Named after a district in Shibuya, Tokyo, Harajuku fashion has inspired multiple aesthetics that we see nowadays, such as Pastel Goth, Egirl and Soft Grunge. It also helped establish Japan as one of the most fashion-forward countries in the world.
But what exactly is Harajuku fashion and what trends does it encompass? Today we'll answer those questions and many more. So get ready, because today we'll teach you all you need to know about these eclectic and iconic trends!
A Brief History of Harajuku Fashion
The Harajuku district first gained popularity in the 1980s, though it boomed in the 1990s. At the time, rebellious and alternative teens would meet up there on Sundays, when Omotesando street was closed to traffic. The street, one of the longest in Tokyo, turned out to be the perfect place for gathering as it features tons of cafes and high-fashion boutiques —which are now super popular with both residents and tourists.
While Tokyo in general is regarded as a hotbed for alternative fashion in Japan, it's the Harajuku district the real epicenter of these rule-bending styles. Since its beginning, it has provided a safe place for teens to have fun and express themselves freely through fashion. So it's no surprise that Harajuku eventually became the cultural phenomenon that it now is.
Main Styles in Harajuku Fashion
Contrary to popular belief, Harajuku fashion consists of several different subcultures rather than being a monolithic style. This characteristic is what makes Harajuku so interesting, as it allows space for creativity and diversity. Moreover, you can frequently see styles that blend aesthetics.
Despite its diversity, Harajuku styles do have certain things in common. For example, they give a high importance to color and exuberance. Another important element is that they don't care for mainstream fashion: it's all about what happens in the street. These aesthetics are created and popularized by the people, for the people.
The subcultures that belong to Harajuku fashion also place their focus in self-expression, so you can dress however you want. As long as its creative and bold, there's plenty of room for experimentation!
Ok, so now that we've established that Harajuku fashion doesn't have a specific set of rules and that it's a mixture of different aesthetics… What are some of the most popular styles?
This is probably the most well-known Japanese aesthetic on this list. It originated in the 1960s and draws inspiration from Victorian clothing as well as the Rococo period. Lolita fashion is super feminine and doll-like as it features big dresses with bows, lace and ruffles. Heavy headpieces such as wigs, bonnets, and berets are also common. In addition, Lolita fashion spawned several subsets, such as Lolita Goth and Sweet Lolita.
This type of street fashion, which originated around the 1970s, is an exaggerated take on American beauty standards. Gyaru (also known as ganguro) is characterized by its heavy use of bleached blond hair and tanned skin. Unlike Lolita, this aesthetic is purposely sexy, fierce and rebellious.
Clothing and accessories includes mini skirts, platform shoes, and tons of colorful bracelets. While Gyaru peaked in popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s before slowly dying out, it remains an iconic subculture in Japan.
The name of this eclectic aesthetic comes from the word “decoration”, and is a direct reference to Decora's heavy use of accessories. This style, which has become the face of Harajuku fashion, is colorful and playful. Cartoons such as Care Bears and Pokemon are popular in Decora, so its common to see those themes in t-shirts and pendants. Outfits often include tutu skirts, leg warmers and knee-high socks —all in a wide variety of colors and textures. However, the most important element in Decora are accessories like band-aids, hair clips, and bracelets. You can never have too many!
The street Kimono style is a modern take on traditional Japanese fashion. In this style, it's common to see colorful and creative patterns on vintage Kimonos, Obi (which is similar to a brocade belt) and Yukatas. These pieces are often paired up with modern clothing such as dresses, shorts, and boots. Although it's not as universally known as other aesthetics on this list, it is popular among Japanese teens and young women alike.
This aesthetic originated in the 1980s among Japanese musicians influenced by Glam rock, Goth, and Punk. Visual Kei is, like its name says, all about looks —and the more flamboyant, the better. It's also a very androgynous style. This results in these musicians and their fans rocking big hair, heavy makeup and elaborate costumes. These items are often paired up with combat or platform boots to add an extra layer of edge to the overall aesthetic.
Now that you've learned about Harajuku fashion, you might wanna give some of these styles a try. For that, we recommend you check out our store because we have tons of Harajuku clothing inspired and accessories 😉