Everything is weirder in Japan! A cliche but true nevertheless. These weird Japanese fashion subcultures will surely make your jaw drop.

The many fashion subcultures in Japan vary greatly from clothing trends that we see across the United States and in many other countries. Fashion in Japan can be categorized into many popular, vibrant subculture categories. These styles are about more than mere garments; they communicate important messages about identity and social groups. Women in Japan are renowned for spending far more on clothing and cosmetic work each year that the average Western shopper. In the fashion world of Japan’s many subcultures that statement is especially true. Grown women, teenagers, and even young girls participate in elaborate wardrobe rituals for some of the everyday looks we will see below. These fashion trends are beginning to percolate around the world–and far beyond small, underground movements. Designers like Gwen Stefani are translating these trends for a global audience, with a fun and colorful effect. We examine a few of the fashion categories in Japanese subcultures below.

Kigurumin

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This trend may seem pretty outlandish, but for any girl who has ever gone to college classes in her pajamas (which includes nearly all girls), it may have some sense of familiarity, however small. This trend became popular in the early and middle years of the past decade, emerging around 2003. It is based off of the popular Kigurumini characters in Japan. These are the costumed cartoon characters that we all know from fairs and theme parks. The term Kigurumini combines Japanese words for “to wear” and “stuffed toy.” The female fashion trend that emerged from these characters allows women to do just that. Kigurumin became popular in Shibuya when young women began wearing oversized pajamas made to look like cartoon characters–as part of their everyday dress. Sometimes called “disguise pajamas” this articles of clothing allowed for unique experimentation with fashion. Popular characters include Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, and Pikachu.

Decora

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This fashion subculture has become so popular in Japan that it is essentially mainstream. Its name implies a lot about the characteristics of this style, in which young women decorate themselves in wild color combinations and textures. The essential element of Decora is kawaii, which means “cuteness.” This look is all about channeling the cute elements of childhood into adult wear. Sometimes confused for the fashion subculture of FRUiTS, which gets its name from a popular Japanese photo magazine, Decora is truly set apart from other trends by its adherence to cute, childlike elements. Girls who wear Decora style are often seen in fuzzy, soft clothing. They wear Mary Jane shoes, miniskirts, and shirts that are often intentionally too small. If this is beginning to sound a little unusual…just wait. One of the most important fashion accessories of the Decora look is the use of toys, often fuzzy, plush stuffed animals with animated movements and talking sounds. Decora girls love the color pink, and they often dye their hair that color. Their childlike take on fashion means that often incorporate whimsical elements, such as handbags shaped like animals or heart-shaped sunglasses. There a lot of different variations within decora.

Lolita Fashion

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This subculture trend is one that has gained momentum around the world, thanks to the popularity of Anime and the unique stylings associated with this look. Lolita fashion involves dressing in a way that evokes childhood looks, as well as Rococo influences and Edwardian dress. This look emerged in the international fashion capital of Harajuku in Japan (this city from which Gwen Stefani took the name of her fashion line). Girls who wear Lolita dress choose ruffled, knee-length skirts that often have the look of a cupcake because of voluminous petticoats and undergarments. The ruffles of the petticoats are echoed on other parts of the ensemble, with ample lace and other intricate patterns. Childlike Mary Jane shoes are often associated with this look. Although Lolita, like Decora, borrows many elements from girlish or childlike fashion, it is not all about “cuteness.” The Edwardian quality of Lolita adds an element of modesty. Lolita looks can also range from feminine confections, as seen in Sweet Lolita, to hard-edged fashion in Punk Lolita. Gothic Lolita, which features black garments, smoky eyes, and red lips has become outrageously popular. One can find Lolita fashionistas, like the ones seen above, sporting heart-shaped handbags and floral dresses, or you may find Lolitas in full corsets, petticoats, and Goth makeup.

Ganguro

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Ganguro can be translated as “blackface” and its even more extreme offshoots Yamanba and manba (loosely translated as mountain hag) are one of the really extreme Japanese fashion subcultures. It is a rebellious fashon movement going against the traditional Japanese concepts of beauty of paleness, dark hair and modest neautral makeup. This style features extremely tanned skin (artificial or natural), bleached white hair or aggressive neon colored wigs and dreadlocks.

Simon works for Higherclick.com, a company, which brings awesome writers and cool companies together. This Guest post was written in behalf of their client Macy’s.com.