First thing that comes to mind when I think of Japanese fashion is vibrantly dressed girls, covered head-to-toe in glitter makeup, hidden under pounds of ruffles, and carrying around pastel parasols. And, while some of these girls do in fact exist in places like Harajuku, not everyone dresses to fit the Lolita status quo. I’ve come to discover, there is a vast array of styles in Tokyo ranging from “cool business” to rocker chic.
As a self-proclaimed fashion junky, one thing that intrigued me most about Japan prior to coming here was the unique – and often times loud – style found in places like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and the all-time famous Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
But, despite spending hours on Google images looking at what I thought was the “typical” Japanese fashion scene, I was pleasantly surprised to see the average person did not carry around a stuffed animal shaped backpack or look like a real-life porcelain doll – although, I have seen my fair share since being here.
Personally, when it comes to clothes, I gravitate towards neutral colors with simple designs, so when I saw how well Japanese people wore similar styles, not only did the inner fan girl in me go crazy, but I was so inspired to adopt some of their styling techniques – of course, adding my own personal twist on it.
In addition to the simplistic aesthetic Japanese style gurus have perfected, another extremely popular fashion trend is wearing socks with shoes – regardless of if the shoe is a flatform sandal or Mary Jane kitten heel. At first, when I saw this particular look I thought socks with 4-inch heels was a stretch, but then remembered, anything goes when in Tokyo. And, after being exposed to this trend on a daily basis, I decided it was actually a really innovative way to take basic socks and transform them from a necessity into an accessory.
That being said, Japanese socks are not your basic, everyday black and white. Here, they range from an assortment of shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Most hosiery stores carry these dynamite pieces for around 1,000 yen (around ten dollars). What’s more, I’ve come to find the most common style is made up of sheer material decorated with various designs and patterns, such as tiny daises or colorful fruits. And, because of the sheerness, the strategically placed designs essentially look like temporary tattoos for the feet. It’s safe to say, when it comes to hosiery, Japanese women do not mess around.
Notably, the men are no exception. While I’m not as familiar with men’s fashion as I am women’s, I definitely have an appreciation and admiration for those who express their own personal style. And, let me tell you, Japanese men undeniably have a spin on fashion. For starters, in America, clutch purses (a bag without any straps) are exclusive to women; however, in Japan, countless of men confidently equip themselves with a more masculine version of this oversized pouch. Other widely utilized accessories by both males and females are felt hats, oversized reading glasses, and integrate jewelry.
One thing I have learned is there is no right or wrong way to dress in Japan. More importantly, there are no rules or guidelines telling people how to look a certain way or fit a certain style mold. In a homogenous society, it is difficult to stand out amongst the sea of black suits and determined faces; but with fashion, men and women can fully express themselves without feeling pressured to own a wardrobe consisting only of black suits and ties. On one end of the spectrum, Harajuku girls strut their style in sky-high flatforms, decorated stockings, and colorfully dyed hair; while on the other end, men rock their own styles in head-to-toe black or masterfully layered, oversized T-shirts. Modestly speaking, anything and everything goes in the way of fashion here and I’m constantly inspired by the innovative and effortless styling technique Japanese people possess. And, above all, everyday is a chance for me to learn new ways of taking traditional ideas and putting an exciting, Japanese spin on my own personal aesthetic.