Gyaru is a Japanese transliteration of the English slang word gal used to define a fashion subculture in Japan. It is also rumored to be inspired by the popular late 80s action drama series Baywatch, that also appeared on Japanese television, which young daughters of rich business men would watch. The fashion style was probably created and then popularized by Pamela Andersons role in the show at the time. It is rumored that gyaru was an exaggeration and over-representation of American teenage party culture in Japan. The terms usage peaked in the early 2000s, and has since gradually declined. This decline has been referred to as a strategy of the magazine organizations, over-exaggeration of the fashion, western media or even sometimes government policies. The meaning of the term gyaru gradually drifted to apply to a slightly older demographic whose apparent lack of interest in work or marriage resulted in these women being regarded as childish or a "hussy". Due to its past and its present connotation, it is now used almost interchangeably with kogal.
During the Heisei era Gyaru subculture was at its peak. It had a large influence on Japans fashion and its economy; with multiple gyaru brands branching out before eventually declining. In Tokyo, across the intersection from the Shibuya Station is a shopping mall called Shibuya 109. This was a popular location for purchasing gyaru style clothing, and was where this fashion sub-culture was most often seen. In the early 2000s, 109 was considered the source of the newest and trendiest items or brands for gyaru ; from popular large recognized "Gal brands" to more independent local designers. Although 109 began as the primary source of gyaru style clothing, the styles growth in popularity saw brands reaching out by having their clothing available at pop-up stores in conventions or through web shops offering international shopping. Second-hand re-selling of gyaru apparel and accessories also increased their availability.
Gyaru is a description of either sex, but mostly women, who follow a type of Japanese street fashion with many sub-categories, many types of which originated in the 1970s. It is a fashion that is considered as not conforming to, and rebelling against, the Japanese standards of its society, at the time when women were expected to be housewives, and fit Asian beauty standards of pale skin and dark hair. For women this fashion was for them to be more racy and freewheeling, with some feeling it caused a ruckus, juvenile delinquency and frivolousness.
Its popularity peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s, then changed and became more accessible and widely popular in Japan and out of the East. In the 2010s gyaru fashion for women is typically characterized by having heavily bleached or dyed hair mostly shades from dark brown to blonde also depending on style the hair of certain participants maybe heavily crimped up hair which is called sujimori スジ盛り hair in Japan; tanned skin, highly elongated, decorated nails, and dramatic makeup are a must in this sub-fashion culture. The makeup typically consists of dark eyeliner, fake eyelashes to make the eyes appear larger, contouring of the face and nose for a slimming effect, and using colored contacts to change the color of their eyes and make the eyes appear larger. They were also known for partying or clubbing, being rather provocative, being flirtatious and unwinding and having fun.
Apparel for gyaru fashion differs depending on which gyaru style the individual has chosen and also where they would buy their items; Japanese brands or western fast-fashion brands would determine their style in the gyaru fashion sub-culture. Some would have the luxury to buy from western high-end or haute couture brands, but those who lived in Japan mostly stuck to certain brands from Japan itself depending on their style, often originating from Shibuya 109.
Popular recurring gyaru models, icons and idols who may have been easily recognized during its peak were Tsubasa Masuwaka, Kumiko Funayama, Rie Matsuoka, Hikari Shiina, Satomi Yakuwa, Sayoko Ozaki, Yuka Kowara, Rina Sakurai, Nana Suzuki, and twins Chika & Chie Yoshikawa.
2. Common gyaru styles
There are various subcategories of "gal" fashion depending on the choice of apparel and gender.
