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Trickledown Theory Of Harajuku Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5030 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Change in fashion has repeatedly been explained as a trickle-down result of class replication followed by class repugnance. But wearing the latest style is no longer a dispensation that is reserved only for the upper strata. The drastic change in fashion cannot be stated as a straightforward progression of transmission from the elites to the masses. Some studies have made an accessible alternate model where sub cultural innovations ‘bubble-up’ in anticipation of them being adapted by emulating marketable bodies.

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According to studies fashion is not something that can be promoted in an artificial manner which gives a commercial aspect to the new trends that have just come in the market. The relationship between fashion and so-called anti-fashion is a recurrently dialectical one and therefore there is no coherence in fashion mainstream. There are some trickle downs and bubble ups theories that happen which sometimes moves horizontally or sometimes they just remain where they are despite the difference in culture, class, lifestyle or age groups. Tastes are not purely dictated and we should acknowledge the complexity and idiosyncratic sensual significance of material things in people’s lives. People invest on clothes with both individual and collective facets of identity, memory and imagination. Beyond social competition, fashion comes from the primal pleasures of recital, amusement, foundation and annihilation.

On Shibuya Street

The hefty traffic and Shibuya are associated in its history. Shibuya was a diminutive village in Edo period, positioned at the Western edge of Central Tokyo. Because of this location, Shibuya Station on spherical Yamate Line also became the terminal for a subway line to Ginza, a railway to Yokohama and numerous additional railways. Shibuya urbanized with the railways and traffic.

The railway companies also made Shibuya a well accepted shopping town. In 1934, an enormous railway company called- Tokyu Group first built the foremost department store here. This is the company which attracted many consumers who used to merely overtake Shibuya to shop at Ginza. In 1968, its rival Seibu Railway Group opened Seibu Department Store. They also opened PARCO for younger customers in 1973. Tokyu Group retaliated back by opening Tokyu Hands in 1978. This kept on happening for years and this is the way that Japan fought amongst itself to come out to be today’s most sought after countries for fashion.

In the streets of shibuya, a very distinct street in Japan, where fashion is at its peak and it proves to be one of the most amazing spots to be in if you are in search for the Japanese culture and how the youth of Japan have taken their history forward. There are a lot of department stores in shibuya here teenagers in group flock around every day. This hub is lively and full of energy due to the fashion carried out here.

The area of shibuya is targeted towards younger generations unlike, the other parts, which are known for being wild and quirky. This area also carries forward the tag of being one of the safest shopping destinations which boosts a lot of energy in the people who come to shop there. This street is also famously known to be an environmentally clean area and a place to be when in Japan. Shibuya street fashion is one of the most fashionable, energetic, modern, and a stylish street which offers the latest trends which are creative and very well thought of. It is one of the most sorted out streets after the Harajuku Street and is also considered youthful in nature and one can easily mingle in with the crowd and be a part of them.

Ganguro fashion which prominently hit the streets of Japan in 1990s had initially hit the streets of shibuya and this fashion was a new rage on its street till another decade. This fashion was just like punk which is like a legendary fashion in itself but which mutated in the form of other new style as years passed by. This trend was popular amongst the younger teenagers and young ladies in their 20s who would dye their hair blonde or orange in colour along with a deep tan and white concealer which was often used as a lipstick. On the streets of shibuya this fashion died away but newer trends kept following it with a tinge of Ganguro attitude yet attached to it. The newer fashions stuck to the basic foundation of the Ganguro fashion which was purely based on freedom and strength. The fashion in the shibuya districts are just not a focus on about being extreme in nature but it is also about the amalgamation of styles and just like how they see life to static rather than just being constant. This street is always looking for something which has a creative aspect and a tinge of novelty in the ideas they put forward in the market.

One of the most important places in the Shibuya Street is the 109, a fashion building which caters to amazingly youthful and stylish teenagers and attracts crowds easily. The most daring and wild sides of the street are boutiques like candy, centre Gai and Koen Dori which bring out an energizing vibe which is pleasingly attracting the youth.

The most interesting part of visiting this street is that it will make both overtly fashionable and less fashionable people feel alike with rich and energetic youthful vibe inside them when they are on the street. Along with these people are the alternative fashion minded gurus who would like to keep to themselves and also dress likewise. Shibuya is known for rekindling the spirit within the youth through their fashion which is carefree and above all a very individualistic in nature.

The center of youth fashion and culture

the most spectacular thing that happens on this street is at the intersection of the four roads that go to the fashionable and stylish clothes shops. There are people walking in from all directions when the lights go green but the most surprising thing is that no one ever bumps into another person. This fact has been mentioned here purely to suggest that despite of the hysterical movements of people towards each other there are well thought of precautions which the Japanese government has taken and thus this fact has probably amazed me everything is planned, not just fashion.

