Fashion is a fickle thing (as people love to say), and of course Japanese trends are no exception. Street fashion here is incredibly youth-oriented, and while the glory days of the first Fruits magazine publications may be long gone, there’s still a healthy grass roots level of fashion culture in our favourite stylish city, with street snap sites often leading the way.

Over the past couple of years, you might have noticed a new style developing on the streets of Tokyo: girls typically wearing platform shoes, sheer skirts and giant crucifix necklaces. As far as I’m aware, this style – while being extremely popular – has no distinct name, despite its large following. I’ve written before about a couple of brands and shops that cater to this style, namely the Harajuku boutique Nadia, Katie, the vast vintage shop Kinji and more recently Jouetie taking it to a wider mainstream audience.

Outfits typically consist of lightened and/or unnaturally coloured hair and a mix of light denim, sukajyan (Yokosuka jackets – the older the better), sheer skirts (both long and short), eye-catching t-shirts, patterned tights (flesh-coloured with fake tattoos are the current favourite), lace ankle socks and some form of platform shoes – Tokyo Bopper, creepers and Nadia’s own stacked baseball shoes are popular. Make-up is usually minimal with an emphasis on blusher directly under the eyes, while accessories are either religious or child-like, fake glasses seem to be on the way out this summer.

I think it’s really interesting that there’s no real single defining label for this kind of style. Perhaps because of the way that the audience outside Japan consumes these images via the internet, it’s become more common to have a name for every style and subculture. While I can see the obvious drawbacks, it does help those outside form patterns and easily see what does and doesn’t come under that style – lolita fashion is the obvious example here. However, by having no label, does this limit the popularity of this style outside Harajuku? If we were, for example, to suddenly name this “Nadia style” and create Nadia communities and tags and encourage others around the world to share images of themselves dressed in Nadia style, would we see the same kind of exponential growth as lolita and gyaru fashion in the international fashion scene?

I’ve seen many similar images to the examples I’ve provided listed as ‘pastel grunge’ on various sites. However, this is a prime example of an artificial label (I’m not quite sure how photos of bruises and knickers fit in with my own memories of the 90s – mostly flannel shirts, leggings and denim dungarees) imposed from the outside rather than from those involved in the style themselves. I’m pretty neutral about the concept of labelling fashion sub-styles, but I actually think it does this particular style a bit of a disservice, as it’s much more than a reinterpretation of Western trends from the 1990s. I’d personally say it’s a little closer to the kinderwhore image of female singers in the 90s: babydoll dresses, clumpy boots and tiaras. There’s a little bit of everything in this Harajuku style: Candy club-wear, vintage, discount items, ‘mermaid’ hair, (real and fake) body modification, cute and creepy… it’s Harajuku as its best and freshest.

Continue scrolling down for some key looks:

Light denim jackets, short skater skirts and platform shoes (from last winter).

More denim, and some great footwear.

Vintage and new sukajyan, paired with patterned tattoo tights.

More interpretations: the peterpan collar and corset belt adding personal style.

Long sheer layers with mini-shorts underneath is a favourite look, a mix of vintage and modern pieces that’s a key idea.

Edging towards the kawaii end of the spectrum now, with Akihabara and Cult Party-influenced outfits.

More Cult Party and Spank! influences.

(images thanks to RidSnap and ShiftSnap)

I think what I like best about this style is how organically it’s grown in Harajuku (it sometimes seems now that virtually every girl under the age of 30 in Harajuku is dressed somewhat like this), and also how open to interpretation it is. In the images above, I tried to pick examples of girls that had seen others on the streets dressed like this, and then in turn interpreted it in their own way – there’s a great variety here, from nightgowns to ripped denim, lace and crucifixes, pink hair and dirty shoes.

Whatever you like to call it, long live Harajuku street fashion!

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2 Responses to Harajuku’s Un-Named Style Tribe

  1. Mitiko says:

    I think this style is called Aomoji-kei in Japan… Its like join everything you like and put it in a outfit~

  2. Samuel says:

    @ Mitoko

    Thanks for getting in touch, in the time (almost a year now!) since Rebecca wrote this there have been a couple of names proposed for this style. Certainly Aomoji-kei is a useful blanket term, but I can’t help but feel that this is indicative of the decline in utility of those kind of easy “zoku” or “-kei” terms.

    Either way, it is a very interesting time for street fashion.

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