Monday, 11 August 2014

Long Live Gyaru

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding gyaru recently. "I hear that gyaru is dying out," is whispered behind false fingernails. Egg, the original gyaru bible, has shut their doors for the second time and with the demise of In Forest, Ageha, Happie Nuts and other magazines have all stopped filling the shelves. For one of the first times since it's incarnation, gyaru has begun to follow Western trends.

Gyaru is dead!

I highly disagree.

The style has simply decreased in popularity and become more merged with the mainstream trends we'd usually be seeing stocked in H&M, Zara and the stores that we've all grown accustomed to filling up Western shopping centres. As always, things cycle in and out of fashion. Gyaru fashion is on the decline but it most certainly can't be called dead. There's no need to mourn for something that hasn't fully died. This is the second decline of gyaru since the 90s and after the first decline things exploded even more.

B A C K ★ T O ★ B A S I C S

Looking back at gyaru, the style began to grow in popularity as Japanese girls began to rebel against the expectations society had on them. Society could expect them to act a certain way but they couldn't control how the girls chose to do their make-up or what clothes they wore. With fashion leaders such as Namie Amuro in 1996 with her tanned skin, short skirts and platform boots to Buriteri and her unique and controversial ganguro style, the spark for other girls to rebel was lit. The streets of Shibuya began and Center Gai began to fill up with manba.

The economic situation at the time was similar to what it is now and that didn't stop the gyaru from tearing up a storm and cherishing their beloved Alba Rosa. It didn't stop them from using tanning booths to achieve the perfect skin colour and it didn't stop them from caring about their appearance. The state of the economy has never, ever been able to keep a good gyaru down. It might have been enough to force the doors of 'Egg' to shut it's doors one time but even then the gyaru were able to survive without their precious magazines.


Gyaru is a style that is always evolving; how else would we see the various substyles we see now? Without kogal there would have never been ganguro. Without ganguro there would have never been manba. A girl who may have been a manba may have looked upon the arrival of the current gyaru sweetheart Tsubasa Masuwaka in horror and proclaimed, "That isn't gyaru!"

By the mid-00s the more extreme styles such as manba were beginning to die down in popularity and were seen less and less on the streets of Shibuya. But that didn't mean gyaru, which was initially about rebelling, had disappeared. They were still rebelling against what society had told them to be. They still had their tans, their blonde hair, their noticeable (yet still turned down from the extremes of manba) make-up. They still rebelled what society considered acceptable by wearing clothes that showed their shoulders (which is considered to be the equivalent of Western girls wearing short skirts) and by hiking their skirts even shorter.

Para Para Clubs were still somewhat popular after the initial rise of them and it wouldn't be surprising to see models releasing their own music. Tsubasa Masuwaka's 'Magic to Love' with accompanying para para routine just shows how popular it still was.

It's around this time more gyaru substyles began to be more prominent. Agejo, rokku, oraora kei, etc. were all on the rise and as such magazines began to pop up everywhere to serve them. Whilst the styles were all different one style in particular began to rise in popularity more than any other and it appealed to a more mainstream audience which is where gyaru began to really change and begin to be more socially acceptable.

Hime-kaji, sweet styles, etc.

Whilst stores like Liz Lisa had always been around it's more popular than ever. Whether intentionally or not, Tsubasa Masuwaka headed the shift of gyaru that made it more accessible to normal girls and it became less about rebelling and more about looking fashionable. Whilst there is still an element of rebellion in there most girls get into the styles these days because they 'look nice' or 'want to be seen as cute'. Liz Lisa, Ank Rouge, Swankiss, Rosebullet, etc. all provide the sweet look that's currently reigning above all else in terms of popularity.

These styles brought along the shiro gyaru or pale skinned girls that we're more accustomed to seeing. Gyaru make-up trends went towards false eyelashes and circle lenses; something other styles such as those you would see in Kera magazine would begin to embrace. Other gyaru styles still exist of course, but that isn't stopping the wave of sweet styles that are flooding magazines and stores. Some magazines that had been considered for catering to gyaru such as Popteen branched off; looking at Popteen as it currently stands, it cannot be called a gyaru magazine. Dark hair or straightened hair was something that would normally not be seen in gyaru yet it's acceptable for these styles to be incorporated.

The hime-kaji styles appealed to girls who weren't gyaru or who were scared of being seen as rebelling against society. The clothes were cute and looked pretty; who could be worried about being seen as dirty or rebellious by having a floral dress? It wasn't going to stand out in the crowd. Some of the brands began incorporating these looks; MA*RS is definitely agejo but it has some elements that would appeal to hime-kaji styled girls for example.

In addition, Harajuku fashion and gyaru began to mix more and more. People claim Kyarypamyupamyu is gyaru based off her false eyelashes and circle lenses; however that's not gyaru. In addition gyaru make-up began to borrow elements from Harajuku fashions such as the under eye blush, the current trend of replacing lower eye liner with eye shadow, etc. Tsubasa and Kyarypamyupamyu, the two biggest icons of these scenes, have both released their own eyelashes, music, clothes, etc. They both wear wigs and are constantly changing their hairstyles as a result.

The two styles are still recognisably different of course but they both borrow elements from each other. The dramatic gyaru make-up has gone for now and has been replaced with a more toned down, natural look that has been influenced by the fashions that would most likely be seen in Harajuku than Shibuya 109.

T A K I N G★ G Y A R U ★ B A C K

Since the arrival of NeoGal which is taking Japanese magazines such as ViVi and Jelly by storm, there's been a backlash especially from gaijin gyaru about how this isn't gyaru. You'd be forgiven for thinking this style was intended to be gyaru, especially with the figurehead of this new and quirky trend is Alisa Ueno who is a Blenda model and former gyaru herself. Fig &Viper, the brand which Alisa produces herself, occupies a space in gyaru haven Shibuya 109. With the heavy influence from Western fashion it's understandable why some people might think that this is the future of gyaru.

Is it? Who knows.

NeoGal is definitely an odd mix of Western fashion meets Shibuhara culture. The influences of H&M, Zara, BOY London and all of the other Western brands that have began creeping into Japanese fashion with their cheaper prices has definitely played an influence but it's still not completely there. The make-up of NeoGal is more Harajuku than it is gyaru. Whether or not gyaru can 'take it back' is another matter but the arrival of NeoGal has definitely forced girls to remember where gyaru came from and what it means.

It means more than to fit in and look fashionable. It's used to rebel against society.

Is gyaru dead? No, of course not. It's evolving. With the most popular styles turning the look down into something that isn't what it quite used to be when it first reared it's head and the style turning back into a more underground movement as it was when it originally appeared, gyaru is definitely in an interesting place right now. Whether or not older styles make a comeback or something totally new and unexpected appears is undecided. Gyaru isn't dead.

Long live gyaru.

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