultures in Tokyo. It is one of the modern subcultures that gained popularity during the mid-late 2000s. Mori means forest in Japanese. It is generally a more layered style that invokes the feelings if you are living in a close-to-nature environment. It is almost like a forest.
In Moli Gal, fashion subculture, the colors tend to be more natural and mellow, vintage and comfortable clothing that is a typical staple of Mori Girl’s layered look. It is an earthy aesthetic and popular fashion subculture in Tokyo. Although it is having a girl in the title it is often adopted by lovers of menswear.
The aesthetic can often be very neutral. It is a more vintage thrift store look, that you can still see on the streets at vintage stores in Shimokitazawa, Koenji, and Kichijoji.
Yamamba is sometimes grouped with Gyaru. Although it is different and worth mentioning. It is a subtype of Ganguro, a style that is marked as platinum blonde hair, extreme tan, and pastel eye makeup. Yamamba appeared in Tokyo in 2004. With time, there were more tans, neon hair extensions, and panda makeup.
Just like others, Yamamba fashion also faded away. In 2008, it reappeared with changes, and the name was also changed to Mamba. It is a rebellious subculture fashion in Tokyo and it is often looked down on by society. It was labeled as a promiscuous and dirty Japanese fashion sense by society.
Although the Yamamba is not as big as it was ten years ago but you will be able to spot some of this subculture in Ikebukuro or Shibuya.
Tokyo, Japan does not seem to have enough of the romper. Zentai is an abbreviation of Zentaishitsu, a Japanese word. The meaning of Zentaishitsu in English is a full bodysuit. Yes, this fashion subculture in Tokyo is about full spandex jumpsuits. Zentai refers to the wearing of tight-fitting clothes in the public.
Usually, this means full-length costumes with prints and bright colors. The zentai is indeed a small group, but the message of society is too critical from this subculture is quite deep. The followers of Zentai simply respond to this message by wearing bodysuits. It is because they believe that they will be protected from criticism.
Today you see people wearing large unicorns or other combination clothes on social media. These character combinations are known as Kigurumi in Japan. It is a combination of two words Kiru that means to wear and Nuigurumi means stuffed animal. Over a decade ago, the trend of wearing Pikachu and Dinosaur outfits was first observed in Japan.
At that time, you would see a group of girls called Kigurumin wearing Kigurumi and shopping in a mall. Now it is not as popular as it was but you might see some foreigners wearing Kigurumi.
Tokyo – A Capital with Fashion Subcultures
Fashion and fashion subcultures in Tokyo are ever-evolving. One does not remain in the fashion industry for a long time but some people try to preserve it. From Rockabilly to Kigurumi, you will find various fashion subcultures. Also, there are higher chances of finding your favorite fashion subculture in Tokyo which you usually don’t see on the streets anymore!