Over the past 30 years Japanese fashion subcultures have grown to monumental numbers in the city of Harajuku, sparking international recognition. As a result, high end designers have been locating to this area, continuing the growth of Japan’s fashion industry and its citizens’ interest in the alternative street style culture (Groom, 2014).

Subcultures play on the notion of individuality and self-expression, giving the large youth population of Harajuku, and Japan in general, a chance to state their individual identity rather than that of the typical group/community identity which is encouraged within the Japanese culture. People who partake in subcultures are looking to stand out from a crowd and be noticed for what they enjoy, their individualised fashion choices. Those who choose to follow these ‘unmoving, anti-fashion subcultures’ may be segregating themselves from everyday fashion trends but instead, integrate into the community that embraces and conforms to the unwritten rules of that sub-style (Groom, 2014) .

Gothic Lolitas, Harajuku 2014

Gothic Lolitas, Harajuku 2014

The popular Lolita style for example, is intended to enhance physical attributes of the female body by wearing Victorian era inspired clothing. Items such as bonnets, corseted dresses, lace, ribbons and bows are all utilized to complete the look, along with Victorian hair styles such as ringlets. It is expected that those who dress in the Lolita style will hand make a vast majority of the clothes that they’ll wear, creating individual ownership of a style within the subculture.

Many designers, musicians and artists in Japan (eg. Mana-Sama and Kanon Wakeshima for Gothic Lolita) also identify with subculture fashion styles, and it is with the help of this frequent celebrity promotion, that these types of street style fashions continue to thrive (Spacey, 2012). Other segregated fashions styles in Harajuku  include Mori Kei, Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, Punk Lolita, cosplayers, Yanki, Rockabilly, Decora, Fairy Kei, Visual Kei and if you’re lucky, Yamanba; which is a rare sub-style that consists of dark, heavy tans, extremely bright clothing and excessive eye makeup.

Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani are just some of the Western Artists who travel to Harajuku for the interest in designers and fashion inspirations. They all employ the use of Harajuku subcultures within their music videos and as a result, educate the rest of the world on the developments of Japan’s thriving street style fashion.


Japanese Streets 2014, Fashion Japan: Harajuku Fashion, , viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.japanesestreets.com/harajuku-fashion/

Spacey, J 2012, 20 Tokyo Subculture Fashions Explained, Japan Talk, viewed 24 August 2014, < http://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/tokyo-fashion-field-identification-guide&gt;

Okubo, M 2014, Harajuku – District for Anti-Fashion, Semiotix Design Style and Fashion viewed 24 August 2014, <http://fashion.semiotix.org/2014/02/harajuku-district-for-anti-fashion/&gt;

Groom, A 2014, ‘Power Play and Performance in Harajuku’, New Voices, vol.4, pp. 188-212, viewed 24 August 2014, < http://pdf.jpf-sydney.org/newvoices/4/chapter9.pdf&gt;