Shibuya is a convenient place to admittance from all directions, and today it is the most important hangout spots amongst youths. The students who live near this street and also the other youths of Japan make the most of this place by experimenting with fashions and cosmetics along with accessories in an extreme form from this street.

The 109 department at the shibuya street is one of the most flashy and commercial neighboring suburb of Harajuku street. Here the people act as major players in innovating novel and fashionable sensibilities which eventually become iconic in nature due to celebrities who follow it. In this street it is not normal for the fashion houses to give an opportunity to charismatic salesgirls as forecasters because they believe in formal training in the field. This poses as a difference between both the streets- the Harajuku and the Shibuya Street. The people who undergo a formal training can be positioned in the departmental stores as designers, merchandisers, sales person, stylists, models and marketers as per the qualifications they have achieved.

Difference between shibuya and Harajuku

Shibuya- here girls and boys in their mid teens and above shop for sexy fashion and do not wear cute fashions at all, unlike the Harajuku people. Here the youth is more fascinated and attracted to the fashion brands existing in the market and b the top models of sexy fashion magazines. The youth of Japan are known for trying hard to create one’s own individuality through fashion and thus the youth on this street also abide by the same rule. They create their individual sense by dressing in a sexy manner but on their own terms and conditions. They pair up branded clothing together and I suppose that their disposable income would be higher than the shoppers at Harajuku. Not that I think that shoppers at Harajuku do not buy branded clothing as I also think that the Japanese youth saves money only to shop and nothing else apart from gadgets of course.

Harajuku- here the groups or the individual youth follow a specific fashion style that has been adopted from the past like gothic- Lolita and punk. Here the youth is willing to buy clothes from the streets because they get inspired by musicians from the past and their fashion sense surrounds the trends that are ongoing and that are further merged with the fashions of the past. The street of Uhara on the Harajuku Street is called the black alley as it has casual clothes on its disposal. Lot of people here at Harajuku also get influenced by the kei culture which means doing something and thus like I said people here create their individual recognition through the clothes they wear but in a lot of difference than the youth at shibuya. They also get influenced by what they see I magazines and thus follow trends accordingly.

Despite of the fact that there are differences in both these streets, people of Japan and the outsiders form a perception that these two streets have much more common factors than differences. Both these streets highly cater to the youth of today and equally the streets are flocked with these teens. The fashion differs in a very minute way but like I mentioned earlier, the impact of street fashion in Japan is ultimate and thus both streets also get inspired from each other.

Japanese youth culture

As any typical youth of any other country, there was need for a new identity among the youth who wanted to look separate from the ones who dictated by standard social norms. The Harajuku street fashion expresses the costumes the youth would wear on this street. Harajuku fashion is a form of self- expression and is a way to advertise a specific community identity.

All the developments of recent Harajuku street fashion are done with guerrilla marketing. The limited edition along with the designers created an environment in which the Japanese kids have been able to co-opt foreign styles, creating something particular, and a kind of fashion nationalism.

Shopping has always been an integral part of the Japanese characteristics and a particular way to assert identity among the youth. The development of youth culture has accelerated the rate of trend turnover in Japan. The youth of Japan are highly fashion conscious and would enjoy being cool despite being a nerd. The fashion oriented youth in America or Europe might just fall under the category of being playful and frivolous when it comes to fashion, but the kids in Japan are very serious about fashion. Their combinations and matches are chosen with deep insight rather than on impulse dressing. They treat fashion with a lot of respect, especially boys and thus there is a magazine dedicated only for the hairstyles for them. This means that even boys in Japan are highly conscious about what they wear and how they look.

In Harajuku, clothing is a reaction to the immediate reality of the street. This is a democratic idolatry prevalent there. Celebrities, fashion icons, designers, stylists, shop staff, hair stylists and publicists enjoy a great deal of notoriety in this street. Photographers of huge Japanese fashion magazines like fruits and tunes are posed all along the street to capture the ongoing fashion adorned by the youth. On this street, the styles keep coming and going in a matter of flashes. The youth moves in and out of these styles with amazing agility.

The fashion at Harajuku and Shibuya are highly distinct from each other in terms of fashion trends and styles though they are only two minutes away by train from each other. Takashi- Dori is another part of the Harajuku Street which catered to food items but eventually culminated into being a fashion product stores.

