For a brief spell beginning in the 1990s, Tokyo girls led a new fashion craze. Gone was the traditional Japanese idea of beauty (pale skin, neutral make up and dark hair) and in was the parody of western ideals of beauty (extreme tan, big blue eyes and blonde hair). The term ‘ganguro’ is derived from the word ‘ganganguro’ which means ‘exceptionally dark’.
There are various sub-cultures within this subculture, e.g. Yamanbas and Manbas who are essentially extreme Ganguros. The basic idea is this: you have a very over the top tan, you draw in big white eyes and lips. You outline your eyes in thick black eyeliner, stick cutesy little stickers on your face and bleach the life out of your hair. That’s essentially it. At least for the make up side of it, which is of course what we’re concentrating on here.
To us westerners it looks extreme, indeed to most Japanese, who have a culture of blending in rather than standing out, it looks extreme. But this is the same country who gave us Manga in which all the females look like children and have exaggerated big ‘westernized’ eyes. This really shouldn’t surprise us at all, it’s just taking it one step further and going for the tan and blonde locks too.
Every race in the world sees others as exotic and so it’s natural to emulate others. It’s something I’ve mentioned before, why can’t we just be happy with the way we look. I wish I was more tanned yet I have Asian friends who wish they were lighter. It’s even less surprising when teenagers buy into these crazes.
Firstly, they are looking to belong within their peer groups and secondly they want to rebel against older generations. It’s no wonder that these new fashion crazes are cropping up all the time, with each new generation seeking originality. Unfortunately for the creative world, the ganguro fashion hasn’t really caught on and numbers have dwindled since the millennium. It’s a shame because it’s so bright and youthful, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next….