- Manba まんば: Manba is darker than ganguro, but also wilder then ganguro. Manba would wear sexy outfits from very short to very long dresses, or shorts to long skirts. Accessories would also include the motif of flowers such as leis or hibiscus, of which these patterns would appear on their clothes. Colorful clothing was a must. They would sometimes wear sweatshirts, pants and leg warmers. Disney characters made an appearance as a choice of fashion apparel such as characters from Lilo & Stitch and also characters from the Micky Mouse franchise. The white lips remained and white eye shadows were applied. It also depends on the manbas eye shadow which can be placed on a different place around the eyes. The amount of eye shadow could vary greatly. Some manbas also used a different eye shadow color on their eyelids. The use of glitter was acceptable as well. Stickers werent used under the eyes anymore, instead, they were replaced with rhinestones however they did not necessarily put them on. Common hairstyles featured big hair, bouffant, high ponytails with hair partly down, synthetic dreads, ribbons braided in, teased, side-swept, fringe, braids, curled, simply straight, or very colorful. Popular hair accessories included leis and other types of flowers/bows, straw cowboy hats, or straw hats. Flip flops, sandals, platform sandals, slippers, crocs, boots or leg warmers could also be worn.
- Kyabajō キャバ嬢: The style kyabajō is similar as agejo is inspired since the publication of Koakuma Ageha, which insisted and engrossed women to work in Kabukicho as a hostess, which the Japanese society is still trying to disregard even though this magazine did impact young women to make that choice. They dress in a particular style that makes them mostly wear dresses that are revealing but not too much ; from the Japanese brand MA*RS or from the Jesus Diamante. The most exceptional about this style is that these women who participated in this style have ineradicable long fake nails. A market researcher named Miura Atsushi 暑し三浦 did research on the women or young ladies who participated in kyabajo ; he wrote a book about the whole situation that Japan had to go through with these women, called Onna ha naze kyabakurajō ni naritai no ka? 『女はなぜキャバクラ嬢になりたいのか?』 or "Why do women want to become kyabajō?"
- Yamanba やまんば: Like manba, but the nose contour stripe was white-colored and went past the eyebrows; Yamanaba also means "old mountain hag" in Japanese; the style was regarded by the Japanese civilians as improper or even dirty.
- Hime-gyaru: Also known as Hime-kei, it is one of the more over-the-top and one of the most expensive styles of dress of all of the categories since it is a must to buy the brand-names MA*RS or Princess Melody. The hime style is largely based on the Rococo era. Gyaru of this style wear dresses or skirts in pink or other pastel colors with lots of laces and bows. Rose patterns, rosettes, pearls and crown motifs are also very common. Headpieces range from large bow clips with pearls to headbands with a rose accent, while the hair is either bleached in a certain color, crimped in a bouffant at the top and curled or wigs/extension are worn to create that sujimori styled hair スジ盛り. This make-up style has even more exaggerated eyes than the typical gyaru. Hime-gyaru does not only include clothes, but many girls see it as a way of life and make or buy custom-made decor for their homes. The style blossomed in the early 2000s, but has since declined or turned more casual this version is referred to as hime kajii; but this style mostly uses the fashion brand Liz Lisa then the now obsolete brand Princess Melody, though it is still present today in some sub-circles. Not to be confused with Lolita fashion.
- gyaru-kei ギャル系/gyaru-style: The default gyaru style. It is an umbrella term for the many subcategories or themes of gal styles.
- Ganguro ガングロ: A gyaru with an artificial deep tan and bleached hair, and makeup which tended to use white around the eyes and on the lips, and darker shades on the eyes. Also, decorations such as glitter or flowers, such as hibiscus flower stickers added under the eyes. This style was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Banba バンバ: Banba is a lighter form of manba. Banbas wear less white makeup than manbas; they also use more glitter, and may or may not have neon-colored hair. Banbas wear more extreme-looking types of false eyelashes, and colored contact lenses. Banbas wear darker colors than manbas and sometimes dress in clubwear.
- Agejo 上げ嬢: A style that was highly active, agejo was mostly inspired by, and its aesthetic referenced in, the magazine Koakuma Ageha. It is a very foxy, ladylike, and mature style. It is generally worn by, but not always exclusive to, a hostess. The intention is to be flawlessly glamorous and desirable. The agejo style has an emphasis on the eyes, often enlarging and enhancing them with circle lenses and several sets of false eyelashes in an alluring way. The hair is always styled in an up-do, almost like hime-gyaru, with curls or hair that is crimped in the sujimori hair styleスジ盛り, and sometimes includes extensions and wigs. It is common for those participating in the agejo style were to wear multiple wigs at the same time. The agejo style is similar to hime-gyaru, except for being more skimpy and with the intention to be classy.
