Pink hair. Ripped jeans. Bling. Meet Japan's "Neo Gals", part Americana, part Tokyo, and lots and lots of bleach. During the 1990s, "gal" (ギャル or gyaru) fashion was in vogue with the nation's youth, with young women tanning their skin, dying their hair brown, and wearing impossible platform shoes. Now, as one of Japan's biggest morning shows Mezamashi TV points out, this generation has "Neo Gal" (ネオギャル or neo gyaru).
As noted on screen in the above image, the "pop icon" (ポップアイコン) of this trend is fashion designer, DJ, and model Alisa Ueno. [Photos: AlisaUeno/Instagram]
The trend was also introduced earlier today on mainstream websites like Excite.
According to Naver, Neo Gals mix both foreigner and Harajuku fashion with loud lipstick and accessories as well as purple, pink, or blue hair. Much like the gal trend of the 1990s, Neo Gals are not dressing to impress men, but rather, for each other. However, one of their rules is apparently not to tan themselves like previous generations of Japanese girls did.
Neo Gal is clearly borrowing heavily from American fashion -- or rather, the idea of American fashion. Hell, the first rule of Neo Gal fashion is to take your cues from foreigner-style fashion. (Note that the Japanese clearly says "foreigner-style fashion" and not "foreign fashion" as, yes, there is a discrepancy.) Excite, however, says that many of these Neo Gals are saying they want to be foreign.
In a segment from this morning's show on Neo Gals, a woman is asked why she admires foreigners. "Because they're pretty," she replies.
Famed Japanese photographer Yasumasa Yonehara, a key part of the 1990s gal boom, told me that around the turn of the century, he asked a hundred girls in Shibuya what they wanted to be when they grew up. About half of them replied, "foreign." (Note: Yonehara told the same thing to Marxy, and you can read that interview in full here.)
Also from the same show. The woman says it's a big change when you put in colour contacts.
However, Yonehara pointed out that they didn't mean "foreign" as in actually being foreign, but rather, simply the artifice -- the idea of foreign. According to Yonehara, they meant that they wanted to live in Japan, speak Japanese, and eat Japanese food. These inclinations, however, do seem to be be cyclical. Some generations of the country's youth are completely ambivalent to foreign fashions, while subsequent gens are very much into them. It really depends.
"A half-Japanese face!" is exclaimed as the above interview continued.
However, it shouldn't be surprising that one of the most popular celebrities among Neo Gals is Kiko Mizuhara, a Japanese model and actress of American and Korean descent who was born in the US. Her make-up style is likely more of an inspiration for Neo Gal than, say, Miley Cyrus, as she appears in numerous television commercials.
As mentioned above, the big fashion leader for the Neo Gals is Alisa Ueno. Her Instagram is filled with Neo Gal fashion as well as photos of her travelling through the US -- and the globe. What's being sold here isn't simply a style, but rather, a jet-setting international lifestyle.
With mainstream coverage in Japan and more buzz on Twitter and Instagram, there's a good chance that the Neo Gal trend will catch on among the country's youth subculture. Online, there are young Japanese women who definitely seem delighted by the trend, saying it's cute and they love it (however, as with the 1990s gal trend, a minority of young women will dress like this).
Elsewhere online, commenters were less than impressed, saying the style didn't look very fashionable, and won't catch on like gal fashion did in the past. "Neo Gal, huh... It only looks like a worsening of the foreigner complex," wrote Twitter user chocofashion3. "The heck is Neo Gal? Foreigner style fashion does not suit Japanese people," tweeted kntm1019. "It's because the body types are different. Well, there are some [Japanese] people that it suits, so for them, go right on ahead."
Whatever, they're kids. This is escapism before they grow up and settle down, leaving their bleached locks behind them.