Gyaru Fashion – The History & Culture

Gyaru Fashion – The History & Culture

Gyaru fashion developed in China and is a fashion subculture. It is the Japanese way of speaking ‘gal,’ which translates to young woman or girl. The term is a concept that refers to anything related to women, girls, or young women. Gyaru fashion was heavily influenced by Western culture. An article on Wikipedia states that the late 1980s American drama series Baywatch inspired the development of Gyaru. People believe that the style was created and popularized by Pamela Anderson’s role in the drama series at the time. It is simply an exaggeration and signifies the American teenage girl culture in Japan. As the name suggests, Gyaru fashion focuses more on the West and goes against Japanese fashion norms.

Gyarus are famous for their physical features like tanned skin, bleach hair, expensive bags and wears, and the mini school girl skirts. They’re popularly seen in significant locations in Tokyo, like the Shibuya and Harajuku. It is pretty challenging to see a Gyaru walking along; they move in groups called the Gyaru circle. However, there are also locations where people who share this subculture meet to interact and socialize. This culture started in the early 1990s by creating the kogyar fashion style. Although no one is sure how Gyaru fashion began, it wasn’t long before people began taking notice. Keep reading this article to learn about the history and culture of the Gyarus.

Gyaru Fashion – Societal Expression

Most people believe that this subculture started as an act of rebellion by girls that were not satisfied with Japan’s cultural beauty norms. They created a fashion subculture since they wanted the norms demolished and a change effected. Gyarus are simply looking for a more liberated society where girls can express the style that they want. It speaks to allowing women to be beautiful in their way without society judging people’s choices. The goal of Gyaru fashion was to enable people to do whatever they wanted with their outfits and face without worrying about the norm.

The beauty standard in Japan was silky, pale, and white skin. This is what this fashion subculture sought to eliminate and pave the way for new beauty expressions. That’s why Gyarus are recognizable by their tanned skin. Therefore, if you want to be part of the Gyaru circle, you must always tan your skin. Due to this, being part of the Gyaru community requires costs. That’s why most people who identify as Gyaru are rich kids looking to break away from society’s norms. They also seek to do this to give people who are less fortunate a voice when it comes to beauty and fashion.

You might be wondering how Gyaru helps the lower class. This is because tanned skin in Japan is associated with people who live in the lower social class. This assumption comes from the fact that most of them work under the sun for extended periods and therefore have tanned skin. 

Gyaru Culture History

The problem with the Japanese beauty standard is that to be considered pretty in society, you need a pale, white complexion. The Gyarus seek to battle this and therefore make a statement by tanning their skins. The goal is to reform the established norm of society. 

The Gyaru culture began in the early 1990s due to a demand for change. The fashion industry heard the cry and birthed the Gyaru fashion culture. Since then, the fashion industry has continued to make fashion magazines that center on the Gyaru and their various subcultures. A famous magazine that’s centered on Gyaru culture is Egg Magazine. In addition, there has been an emergence of several fashion brands focusing on the Gyaru culture. However, most times, these brands concentrate on a subculture of Gyaru that they would like to engage.

Gyaru Fashion in Modern Times

Despite the popularity of Gyaru when it was first introduced, this fashion subculture soon started to lose its appeal. Today, its aesthetics and popularity continue to decline, and not many understand why this decline. An article in the Tokyo Fashion magazine seeks to shed light on this issue and mentioned that a leading reason could be the advent of globalization. Since it paved the way for fast fashion brands to sell affordable clothing items internationally, it has taken over the Tokyo fashion districts where the Gyaru-centered business once thrived. 

In addition, one has to note the priciness of the Gyaru culture. There’s a need for constant tanning, which could pile up bills in little time. Therefore, when international fast fashion brands entered Japan, consumers saw an opportunity to explore new fashion ways without necessarily emptying their pockets. Since fast fashion brands also offer fashionable items that are reportedly the top trends in the Western fashion industry which was the primary purpose of Gyaru fashion, people didn’t see the need to purchase expensive clothes anymore.

Dying Enthusiasm for the Gyaru Fashion Culture

With the demand for Gyaru fashion dwindling, some Gyaru businesses are closing up. This doesn’t mean the Gyaru culture is dead; there are still several Gyaru-centered businesses. However, they’re not as many as when the culture emerged. Because of fewer Gyaru businesses, there’s little to no opportunity for new Gyaru enthusiasts to try out the fashion themselves.

