Japanese Fashion: the view from a cafe window

It was in a café above Sannomiya station in Kobe that I really noticed how fashionable people are in Japan, fashionable and downright beautiful. In comparison to a high street in England where hoodies and leggings are acceptable as shopping attire, the girls in Kobe all look like they are models. Over a coffee I noticed a some broad stereotypes of styles, so from a non-expert eye, here are my observations.

Firstly, there is the Parisian style characterised by girls wearing a circle skirt and high boots topped off with a cute beret and a fake-fur stole. Women in this category either have a gorgeous boyfriend, or want one. Secondly, the arty-vintage look with long skirts, flat ankle boots worn with colourful socks, then a long skirt or culottes, and an ethnic-looking backpack. Everything else falls into the category of outrageous; platform shoes, patterned tights and pink hair. Some girls walk around like they are a doll out of a fairy tale (the complete opposite of a goth in the UK) and there are stores that cater for Dolly-style”. Add layered on white foundation, too much pink blusher and fake eyelashes. When one such girl sat opposite me on a train, I watched her curl her eyelashes, comb her eye brows, add more blusher and put pink lipstick on. There is a lot of work that goes into looking outrageous!

As I  people-watched from the café, one thing became apparent, everyone dresses similar within the fashion-style of their choice. Like models from a magazine, girls had almost identical coats, the same shoes and the same colour of brown dyed hair. Unfortunately the number of women dyeing their hair brown means that it no longer unique; brown has just become the new black. Some girls who would fall into the outrageous style, try to get ‘blonde’ hair but this is disastrous and it often comes out a greeny grey colour. Thankfully, Japanese hair looks strong enough to cope with the peroxide drenching needed to turn black hair blonde.

Parisian style: stripes are in, as are flowing pleated skirts and pastel colours.

The arty-vintage look being modelled by these girls at Nara.

Want to look like a Alice in Wonderland? This is your shop!

Japanese men are also very fashion-conscious. Even the men at my school have branded leather bags that would be way too effeminate for straight English men to wear. Man-bags, expensive shoes and a nice jacket are the staples for a good outfit here, but there are a couple of different styles I’ve observed. Firstly, the salary man, who has a sharp suit, a leather satchel and plucked eyebrows (yes, this is the norm for men in Japan). Second, is the writer look, similar to the arty-vintage style which includes casual but well-fitting clothes and is characterized by retro glasses and a cool hat. Everything else, from my untrained eye, falls into the hipster look, such as the men below with baggy jeans and leather jackets.

Asking these men for a photo wasn’t awkward at all…

Awesome sale-shouters posing for a shot. The arty-vintage look in full swing there with round glasses and cool hats.

This is far from the mix-matched fashion I’m used to in Fukui! Every time my friends and I take a train to Kyoto or Osaka we can’t not comment on the girl with thigh-high leather boots, or a group of high-school boys who look like they are out of a manga magazine with their hair perfectly straightened, tousled and gelled. Compare, this to Fukui where both men and women wrap-up in down jackets that keep out the cold, but are hardly figure-flattering! It’s not only the colder weather that’s to blame for some styles though. Japanglish (atrocious but hilarious English) is splashed across t-shirts and jumpers like a bad paint-job, and wide, unfitting jumpers which, drape slim Japanese women here beautifully, but somehow look ridiculous on me. Yet stores like MUJI and UNIQLO are decent enough for me, not to mention the second-hand stores where you can find the best and the worst of Japanese fashion, but I’ll save that for another post. There is a lot more to be said on this subject!

Here’s some clippings from a fashion magazine. Enjoy!

"Let's begin dressing up with glasses"

“Let’s begin dressing up with glasses”

A popular women's magazine called 'Mina'

A popular women’s magazine called ‘Mina’

Skirts, shorts, culottes but always show off those legs!

Skirts, shorts, culottes but always show off those legs!

How about a fashion mask? How pretty that third of your face looks!

How about a fashion mask? How pretty that third of your face looks!