- Ane gyaru: Gyaru style that has the yanki and biker gang culture with gyaru makeup and style. The girls drive or ride bikes, and tend to have tattoos and piercings. They not only look rebellious, but the style caters to girls who live on the edge. Ane gyaru is a tougher version of onee gyaru, and is for more mature and virile, yet effeminate, gals. The magazine of choice for fans and followers is Soul Sister, a relatively new magazine.
- Amekaji アメカジ or "American casual": It is usually a very bright, fun, flamboyant and generally multi-colored style, inspired by fictionalized images of America. Clothes are generally looser than most of the other styles. They usually have many layers that overlap each other. It mostly involves sweaters, bomber-jackets from the early 2000s and coats such as letterman jackets. In the summer they would wear t-shirts and cargo pants. Also, they would sometimes wear their boyfriends clothes. Shoes were mostly tennis shoes, uggs or engineer boots. Girly shorts are welcome for the girls.
- Gyaru-Den ギャル電機: A style of gyaru consisting of reviving gyaru through technology. It takes aspects of the gyaru fashion sub-culture and then makes use of technology as a way to revamp the style. The creators of this style have created all of their items themselves, which can be LED-lights or synthesizers which are used on accessories such as necklaces, loose socks ルーズソックス or different apparel pieces. Kyoko 京子 from Japan and Mao เหมา from Thailand who immigrated and went to Japan and has a degree in Engineering, are the creators of this style.
- Ishoku Hada Gyaru 異色肌ギャル: Different colored skin or unique skin is a gyaru style that consists of taking ganguro to an even higher level than manba or yamanba ; an outer-space level. Instead of making your skin color twice as dark as usual, instead they use face paint or physically dip themselves in a colorful paint, to resemble something out of the Earth atmosphere, or to look like an extraterrestrial, but with the same essential gyaru makeup. The creator of this style is Miyako Akane あかねみやこ; she states in an Arte interview: "I decided to create this style since that this style was created due to the fact that westerns have different hair and skin colors compared to the stereotypical Japanese features of pale clear skin and black hair, so when we want to do this we have to do something drastic. So, by changing our skin color or painting it we get to liberate ourselves; its like a therapy from makeup, we are allowed to choose our hair color and skin color". She also states that "There are many mixed marriage children that are subject to a number of prejudices because of their skin color or their hair color; thats why I want to help by saying loud and strong that everyone is allowed to be whom they want to be." She also stated in an online interview that: "I decided to create this style based upon by many things apart from gyaru, but also Harajuku fashion and of course the idea of extraterrestrials; of course it is kawaii gyaru かわいいギャル." In a Kotaku interview she stated that she has "longed for the interesting skin tones you can see in video games, anime, and movies". This fashion sub-style in gyaru has been promoted in Egg magazine for gyaru.
- Western gyaru, often referred to as "foreign gyaru" and online as gaijin-gyaru "外人ギャル". Women and even men who have found gyaru fashion outside Japan and participate in said fashion sub-culture Western gyaru includes countries also outside of the west, such as the Middle East. The term Amerigyaru was short-lived since it was used for people who identified with the gyaru lifestyle and/or fashion in America. Western/Gaijin-gyaru created their own communities and forums with lists of tutorials to help beginner gyaru with makeup and hair basics, and to meet up with each other during travel if they chose to.
- Neo-gyaru ネオギャル: The name was coined for gyaru that wanted to revitalize the style during the 2010s during its decline. By the time the style reached popularity and people have noticed its existence, the community of gyaru reacted in a completely different way then what some antiquated, radical, older or more fanatical gyaru were used to; some even shunned the style. But those who were wearing said fashion were not using the same fashion style as before or in its traditional form to wear, from apparel to their makeup. A style which is thought to be created by a previous gyaru model Alisa Ueno 上野アリサ, who owns the Japanese brand FIG&VIPER. It looks more western-like or even resembling grunge wear. The makeup was also considered dark in terms of lipstick or eyeshadow.
- Bibinba ビビンバ: This look usually includes a lot of gold and jewelry. Similar to b-gal. It was said to be a joke in Egg magazine about this style and was not a serious style.