The Harajuku street was born when the first boutique, late night restaurants and cafe’s opened in that are to give the people there the feel of becoming the most hep street in Tokyo. After the Olympics, the Harajuku influenced youth and began to develop a unique sensibility and stylishness that distinguished them from groups hanging out in Tokyo’s other shopping areas such as Ginza. Any and every one from a designer to makeup artists who wanted to become a part of Japan’s fashion industry flocked to Harajuku. The street offered a charged atmosphere that mesmerized the young men and women.

The young designer’s collections were at least one-third copies of that season’s international designs, which were typically highly sought after by the youth in the domestic market. The collection would be easily mistaken for the overseas brands and thus would be sold in wholesale to small shops. To name a few brands that existed during the 1960s were Okawa, Comme des garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Mastuda’s Nicole. These brands originally existed on the streets of Harajuku and then came out to be influential names in the world.

As the Harajuku boomed, with the growing numbers of young designers manufacturer’s and retail outlets for this new fashion scene, the small labels into what came to be known as designer character by the mid 1980s. Harajuku still maintains its unique, close knit neighbourhood feel something that is extremely unusual for a Japanese city. Its identity is still about selling the Japan’s most modern culture, its trends, stylishness and a certain kind of dream- a sense of possibility.

Japanese street fashion magazines

Once upon a time it was the fashion magazines that ruled the country’s fashion, but today teenagers themselves create their own styles to make a fashion impression and are thus represented as fashion followers in the media.

During this time there was a boom in the industry of media where street style magazines offered youngsters to recruit teenagers as editorial staff, just looking at the way they dress and carry themselves. The FRUiTS magazine that launched itself in 1997 was started to document the emerging street fashion movements which totally focused on the outfits of the wearer and the detail of the same, with minimum advertisements. The photos also gave out details of the wearer who was spotted wearing the fashion on the street. The business magazine named WIRED has had a regular column in its magazine since the time it started, about the Japanese Schoolgirl Watch, trying to follow up of their fads.

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Japanese street fashion and adaptations of its culture has been prominent among the youth of Japan since decades. There are many subcultures that the Japanese youth follow and each of them dress according to their own choice of the category they choose to dress like. The fashion districts of Harajuku, Ginza, Shinjuku and Shibuya have a huge number of youth who flock out there during weekends and pick out clothes from these streets. A few styles that the youth in Japan follow will be mentioned here;


“The Lolita style in general represents the world of childhood, the time before girls achieve their womanly sexuality” Tanaka said, a Lolita fashion researcher.

Lolita as a fashion sprung to the surface of Japanese streets in the late 70s and stayed on from then on. The inspiration has been taken from France and the United Kingdom with the touch of rococo and Victorian eras. The Japanese have adapted to these periods and brought down the fashion to being in the form of cuteness, positivity and pure class. Lolita is considered one of the most recognized forms of street fashion, not only in Japan but also in other parts of the world today. Large amount of people have followed it throughout the world today. This style came to be popular in the leading cities of Japan like Tokyo and Osaka where people accepted this fashion readily. The fashion in Lolita is pretty restricted unlike the other fashions like punk and Kawaii. The basis of all other fashions that emerged in Japan is taken from the Lolita fashion but with its own creative difference. There were many boutiques in Japan that started Lolita fashion as their core but went on to other contemporary lines after a few decades. Some of these boutiques were- the stars shine bright and pink house. During the initial days of Lolita fashion emergence, the music groups who liked this fashion would promote it while they performed and thus this fashion started gaining popularity amongst the youth. Lolita, in USA connotes with being sexual but in Japan this fashion was not linked with looking sexy but it was mostly related to elegance and cuteness. This began as a street fashion nearly two decades ago but has now entered the mainstream movement of fashion and clothing by the youth. This fashion has also become popular and taken on the ramp which has made this style all the more famous to the outside world. The women who follow this fashion live in the world of fantasy and immaturity and refuse to grow into an adult which is taken as a rebel against certain age groups in the society.

The Harajuku culture focuses on Lolita fashion as it draws a feminized aesthetic look from the Victorian dolls that are accessorized with ribbons, laces, embroidery, bonnets, corsetry, frills and ringlets in the hair. It is usually the females who make the Lolita fashion more predominant however there are few men on the streets of Harajuku who adopt the bloomers, bows and stockings which is an ideal dress code of Lolita men.

Gothic Lolita

It is one of the most famous among other Lolita fashions has been able to draw attention from other parts of the world. This kind of fashion has been inspired from the Victorian Goth style which is characterized by dark colours, bats, spiders and Goth icons. The Japanese, though being inspired by other cultures, make these fashions look original by adding a twist of Japanese culture in their dressing. In this fashion, the young girls pull off knee length skirts with petticoats underneath. Their blouses would have the look of Victorian era, having laces and ruffles on the hems. The look is complete with knee length socks paired with boots and accessories like bonnets and brooches.