Beyond this, Gyaru culture is beginning to gain popularity in recent days. This is primarily because of Neo Gyaru, a Gyaru subculture that’s barely noticeable anymore. Gyaru is no longer evident because the fashion trend is beginning to blend with the crowd. Therefore, there’s a likelihood that you will only be able to recognize a Gyaru by the makeup they’re using. Beyond that, you will have to rely on their tanned skin to tell them apart. This might be difficult as the Gyarus are beginning to accept society’s beauty norms: pale, white skin. 

There is also a decline in the influence of top Gyaru magazines like Egg Magazine. This magazine was popular in the Gyaru community, and the enthusiast read it like the Bible of their community. However, this magazine stopped all operations in 2016 due to low turnover to go digital. Its failure to adapt to change is also a top factor in its decline. With these heavy changes in the community and the loss of one of its top influences, there were adverse effects on Gyaru followers and the magazine’s readers. 

Gyaru Brands

Gyaru’s popularity was mainly in the 1990s. Therefore, many business-minded people decided to take advantage of the hype and create a fashion brand that caters specifically to people that follow the Gyaru fashion trend. The fashion brands for the Gyaru community were commonly located in Shibuya 109, a department store known for catering to obscure and famous brands in Japan.

This department store provided a platform that most brands could sell and earn a spotlight in the fashion industry for several years. Some of the brands that utilized Shibuya 109’s potential were the Gyaru brands. They started obscure but soon became some of the trendiest brands in the country. As a result, 109 soon became famous as the birthplace of the Gyaru. After that, however, many brands began to branch out and open stores in various areas in Japan. 

Most of this subculture’s brands would set up pop-up stores at conventions and took to digitalize their business to reach a broader customer base. Some Gyaru brands also sold their items on popular online marketplaces like Farfetch. Some of the most popular Gyaru clothing brands you should know include:

  • ANAP
  • COCO LULU
  • FIG & VIPER
  • Galaxxy
  • MA*RS
  • Egoist
  • GOLDS Infinity
  • DURAS
  • Cecil McBee

Gyaru Fashion Subcultures

When it comes to subcultures, Gyaru has many to offer you. However, we’ll only be focusing on the popular subcultures to give you an idea about how this fashion trend worked.

Kogyaru

This subculture is also famous as Kogal and is a Gyaru subculture that places focus on school girls. The literal meaning of Kogyaru is high school girls, and it is the first Gyaru subculture we know. It also remains the most popular Gyaru subculture known. An example of a Kogyaru would be Aiura Mikoto from an anime series, who had thick colored hair that they curled. You could also note her long, decorative nails and her phone, attached to many accessories. Her tanned skin is also another reason why she depicts the kogyarus perfectly. These days, the Kogyarus are different, and the term refers to more than just the Gyaru community but also a fashion trend. 

Hime Gyaru

Hime translates to the princess in Japanese. This means that the Hime Gyaru subculture refers to a princess-like style. People usually link it to the Lolita style because they have many similarities. However, Lolita is entirely different, and its outfit closely resembles that of a princess. People who practice Hime Gyaru fashion will purchase a tiara if they have to. They’re famous for their long nail, beehive hairstyle, and heavy makeup. They only wear items with lots of laces and frills for clothes and are bouncy. Their clothing color is limited to white and pink to show their femininity. You could also find them wearing outfits with floral and gingham patterns. Many brands still sell the Hime Gyary fashion outfits in Japan, so you would find them easy to locate.

The Kuro Gyaru

The last on our list of common Gyaru subcultures is Kuro Gyaru. They’re quite popular, and their goal is to spread their fashion style to the rest of the world. This Gyaru subculture has stayed true to its roots from the beginning. They’re called Kuro Gyaru because of their dark tan, but you can also recognize them by their huge headpieces. Unlike the Hime Gyaru subculture, Kuro Gyaru tends to show more skin. They also wear many faux leopard prints with their clothes. 

Social Commerce in Fashion
Social Commerce in Fashion

Final Thoughts

Many fashion subcultures have come out of Japan. However, only a few cultures have stood the test of time and remained prominent over the years. One of those is Gyaru fashion; this fashion subculture started in the 1970s and has remained popular. It owes its popularity to its expressiveness which is the primary goal of the fashion style. We provided insight into the different Gyaru subcultures that new Gyaru enthusiasts can explore. 

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Gyaru Fashion – The History & Culture Gyaru fashion is a prominent culture in Japan. However, few know details about its history and the culture; learn all you need to know here.
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