- Gyaruo ギャル男: A male gyaru. Typically, gyaruo have similar elements to their appearance with gyaru in terms of having high volume styled hair, trendy fashion styles, and sometimes tanned skin.
- JK gyaru: term for kogyaru in school uniforms.
- Kogyaru: Generally a high school student 高校生 kōkōsei.
- Gyaru-mama ギャルママ: Teenage gyaru or women who continued with the style even after having children. BBC News states: "Gal-mama are young mothers who refuse to shed their gal-ness". They also would clothe their children in the same style, meaning a boy would look like a gyaruo while girls would look like a gyaru, but the style would depend on the mothers personal choice of style or which subculture she belonged to.
3.1. Related media Clothing brands
- GOLDS Infinity
- Wakatsuki Chinatsu
- Emira Wiz
- Cecil McBee
- Jesus Diamante
- Princess Melody
- Love Boat
- Baby Shoop
- Alba Rosa
- Delyle Noir
- Ghost of Harlem
3.2. Related media Magazines
- Soul Sister
- Happie Nuts
- I Love Mama
- Koakuma Ageha
- Decolog Paper
- Edge Style
3.3. Related media Dancing
A regular pass-time or what used to be; for gyaru is parapara パラパラ, it is a dance performed mostly with hands and legs going back and forth, from left to right to be precise. It is mostly danced with Eurobeat music. The most infamous parapara song and tagline is "GET WILD & BE SEXY" which was of an infamous eurobeat song of the same name, by the group called CREAM. But they are numerous Eurobeat songs which dated since 1980s. So, there is a diverse choice number of songs that can be danced to parapara. There are even dedicated channels to parapara on YouTube that are still active to this day.
3.4. Related media Hobbies
A common hobby of gyaru was and still is Purikura プリクラ; these were photo booths that you could decorate pictures with handwritten, stickers, and also by doing ridiculous or gaudy poses depending on the mood of the picture you or your group were taking. These booths were mostly located in the electronic district of Tokyo, Akihabara; they were the thing to do for gyaru enthusiasts and even models participated. These booths were a creative, sometimes hobbyist obsession but also in some ways a way to get yourself recognized for a magazine in Japan; these photobooths would often use or find the pictures you wouldve made via your social network service, or SNS for the magazine would often make you a Dokumo model which these were often refereed as that by the magazines themselves. Another hobbyist activity was Decoden or also Keitai art ケータイ芸術, which also originated in Japan. The word "deco" comes from decorative while "den" is a paraphrasing of the words "phone" creating the term "Decoden". In its original form is it truly ostentatious, by looks and by how heavy the actual material is; which consists mostly of polymer clay and even hardware store silicone for the cream. They would also accessories their mobile phones with mobile phone charms or danglers. Multiple famous gyaru models participated in an advertisement which was sponsored by the magazine Popteen where gaudy adds were created; it was called Deco-Pocky.
3.5. Related media Events and meetings.
A group of gyaru who would often meet each other and hang out wouldve been called a "gal circle" ギャルサークル. They were two types of groups: Nagasa 長さ, which were casual groups to hang out with each other, and Ibesa イベサ, which would plan, host, and have events with each-other. These events would consist of clubbing, karaoke, purikura, and showing of each-others outfits. One of the most famous gyaru groups is Angeleek; who predominantly wore ganguro even though the most popular styles in those circles were manba and yamanba ; which consisted of at least twelve members. They have been promoted numerous times in Egg magazine and on national Japanese television.
3.6. Related media Cafes
In Shibuya, which used to be once home of the gyaru and ganguro style, there is a unique spot to acknowledge, a some place of tribute and is somewhat a throwback to the style of gyaru and fashion of ganguro and its culture.
