Gyaru Resurgence

Blond tan bad girls are back
28 February 2008
Gyaru are no longer "cool," but they aren't going anywhere.
Shibuya 109, gyaru
When the Gyaru fashion movement first appeared in the mid-1990s amongst Tokyo teenage girls, the media and Japanese males had a field day with the subculture's hyper-sexual take on the normal high-school uniform. Their skin was slightly darker than normal (thanks to tanning salons), the skirt hem a little higher up on the leg, and the bag weighed down with more stuffed animal accessories than humanly possible — but the overall look maintained titillating feminine undertone. Once combined with the popularity of similarly-styled pop star Namie Amuro, Gyaru took over the Shibuya neighborhood around shopping building Shibuya 109 and ended up defining the standard of youth fashion in the 1990s for most middle-class high school girls.

By 1999, however, the Gyaru had passed their peak, and the style was hijacked by the Ganguro — a term meaning literally "black face." The Ganguro girls darkened to their faces to an extreme degree, redefining the act of tanning from an attempt to look older to a means of instilling abject horror. Instead of boy-friendly cosmetics, they added white makeup to their already pitch-black faces as if they wanted to look like inverse panda bears. This incarnation of the style drove away most of the casual middle-class female fans and outraged both social conservatives and the pedophilic older men who had lusted after the original Gyaru. Despite the resistance to the Ganguro, this working-class delinquent stream of Gyaru managed to stay strong for a few years before beginning to peter out around 2001. Some hardcore members have continued to squat in Shibuya's Center Street area, but the look has been "over" for a quite a while now.

In the few last years, however, the Gyaru have suddenly reestablished themselves in the market while no one was paying attention. Former Gyaru headquarters Shibuya 109 is still crowded on the weekend, thanks to the predominance of brands that live up to the "cheap-cute" (puripura) aesthetic. (Although not limited only to Gyaru customers, the space still has roots in the sexy, tanned look — compared to the hipster fashion of relatively empty Shibuya PARCO up the hill.)
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