Japan’s street fashion scene is famous around the globe for its ever-changing face - from over-the-top cute and colorful to extreme darkness, from haute couture to hardcore sneaker heads, from styles inspired by ancient fairy tales to looks from the cyber future.
The heart of the Japanese street fashion scene today is Harajuku - as it has been for decades. Long before brands like Comme Des Garcons, BAPE, and Undercover became household names in the West, they’d already made names for themselves on the streets of Harajuku. Countless designers, global trends, and fashion subcultures got their start in this small neighborhood of Tokyo.
While there are other places in Japan where street fashion also thrives, Harajuku is the undisputed heart and soul of the Japanese street fashion scene. To understand the state of Japanese street fashion in 2016, we need to take a look at the current state of Harajuku.
The general feeling on the streets of Harajuku over the last year is that big changes are coming to the neighborhood. Many people are optimistic, some are not. Time will tell what the future holds, but for now here are 10 things that you need to know about the state of Japanese street fashion.
Harajuku is popular with both girls and boys, but Harajuku Girls have received exponentially more attention from magazines, fashion designers, the Japanese media, the international media, social media, and pretty much everyone else. Most of the famous Japanese street style subcultures have also been traditionally female-centric (lolita, fairy kei, decora, gyaru, dolly kei, mori, etc.). But recently a new Japanese style tribe has appeared on the scene, ready to smash centuries of gender stereotypes in a very 21st century way. We are calling these new arrivals the “Kawaii Boys” of Harajuku.
Kawaii Boys are cutely dressed Japanese boys who fully embrace the “kawaii” type of fashion that has traditionally been the (nearly) exclusive domain of Japanese teen girls. The Japanese media has dubbed these new Kawaii Boys “Genderless Kei” (“kei” means “style”), but that label applies to a bigger genre than just the Kawaii Boys of Harajuku. For full info on the Genderless boom, check out Genderless Kei - Japan’s Hot New Fashion Trend. For this article, we’ll focus on the Kawaii Boys sub-genre of Genderless Kei.
Though the Kawaii Boys’ styles vary, the most popular look is childlike rather than traditionally feminine. These are not crossdressers, most of them are not gay, and they are not trying to look like - or pass as - women. They are specifically aiming for a happy fun Genderless style. That said, none of these new generation of Kawaii Boys are afraid of incorporating traditionally female fashion elements and makeup into their looks.
There are two famous Kawaii Boys who have been key in defining and promoting this new Harajuku style.
Pey’s style is quite similar to Ryucheru, and in fact they have sometimes appeared together in Japanese media. Pey works at the popular WC boutique on Takeshita Dori in Harajuku. The shop’s concept is a kawaii bedroom - and who better to share your kawaii bedroom than your kawaii Genderless friend? Like Ryucheru, Pey wears makeup, colors his hair, and loves nail polish. He has been described as a “Toy Boy”, which means that he likes cute colorful things like children’s toys.
There are more Kawaii Boys in Harajuku as well, but at this point Ryucheru and Pey are the ones setting the trend for others to follow.
Other popular Harajuku street snap personalities and idols who fall into the new Genderless Kei genre include Toman (XOX), Yohdi Kondo, Kanata (6%DOKIDOKI), Devil (Yusuke Hida), and Shoshipoyo. P-chan from the Tempura Kidz and Yuutarou (from the Harajuku boutique San To Nibun No Ichi) sometimes get included on lists of Genderless idols as well. While these models may fit into Genderless Kei, they are not the exact “Kawaii Boy” style that we are calling a trend on here.
Stay tune for Part 2!!! Cya