3.7. Related media Gyaru scandals in Japan
In 2012 the gyaru model Jun Komori committed fraud and helped with said fraud on an online auction website in Japan. She worked with the at the time thirty year old Ryusuge Suzuki, he was the penny orders section owner of the World Auction website in Japan. She had to close her official web-blog due to the backlash of her actions. Another later scandal, would be the scandal that happened in Shinjuku Lumine EST. Its a scandal of to gyaru staff members at another mall almost like Shibuya 109 but in Shinjuku. They stole on February 3, 2015. There were three Rady shop staff that were arrested at the main entrance of said mall. Those who were arrested were employees at Rady. Despite the glamorous appearance of shop Rady, Shop staff who work there apparently only get paid around 880 yen an hour. This meant for the mall in Shinjuku to close said store in February of that year.
3.8. Related media Influence in Manga, Anime, Internet Notoriety and Video Games.
A manga that had an impact and had great influence to said fashion was the promptly Gals! and Super Gals!, created by the female Mangaka; Mihona Fujii 藤井みほな; which started publication around 1999; it is a shoujo manga. Now has become yet again quite renowned in the sub-culture of gyaru! A more recent impact-full manga was Gal Japon, published 2010 was about, you guessed it gyaru doing gyaru things; quite a slice of life manga.
But there were and are certainly many others using this particular fashion sub-style and creating a protagonist for it or using it as a secondary character for it. For example, one of them is Peach Girl ピーチガール a manga created by Miwa Ueda 上田 美和 and its publication started in 1997. A more recent one, that was published in 2016; would be Gal Gohan ギャルごはん, a manga about cooking at school. An anime series named Milpom that was created to promote gyaru lifestyle; especially its television pilot but in the end drifted towards other Japanese sub-fashion categories. It was all made with the animated method of stop-motion. It was released in 2015 and lasted till 2017; due to lack of viewer ship and bad reviews. An other manga in 2015, was Komi-san Cant Communicate, it is a manga that does not disscuss about gyaru but has a ganguro in it; her name is Manbagi Rumiko 万場木 留美子. In 2016, the manga and anime series Please tell me, Galko-chan おしえて！ギャル子ちゃん Oshiete, Galko-chan which mostly talked about gender differences, sexual behavior or body complexes and differences in both the female and male bodies. Galko-chan is the protagonist but she has also an older gyaru sister. It is also rumored that a new anime about gyaru or that the character is a gyaru will come out based on a manga called Gyaru and her Dinosaur ギャルと恐竜.
On the internet, there are many makeup tutorials and event videos of gyaru meeting each-other that date around 2000s and even now; on YouTube. The earliest is probably 2006. But there are a lot of different videos that talk about this fashion Japanese sub-style, such as article videos, history videos, makeovers or even questionnaire videos about this style. But there are also parody videos about this style, one of the most famous one is the video of 2011 that is currently viewed four million times, that video is titled Gal o sengen GAL男宣言 created by the Japanese musician group POLICEMAN110 or known in Japan simply as ポリスマン. It makes a farce of the gyaru life style especially gyaru-os.
Video games were not the only one to be not speared to this sub-fashion. The Persona series had a gyaru in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona in Japan and in the West simply known as Revelations: Persona; there is a kogyaru named Yuka Ayase 綾瀬ゆか. An infamous video game franchise, also had a gyaru but in its later installment; the Animal Crossing どうぶつの森 series, specifically the Happy Home Designer. Lottie タクミ the otter. She is Lyles niece. When you encounter him on the third day of your gameplay, he himself states that; she wears to much makeup in game and in an later event you can even find her without her makeup, she states it was since she woke up too late for work but would wear her makeup to impress a male collague by the name of Digby. You can even affrim that she is gyaru since even her favourite type of furniture is the lovely set, it has a striking similarity to MA*RS, Jesus Diamante or My Princess Melody interior objects.
But instead of only characters; there is a whole series based on multiple Japanese street-fashion subcultures, which is known by the name of Girls Mode in Japan while Style Savvy and Style Boutique in the west. It has an incredible focus on brands; which had a brand that also mimicked a gyaru fashion brand such as the in-game brand AZ*USA n the Japanese version while the Western version got AZ-USA that was inspired by D.I.A. and felt and look like a knock-off of it. While amekaji aso got its own brand named in the East CherryBerry; while in the West, April bonbon. This series has over four sequels on multiple different Nintendo hand-held consoles, such as the DS, 3DS. The 3DS and 2DS has the most of them.