All About Ganguro, the Rebellious Japanese Fashion Trend

  • Such is the world of fashion. One day you’re in, and then the next you’re out of style. Once upon a time, there was a rebellious trend that went against the very concept of “white is beautiful” that is rampant in Japan, which is popularly known as “ganguro” (which literally means “very black”). How has this style evolved over time?

    Origins and Characteristics

    The ganguro trend emerged in the mid-1990s when some young Japanese women wanted to defy the traditional Japanese beauty standards (fair face and neutral makeup tone) by liberally tanning their skin until it had a much darker tone and applying dark-colored foundation. The dark skin tone was often combined with hair that was dyed in an orange, blonde, or silver-grey hue, also known as “high bleached”.

    Ganguro is also associated with the way Japanese depict ghosts and demons, as commonly seen in kabuki and noh fashion. This connection became even clearer when the yamanba style came to be, which was inspired by a Japanese folk story about a witch mountain.

    Ganguro enthusiasts were often seen in the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo until around the year 2000. The trend, as trends do, eventually disappeared again when a new fashion fad called “bihaku” took over the style of young Japanese women. However, vestiges of ganguro can still be seen in the form of yamanba and manba styles.

    The Yamanba and Manba Styles

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    The two main styles that evolved from ganguro are known as yamanba and manba. Old school fans of yamanba and manba are often seen using dark tans, white lipstick, pastel eye makeup, metallic and glittery adhesives below the eyes, and bright colors in lenses, clothing, and accessories. To some extent, women also used to put stickers on their face. However, the fad on putting stickers onto the face was short-lived and eventually died out after 2004.

    In 2008 much darker tans became popular. There were no facial stickers, and the hair was dyed usually in neon bright colors. The pink hair dye was probably the most notable feature in the manba fashion. Although the clothing style of manba is similar to the yamanba style, the hair is worn longer. Accessories are worn less frequently also. Another thing that separates the yamanba from the manba is the way makeup is applied. In manba, girls apply makeup both above and below the eye, and when they dress in yamanba style they will only put makeup on above the eye.

    Natural Gyaru Style

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    For those that don’t want to go all out but still want to look cute and girlie, the gyaru style might be more to your taste. This is a style that can be seen often in the streets of Tokyo and other big cities in Japan now in 2015. With this style, girls wear cute super girlie dresses, dye their long hair light brown to blonde, and perm their hair with beautiful cascading curls. As with the other styles, makeup is quite heavy but not extreme, using plenty of pink blush, heavy mascara and eyeshadow and soft pink lips.

    What do you think of these styles, would you like to try decking yourself out like this? Or do you prefer a more classic look? Either way, in Japan you are quite free to experiment with different styles at a certain age until it is time to get a serious job. By that time, you will be expected to not color your hair too bright, or wear anything but natural makeup…

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