Defining The Gyaru Girl: A Look Into Japan's Gyaru Culture

Gyaru Basics: It’s Meaning and History 

 There is no doubt that Japanese culture is a melting pot of some sort. The people are so diverse, from minimalists to outrageous Harajuku wearers, there is a definitive divide among the different kinds of personalities present within Japan. This makes it easy for Japanese individuals to find a certain group they identify it, and so they can easily feel like they belong to a circle or group.

The gyaru girl phenomenon is one the most interesting group of people in Japan.  It is a spot on example of the many unique types that Japanese people find themselves identifying with. So what exactly is gyaru or gyaru girl?

In native Japanese language, the word gyaru actually means “girl”. To say gyaru girl would be extremely synonymous to saying “girl girl”. However, since gyaru is often associated with girls, the Japanese became used to saying gyaru girl. The gyaru phenomenon, in short, is a form of cultural grouping used to define girls that fit the specific definition. An alternative definition of girl would be “gal”, which was a word used to describe a girl who is very cool and trendy.

 As mentioned earlier, gyaru girl is used for defining a certain part of the Japanese population who fits the description of being gyaru. Generally, the description of a gyaru girl is someone who has loud clothing that looks sexy and a matching loud personality. Gyaru girls are usually blonde, which is interesting as gyaru girls are considered to be a counterpart of America’s ditzy blonde stereotype, or sometimes the valley girls.

While those traits have been descriptive of the gyaru culture, for the most part, styles have changed throughout the years. In fact, ever since the term gyaru girl has been coined in the 90’s, it has seen a lot of changes in terms of fashion, trends and personal traits.

The gyaru culture was established during the 90’s, which can be the considered the birth of the gyaru girls. There is no exact story available as to how it started. One day, the rest of Japan just started noticing that a lot of high school girls have started looking and dressing alike. This was considered as the beginning of the gyaru subculture, however, as other types defined to be gyaru started showing up, the high school girl style simply became a subculture of gyaru known as “kogyaru”.

The Secrets of Being a Gyaru Girl: Defining All The Gyaru Subcultures

Photo by ニア❤

 The secret to fully understanding Japan’s gyaru girls is to know first the many complex categories that fall underneath it. This section of the article will quickly go through the one dozen subcultures that make up the whole gyaru phenomenon. Of course, the primary subculture would be gyaru-kei, which is the default gyaru style. This was considered to be the vaguest and is commonly associated with gyaru girls who are just beginning their journey.

 Naturally, the styles that fall underneath gyaru-kei are not as loud compared to others - these are amekaji, romantic gal, bohemian, and rocker. These styles are extremely similar to the styles worn on a daily basis by girls from countries like the United States. However, the other subcultures of gyaru are already on the loud side.

The second gyaru subculture is hime gyaru. This is a collective term for girls who are obsessed with dressing like a princess. It does not necessarily mean wearing a long gown every day, but the hime gyaru girls are obsessed with the idea of wearing pastel colored dresses, paired with heels and jewelry. On the other hand, the amuro subculture of gyaru involves dressing like an R&B artist from the 00’s.

The kogyaru style, as mentioned in the earlier part of this article, signifies high school girls who still wear uniforms, but have customized them to capture their own unique fashion sense. This style is extremely reflective of western style, which may have been the cause of obsession by girls in the 90’s. It is common for these girls to have artificially tanned skin and blonde hair.

The yamamba and banba subcultures of gyaru deal with tanned skin. The former is a tad too extreme and is definitely not for everyone as it required having ridiculous white make-up in places all over the face. The loud make-up is even paired with loud clothing that has a neon Hawaiian theme. The latter, on the other hand, is a more subtle version of the former. Their make-up style has gotten rid of the ridiculous white panda eyes, but the clothes are still loud and colorful. In between these two subcultures is manba, which is actually in the middle of these two styles.

Another subculture of gyaru is ganguro. This particular subculture was extremely popular way back in the 90’s. Usually, girls who wanted to channel ganguro style wore a very deep tan that looked entirely artificial. Having very deep-colored skin was inspired by western culture, and ganguro style made it acceptable to wear (and even trendy) despite living in a predominantly fair-skinned environment.

2017 Gyaru Trends: Gyaru Fashion

 Since it is currently summer in Japan, the styles are still very light compared to that of September, October, November, December and January. This meant that from the past three months (March, April, and May) up to the next three months (June, July, and August) the styles would be light, and airy.

 Long hemlines and loose clothing are particularly popular in Japan right now. Almost everyone in Japan owns a full-length maxi skirt by now, thanks to the presence of massive global retailer Uniqlo. Meanwhile, loose clothing has always been trendy in Japan. Of course, gyaru girls are expected to put their own twist on these trends, with some subcultures sporting edgier looks and others sporting more kawaii looks. Through the different subcultures, the Japanese girls can take something as vague as a long cardigan, and style it in different forms to fit their own personal sense of style. Of course, these trends are bound to change during the latter time of the year.

