Fashion Soup for the Sartorial Soul: So Subcultured (Ganguro)

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Let me preface this post by saying I fully understand the sheer absurdity of this subculture. While I don’t expect anyone to seek out these trends in their entirety, I believe that exposure to and understanding of even the weirdest of trends outweighs any negative reactions that may come along with them. So without further ado, allow me to present Ganguro! 

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In the last century, Japan has provided us with an abundance of wacky yet indispensable innovations. Think cheap cars, cat cafes, hologram pop stars, and lets not forget the iconic square watermelon –– hell, even sushi was a startling concept to Westerners 30 years ago.

Fashion wise, the country is just as abstractly genius. From the same nation that coined Lolita, Harajuku and Kogal, comes the 90s-born Ganguro –– an avant-garde fad that aimed to portray feminist concepts through its seemingly frivolous assortment of bright hues.

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Characterized by skimpy neon clothes, sky-high platforms, large faux flower hair pieces, face jewels and an abundance of multicolored plastic accessories, Ganguro outfits are near impossible to go unnoticed. When you take into consideration the makeup –– overly tanned skin, colored contacts, bleached hair, white lips and eyeshadow, thick lashes and heavy black eyeliner ––the full getup becomes a meticulously crafted mess of self expression.

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Ganguro in its many forms quickly caught wind through fashion magazines and street style photos and inspired many teens to try it themselves. On the other hand, mainstream media painted a picture of these girls as being obnoxiously loud, dirty, vulgar and unstable.

Though already specific, the subculture can be broken down into even smaller categories –– most popularly, Yamanba and Manba. While the former takes on a girly, more juvenile persona, the latter presents itself as more severe with the addition of heavier white makeup and elements of punk style.


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As the overall aesthetic of Ganguro has a tendency to be mocked by online beauty gurus, bloggers and most Japanese, its true intentions get pushed to the back burner. Surprisingly, the ideas behind the unconventional style –– which parallel those of Riot Grrrls and other female rebel groups –– extend far beyond the Day-Glo explosion that is so clearly depicted.

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Through the wild trend, girls hoped to destroy stereotypical expectations of Japanese women (e.g. fair skin, dark hair, innocence and fragility) by inverting typical beauty standards and instead choosing to emulate extreme versions of carefree bronzed, platinum blonde, blue eyed, California girls.

Though the style faded out by the early 2000s, Ganguro maintains a huge cult following of girls still attempting to destroy social constructs, one floral accessory at a time.

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Top: Boohoo ($8), Jacket: Choies ($80), Flowers: Claires 1. ($5.50) 2. ($3.50), Skirt: Boohoo ($8), Purse: Shop Jeen ($58), Boots: Jeffrey Campbell ($275), Bracelets: Claires 1. ($5) 2. ($5), Earrings: Shop Jeen ($18).

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Self tanner: Tarte ($13), Bronzer: NARS ($38), Foundation: Kat Von D ($34), Eyeshadow Pencil: NYX ($4.50), Lashes: Sephora ($10), Eyeliner: Urban Decay ($20), Contacts: Pinky Paradise ($20), Jewels: Bath and Body by Tracy ($7), Eyeshadow: MAC ($16), Hair Dye: Palty ($13), Lip Stain: OCC ($18).

Words by Campbell Gee, pictures by the Internet. 

One thought on “Fashion Soup for the Sartorial Soul: So Subcultured (Ganguro)

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