This style is clearly visible in the streets of Japan adorned by number of teenagers. This fashion is also seen at concerts and anime conventions throughout Japan and Europe along with USA in the frame. The market for this kind of clothing is increasing as there are a lot of girls sporting this look in America and Europe. In Japan, Goth is a very minor subculture with few followers, partly because the emphasis upon visual identity in Japanese youth culture makes other factors such as music and literature less important and perhaps this happens partly because Christianity and Germanic culture are not integral parts of society.

Sweet Lolita

It is more of a fantasy based dressing which is childlike and is connected to fairytale themes, baby animals and there is a lot of innocence in their dressing up. The most popular feature of sweet Lolita is the hello kitty which has pastel colours along with muted colours like pink, white and powder blue. This fashion is popularized as cute as it consists of large head bows, purses which look cute with pastels hues, parasols and stuffed animals which make the look more childlike and innocent. This is the exact opposite style from the classic Lolita and therefore it suits the younger generations more than the older ones. Since the followers of fashion are more from the younger generations, it is more likely that this fashion has more popularity than the classic Lolita look. Even the makeup is naturally toned which balances the outfit along with bouncy curls and stylishly tied up pony tail. The style of the sweet Lolita stands out as it is all about being pretty and modest. Wearing a blouse underneath the jumper is a must for a sweet Lolita dresser. This childlike innocence of the Lolita started in the 80s and was pioneered by many bands who were inspired by the bell shaped skirts which gave an aristocratic elegance to the wearer. The fabrics used in this style a variety of influences from the fruits, flowers and animals and accessories like bows, laces and ribbons. Many eatery places have sweet Lolita’s as their mascots. This whole characteristic of being a Lolita is more about a lifestyle and being more feminine. Additionally, outfits will include things like gingham, colourful prints, lace, ribbons, and bows that emphasize cuteness above all other design elements. Often taking themes and references from Alice and Wonderland as well as imagery of cake and fruits, the design plays to a younger mentality.

Shoes will also usually have a much shorter heel than most other Lolita styles because of that childlike nature, and jewellery is heavily influenced by fantasy themes, using cherries, hearts, cakes, ribbons, and bows for accessorization. Purses and bags are similarly catered to a younger mindset with stuffed animals and hearts for accessories.

Punk Lolita

It is a form of fashionable subculture in which teenagers dress mixing the punk look with the Lolita fashion. The silhouette of the original Lolita is intact while the colours and accessories differ. It also looks like a deconstructed and a crazy look but the youth who can carry it off well, do maintain it with a fashionable approach. They are heavily influenced by the western punk fashion but the Japanese have made it look cuter in a few aspects they adapted. It was a great roar during the 2000s along with other fashions like the gothic Lolita.

This style is often more casual-looking than other Lolita styles. A typical outfit will have a mini top hat, a simple cut sew with a deconstructed Lolitaesque print, a pleated tartan skirt and chunky platform boots. Sometimes Punk Lolitas will be seen with nekomimi (cat ears), although it’s considered Cosplay by the majority of Lolitas. The overall look of this style is quite edgy and at the same time also cute. The influence of this style is taken from the standard punk style with hints of psychobilly. The color schemes that this style adheres by are rather in contrast to each other than a balanced color scheme black and red, black and white are the two major combinations worn by the youth who follow this style. Usually the western punk style has more of solid colors that represent the punk style but here in Japan prints such as checkerboards, diamonds, spider webs and leopard prints are considered for punk. Prints of roses, crosses and skulls are also popular amongst the wearers along with a small amount of laces and frills attached to their outfits. Several fabrics are used to create layers which have on symmetry. Leather jackets and short skirts denote the look for punk- Lolitas. Punk Lolita is the only style among all the fashion prevalent in Japan that sports leg and hand warmers. The accessories donned by these fashion followers are chains, studded belts, spooky rivets, chokers and laces. Edgy bags with a plain surface would very well add to complete the punk look. There is a use of dark eye shadows, mascara and eyeliners with red or pink lipsticks to create a highlight in the all dark outfit.

Classic Lolita

It is one of the most traditional forms of Lolita fashions. The look is pretty mature and business like as it has colours like blue, green and red. The classic form of the Lolita fashion suits a wider age group and has more aspects of the Victorian era than any other form of Lolita fashions. This fashion is more about the floral patterns and looking classy rather than just being stuck on cuteness and bold colours. This is the main reason that it is easy for the other age groups to flaunt it.