 2017 Gyaru Trends: Gyaru Hair and Makeup

Photo by Paola Santana

 It is quite interesting to see how gyaru style has evolved throughout the years. In the previous decades, gyaru style showed extremely intense hair and makeup, particularly for several subcultures such as manba, yamanba, and banba. There is a good reason to believe that the extreme makeup looks brought about by these subcultures is on the verge of extinction.

Walking around the streets of Tokyo on a daily basis, it would be extremely hard to find anyone sporting the ridiculous white make-up look that girls from these gyaru subcultures used to wear. Instead, most of the Japanese population uniformly follow the same trend for each year. For 2017, a popular look would still be natural beauty. This means that the base makeup aims to mimic natural skin - giving the impression that there is no make-up when in reality there is.

A secret for Japanese girls to achieve such healthy looking base skin is to actually have healthy skin. Thankfully, there are a lot of great Japanese skin care products that offer to do just that - keep the skin healthy. The key is to have an established skin care routine, filled with products that are suitable for one’s skin type and deals with the individual peculiarities that any individual’s skin has. A popular choice in skin care line for many Japanese and foreigners alike in Hada Labo, which is a skin care line that sells different forms of moisturizers. Their products are truly miracle workers, in a sense that they aid the skin into looking it’s best.

Another Japanese secret that has something to do with having great skin is sunscreen. The Japanese, like the South Koreans, are obsessed with sunscreens. While the sunscreen obsession is much more evident in Korea, the most popular brands all over the world are actually from Japan. A concrete example of this is Biore, which has received acclaim all over the world for their top notch sunscreen products.

In line with the natural makeup look, the Japanese are also into minimalist make-up right now. Even in neighboring countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and China, tints are extremely popular. This makeup product provides a sheer coverage for the lip and cheeks, giving a natural and healthy glow. There are plenty of brands that sell great tints within Japan since most of the local Japanese brands adhere to the lightweight makeup rule. For this very reason, a makeup trend which people should not expect to see in Japan this year are matte liquid lipsticks, since the Japanese are not particularly fond of opaque, matte and drying lip colors.

In terms of hair, the Japanese are pretty much adherent to whatever trend is currently reigning from the west. In fact, there is a very diverse range of hairstyles all over Japan. The usual gyaru girl blonde is also dead, similar to the ridiculous makeup looks. It has since then been replaced with more flattering color choices such as ash blonde, and light brown; however, there are still some who carry blonde hair but with a more tasteful approach. In the recent years, a hair trend that has taken the world by storm is the long bob, also called the “lob”. This is represented by a haircut that resembles a bob but is cut at a much longer length such as neck-level.

2017 Gyaru Trends: Gyaru Nails

Photo by Jasmina

An aspect of gyaru style that has remained loud through the years is the nails. In a way, it is still socially acceptable to rock loud nails versus loud anything else. For Japanese girls, nail art is one form of expressing their own personal style. For 2017, there are several nail art trends in Japan that anyone must try to replicate.

Gyaru girls definitely love the trendy flower motif nails, which is very in right now in Japan. The flower motif nail art involves having a solid nail color as the base of the design, and flower appliques that are stuck into the nail and covered with a protective base. This form of nail art is not just pretty, it is also interesting because it makes use of real flowers that have dried down, and paired with little gems and pearls to complement.

Another particularly trendy style of doing nail art in Japan right now is called the “nuance nails”. As the name implies, the design of this nail art is a “nuance”, meaning there is no consistent design. Instead, each nail has a unique design that is all collectively similar in theme. For example, someone interested in Nuance nails can have each nail filled with different appliques, but with the similar color motif. Given the creativity of the Japanese, the design possibilities for nuance nails are endless.

Gyaru Girls in Japanese Media: Gyaru Cooking Manga

 The mere fact that the Japanese gyaru culture is given plenty of attention in Japan just signifies how much it has influenced Japanese culture. It comes to no surprise that there are anime and manga that feature characters who are associated with being a gyaru girl. One of the more popular mangas in Japan that feature a gyaru girl heroin is Gal Gohan.

 The manga Gal Gohan is also alternatively called Gyaru Cooking. This name is extremely relevant to the plot of the story, which features a heroine who is described to be a gyaru. In fact, the manga portrays the heroine as the “most gyaru girl in school’, which is extremely evident in the illustrations used for the manga. In the manga, the girl being portrayed is tanned, a key feature among gyaru girls.

 While the manga itself does not dwell on the gyaru culture, it still gives a perception on how gyaru girls act, and how they are perceived by in society. Looking at the story, the girl was portrayed to have tanned skin. This is a key feature among gyaru girls. Similar to the valley girls of America, which is considered to be a counterpart of the gyaru girl in the western world, the heroine in the manga is seen as a ditzy airhead.