Whether or not you watch animé, it’s common knowledge that extreme hair colours — among other characteristics — are pretty prominent in this Japanese art form. For those who are not familiar, it’s an attribute often related to characters who defy the norm (a.k.a. natural black hair and a more subdued attitude) as some sort of rebellion or indifference to what’s considered ordinary. This depicts a cultural relevance that reflects some aspects of Asian society in real life.
In Japan, one of the biggest manifestations of this ideal is the ganguro gal or gyaru (the Japanese pronunciation for ‘gal’). Easily recognisable through their stereotypical bleached hair, huge falsies, and larger-than-life fashion sense, gyaru has been one of the most prominent faces of Harajuku’s style scene. While some of you may have an idea of what the look is about, here are more things to know about this interesting J-fashion subculture.
A primer on the gyaru aesthetic
While there is no solid trace of when or how it became a cultural phenomenon in the country, some sources suggest that the gyaru culture was kickstarted in the '80s to early '90s when the prominence of American TV shows became popular in Japan. The blonde-hair-tan-skinned look similar to Pamela Anderson's was the peg, along with full-blown makeup that’s quite different from the typical minimalist and au naturel aesthetic of Japanese women.
The gyaru schoolgirl look is also one of its most popular depictions on and off pop-culture. The Westernised beauty look is matched with a more relaxed and hang-out-after-school fashion. During its peak, it became one of the ‘it’ looks around the streets of Shibuya and Harajuku. But beyond its unique style factor were some questionable aspects.
Since one common feature of the gyaru look is having fake tanned skin, some of its manifestations bordered on brown-face or black-face. Not to mention that it’s also somehow derived from stereotypes Japan has on American culture. This wasn't an issue in the '80s and '90s, but this side of its story is simply not to be dismissed, especially in our current social climate.