Japanese Street Fashion Tribes: Gals & Kogal


Japanese street fashion. Everyone around the world look in awe of the mash up of colours, styles and makeup, behind the heavy layers there are many theories and tribes are definitely formed. Several are linked to actual issues connected to the society we live in – to do with war, crime, violence, addiction to fashion, and even rejection.

The issues are complex and I’m going to split the tribes down and focus on the Gals of Fashion in this article. Almost all the tribes were created from a compilation of strong ideas which branch off into smaller sects. The overall nickname of ‘poseur’ (from French ‘thought’) which was later referred to as ‘mask’ but technically in everyday English slang ‘Poseur’ is one who goes against the grain of the group and dresses to stand out. This goes for all areas such as food, music, literature, art and hobbies (the Ganguro sub culture is often linked with Para Para, a Japanese dance style using your arms).

Gal is the Japanese translation for ‘Gyaru’. Through the depths of the internet I searched and couldn’t find a text book definition, only that the name originated from a 1970s brand of jeans called ‘gals’, with the advertising slogan: ‘I can’t live without men’, and was applied to fashion and peer-conscious girls in their teens and early twenties. The term was used mostly in the 1980s and eventually the term morphed into something different for the younger teens whose lack of interest in work or marriage gained the term ‘gal’ the new meaning of ‘childish’ and is also linked to ‘kogyaru’ also known as ‘Kogal’.

In Japan the image that fits the Gal tribe was, heavy tan (often darkened by tanning beds or lotions/makeup) and loose socks (now including legwarmers) that were trendy at schools and Shibuya academies.

This later gave birth to a Kogal clique that based their look on sun kissed California babes. This consisted of tanned skin, bleached blonde dyed hair, miniskirts, accessories (mobile phones, charms, rings, jewelry) and makeup, so you’d need the cash to successfully live this lifestyle and many Japanese Gals sought to prostitution or selling used undies to fund their expenses.

This is why they are frowned upon whenever mentioned in animes and mangas, such as much loved Gals focusing on these sub cultures never conforming (Ganguro trio) and Peach Girl, Momo who unfortunately are very easily is ostracised for being ‘easy’.

Their attempt at individuality and self-expression is in open defiance of school standards and regulations. The deep ganguro tan is in direct conflict with traditional Japanese ideology of feminine beauty. Due to this, as well as their use of slang, unconventional fashion sense and assumed lack of hygiene, ganguro gals are almost always portrayed negatively by the Japanese media.

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