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Gyaru (ギャル) is a Japanese transliteration of the English slang word 'gal' ("girl") used to define a fashion subculture in Japan. The name originated from a 1968 Levi Jeans brand commercial tagline, "Levi's for Gals", and was applied to fashion and peer-conscious girls in their late teens and early twenties. It is also rumored to be inspired by the popular late 80's 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 Anderson's 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 term's 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 Japan's 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 2000's, 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 style's 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), tanned skin, highly elongated, decorated nails, and dramatic makeup. 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 thegyaru 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; 益若つばさ, Kumiko Funayama; 船山久美子 (Kumicky), Rie Matsuoka; 松岡理恵 (Okarie), Hikari Shiina; 椎名ひかり (Pikarin), Satomi Yakuwa; 湯川里民 (Satomin), Sayoko Ozaki; 尾崎紗代子, Yuka Kowara (Yunkoro) 小原由香, Rina Sakurai; 桜井莉菜 さくりな, Nana Suzuki 鈴木奈々and twins Chika & Chie Yoshikawa 吉川千佳&恵 (Guri & Gura). The names in brackets are their magazine or modeling nicknames or aliases on online social media websites.
Common gyaru styles
There are various subcategories of "gal" fashion depending on the choice of apparel and gender.
- 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.
- Manba (まんば): Manba is darker then ganguro, but also wilder then ganguro. Manba would wear sexy outfits from very short to very long dresses, or shorts to long skirts. Accessories (such as bangles, beads, etc.) 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 manba's 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 weren't 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, poofed up or crimped in a bouffant at the top and curled or wigs/extension are worn. 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).
- Agejo (上げ序): 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 poofed up or crimped, 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.
- Kyabajō (キャバ嬢): The style kyabajo 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. 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"?) The idea of the book is that young women had an increased desire to become hostesses and kyabajō, which was controversial, and there has been some backlash against Miura’s statistical methods, best outlined in the Amazon review section for the book. Most criticism focuses on the fact that women in the survey could freely check as many occupations as they pleased, thus not proving they “want” to become hostesses as much are “would be fine with it.” To Miura’s credit, however, he fleshes out the hard data by interviewing 32 actual kyabajō and kyabajōs-in-training, and nothing about their stories seems to contradict his general conclusions on the phenomenon. He took interest in this topic after conducting a mobile phone survey in 2007 for the advertising firm Standard Tsushinsha on the topic of “Generation Z” of Japanese aged 15 to 22. This survey asked young women, “What profession do you want to do/which job would you like to try to do in the future?” (「なりたい職業、してみたい仕事」). He was shocked to find that “kyabajō (host club girl) / hostess” ranked at #9 with 22.3%. Thinking this must be some sort of statistical fluke Miura chartered another survey of the same demographic in 2008, but he got nearly the same result: the kyabajō or hostess category came in at #12 with 20.5%. In short, one-fifth of young Japanese women aged 15 to 22 apparently hoped to work in the mizu shōbai industry. When he took a similar survey of women in “Generation Y” (age 25 to 32) for comparison, he found that only 9.1% either wanted or still want to try out the hostess profession. Miura came to the conclusion that there has been a recent social shift toward wanting to work in this sector, and started on specific research towards the topic.
- 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 boyfriend's clothes. Shoes were mostly tennis shoes, uggs or engineer boots. Girly shorts are welcome (for the girls).
- 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.
- 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.
- Kogyaru: Generally a high school student (高校生 kōkōsei).
- JK gyaru: term for kogyaru in school uniforms.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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; it's 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; that's 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 a 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.
- Alba Rosa
- Baby Shoop
- Cecil McBee
- GOLDS Infinity
- Ghost of Harlem
- Jesus Diamante
- Love Boat
- Princess Melody
- Wakatsuki Chinatsu
- Decolog Paper
- Happie Nuts
- I Love Mama
- Koakuma Ageha
- Soul Sister
Music and acting
Music is not necessarily a main hobby within gyaru culture, although Jpop and Eurobeat remixes and were regularly danced to with the dance parapara (パラパラ) of course there were/are popular many Japanese singers were/are casually listened to, mostly during a date or when driving a car. Singers such as Koda Kumi, Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki are popular both in Japan and overseas, and regarded as inspiration for many gyarus. Other Jpop artists that were considered a must to listen to were LOVE to LOVE, GAL DOLL, Rady and Juliet. Also, a music group called LADYMADE often used gyaru models at the time; such as Yuka Kowara (Yunkoro). They also listened to Eastern & Western to rock, rap and all sorts of genres, as long as it fitted the gyaru aesthetic.
Prominent models or members of the gyaru community may also try building a musical career or acting career. Tsubasa Masuwaka (as Milky Bunny), Aina Tanaka & Yumachi Takahashi forming the girl group 'SHIBUYA GIRLS', Rina Sakurai having the main protagonist role in her own movie and the Black Diamond members are some of the very few prominent gyaru to have to build a career.
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 1980's. 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.
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 would've 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" (In Japanese, 電話 Denwa, meaning 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'.
Events and meetings.
A group of gyaru who would often meet each other and hang out would've 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, karaoké, 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.
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. At 'Ganguro Café' in Shibuya, you can meet actual ganguro and kurogyaru girls who have practiced this unique Japanese subculture for many years; especially since most of them belong to the gyaru circle 'Black-Diamond'! You can even experience becoming a ganguro girl yourself with them giving you a makeover! 'Ganguro Café' is located on Center Gai street, which is actually a short walk from Shibuya Station.
Influence in Manga, Anime, Internet Notoriety and Video Games.
A manga that had an impact and was influenced to said fashion was the promptly 'Gals!' and 'Super Gals!' graphic novel or what would be called in Japan a manga (マンガ), 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 a slice of life manga.
But there were and are certainly many others using the fashion and creating a protagonist with 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 it's 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 and is also quite shoujo as well. An anime series named Milpom that was created to promote gyaru lifestyle but in the end drifted towards other sub-fashion categories. It was all stop-motion animated. 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 Can't Communicate (古見さんは、コミュ症です。, Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu.), 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 a 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 2000's and even now; on YouTube. 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 especialy gyaru-o's.
Video games weren't 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). There is also Zero Escape! Virtue Last Reward in the West and in Japan known as 極限脱出ADV 善人シボウデス has a gyaru within the game; her name is literally Clover Field in the English version while her name is Alice or アリス in the Japanese version of the game. It's on multiple console platforms. But there is a whole series based on multiple Japanese street-fashion subcultures, which is know by the name of Girls Mode in Japan while Style savvy and Style Boutique in the west. It had most 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 it's 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 has the most of them.
- AV idol
- Cosplay restaurant
- gyaru-moji- a type of lettering used in mobile phone messages by girls
- Host and hostess clubs
- JK business
- Maid café
- Uniform fetishism
- Zettai ryōiki
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- 109 (department store)