Kodona Lolita

It means boy style version of Lolita. This fashion is inspired by the Victorian era boys who would dress up in prince pants which are Capri style pants cut off till the knee. Their shirts have a lot of detailing in it with laces while their accessories consist of top hats and knee length socks.

Gyaru fashion

It had originated in 1970s on the streets of Japan. This look was a huge rage among the girls as it focused on girly- glam style of dressing which broke all the rules of being pretty. Youngsters who followed these styles would wear man-made beauty such as wigs, fake eye lashes and nails. Not all the people who followed this kind of fashion dressed in a proactive manner, it generally varied on the choice of people who adapted only half of what this fashion consisted of.

Gyaru means gal or girly in Japanese language. Though it is altogether a different subculture they have a signature look which comprises of big hair which are usually coloured slightly or curled. There is a use of circle lenses, false eye lashes and elaborately designed nails. They dress in a very trendy manner with clothes and makeup like that of a teenager in Japan. This style is also accepted by most movie stars and is often displayed in their movies as well. To imitate the Californian Barbie, which is darker than the normal Barbie, some of the followers of Gyaru even tend to tan themselves.

The Gyaru fashion is also described as a prostitute chic look which comprises of wearing hot pants, platforms and over dramatized makeup. This fashion has a thin line between ugly and beautiful and has been able to separate the young women of Japan from their traditional and feminine concepts. It could grant them ownership of their self-image, provide confidence in the male-dominated public sphere where they were encouraged to be modest and acquiescent, and allow strong bonds of female alliance.

Ganguro fashion

It became popular among the Japanese girls in the 90s and rose to popularity in the 2000s. This fashion includes bright clothing, mini-skirts and tie-dyed sarongs. Ganguro in Japanese means black-face and this style has a peculiar style dyeing hair. The streets of shibuya and Harajuku were filled with this fashion. The look is complete if the hair is bleached completely with a deep tan skin tone along with fake lashes, white and black eye liner. The accessories stand out from the rest of the fashions and it includes bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings and platform heel shoes. Ganguro magazines were issued where fashions of deeper tans, white lipstick and multicoloured pastel eye shadows in metallic shades were promoted. There was no specific reason that this style came into the market but it is vaguely said that the girls during those years were infatuated with the styles of Janet Jackson or perhaps Naomi Campbell. It was therefore also said to be racist in nature.

Ganguro has been identified as a new fashion style imitating certain hip hop outward physical features, such as blackened faces and necks with shimmering makeup, blond or white hair, boots with solid platform soles, and bright colored tight miniskirts. As commonly recognized, such an imitation is in fact an open expression of individuality, freedom, and sexuality. There have been studies which say that Ganguro style of Japan is influenced by the hip hop culture of the west. It is also more than just the style of dance. For Japanese it is an expression to identify oneself from the standard social Japanese cultures. Ganguro is not an isolated social phenomenon, but an impact exerted by hip hop culture upon the Japanese young generation. The other nations have taken the hip hop dance, music and lyrics as an inspiration but for the Japanese it was about taking the look. This is how we know that the Japanese people are way ahead in fashion and adaptations of cultures.

A lot of speculations have been made as to from where this style is being taken up from. Some say that teenage girls have adapted this fashion only because they want to rebel against wearing uniforms in order to express their individuality. Some say that there were singers who got popular wearing this style, and that’s the reason the youth adapted to it.

Although Ganguro as a fashion style does not fit well with traditional Japanese social standards and cultural values, it becomes popular among some girls who are just approaching adult life. Many non-Ganguro girls and boys readily accept some of the Ganguro elements, and fearing exclusion, some may often conform to the style due to peer pressures.

Ganguro girls have made their own choice to not follow the pack but, instead, they have chosen a carefree and open approach to living for the moment and for escaping the feelings of being ignored or neglected at home and isolated, bullied or depressed at school. As one of the hip hop characteristics, a carefree life style is the stimulus for Ganguro girls to be largely unconcerned with money and material gain. Like all individuals, Ganguro girls want to enjoy life. They prefer to wear a flamboyant outfit and hang out with their friends for fun instead of struggling with their compelling school tasks or boring jobs.   


Some researchers in the field of Japanese social and/or studies believe that Ganguro as a fashion style is the younger generation’s revenge against traditional Japanese society; others believe Ganguro is promoted by those who intend to change the peripheral female position in Japanese society; others believe that it is some Japanese girls’ explicit self-expression of sexual attractiveness; others believe that it is just some Japanese girls’ imitation of some elements of an African woman’s appearance to be a ‘woman’, and still others believe that it makes girls Kawaii (cute) or cool because it makes them look different from others.



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