What you need to know to start your Gyaru journey

24 de julio de 2021

Hi, gals! ♡ Some time ago I made a video about what Gyaru is and is not on Tiktok. This brought doubts and misconceptions about the style from people who don't know about Gyaru (clearly), but also from people who would love to start in Gyaru but don't know how or where to find reliable information because we know outsiders and Wikipedia are the worst sources, so I decided to do this blog post with  information for you to know what Gyaru actually is and to leave more resources from other gal veterans.

So what's Gyaru?

Gyaru is a Japanese subculture that includes fashion, makeup and lifestyle that was born during the early 90s with school girls from Shibuya, Tokyo. As far as we know, Gyaru didn't start as anti-system movement or anything super well thought, but thanks to all the things they did, its grow and the impact they had, it's seen and respected because of that. 

I think most of us can relate to be rebels during our teenage years, starting to question everything from our parents to the school, to ourselves and the people in general. We start to develop our own style and in many cases developing it to go against what we were told to do. That's the short story of what happened. Having a Japanese culture with a very specific and oppresive standard for women that included fair/pale skin, straight black hair, no makeup or sexy clothes and submissive behavior husband and family focused conceptualized as the Yamato Nadeshiko, Gyaru (just like other subcultures of the era) born wanting to be free of that. But in this case they went all the way with tans, blaching their hair, wearing makeup, revealing and sexy clothes and living their lives unapologetically without caring about others.

EGG Magazine 1999 Vol. 41 & 1998 Vol. 23 from Shibuya Gals

However now I don't think we could say Gyaru is a subculture anymore in Japan because the style has evolved and changed a lot, it works more media driven and it's been more and more inspired by mainstream trends, and not to rebel against what is expected for women to be. So we could say now it's run by fashionista reiwa gals with westernized beauty standards.

But this doesn't mean it's like that for everyone. Even if it's way less than before, there are still gals who live their life to the fullest and with all the Gyaru attitude from the past. And thanks to globalization, there are even more gaijin gals (gals from all over the world) who preserve the essence of the style and still live it as in 2000~2010 during their maxium boom! 

Evolution of Gyaru

I wanted to include a (not so) brief explanation of the evolution of Gyaru because this is what usually baby gals have it really hard to understand and what most people are misinformed and think current gals still look like in 2003.

Gyaru has 4 eras and each one had their own substyles, brands, trends and magazines. Each one evolved because of different factors and influences. 

Gals in the 90s

  • Kogals (コギャル) started to develop their Gyaru fashion and makeup.
  • It was more focused on highclass troublemaker party girls.
  • During this era that the EGG magazine was born and became the main magazine of the style sharing trends, lifestyle and recruiting actual gals to feature on their pages to eventually become regular models. 
  • The looks were more casual (included coats, mini skirts, platform boots, etc.) and tanning was not that accesible to everyone yet, just like heavy meakeup. So they would work with that they had.
  • Main brands of the era were Alba Rosa, MeJane, Esperanza, but also luxury brands like Burberry.

EGG 1995 Vol. 1 & 1999 Vol. 31 from Shibuya Gals

Gals in the 2000s

  • We got more magazines like Razuki, Jelly, Scawaii, Happie Nuts, Koakuma Ageha (late 00s). And Gyaruo magazines like Men's EGG, Men's Youth, Men's Knuckle and more.
  • Most Gyaru brands like Liz Lisa, Emoda, Cecil McBee, Alba Rosa, etc. had their boom during this decade too, so we got more ways to dress Gyaru according to the concepts of each brand.
  • During this era the hair and makeup set a standard on the style. Gals started to wear circle lenses, lashes, nails, and tanning was common for everyone.

Jelly 2006 & Ranzuki 2004 from Shibuya Gals

However this transition from 90s to 00s left a really high sexualization of gals, gyaru hentai started (and it's a whole category until this day) and gals in general were already seen as promiscuous girls. During this era the media started to say enjo kosai was common among gals and school girls in general, however now we know it was more of a media play than an actual problem.

In general gals had a highly negative view by society and a terrible cosification by men. The response of now older gals to that was going all the way to the extreme to avoid the male gaze. And that's how Ganguro became a niche in Gyaru and move forward to the most over the top looks: Manba (heavy) and Yamanba (extreme).

They were mostly inspired by Yamanba (aka. Yama-uba) a Japanese folklore witch from the mountains with super big white or colorful hair, dark skin and a high contrast makeup on their Kabuki representation. 

Manba 2004 from Shibuya Gals

I don't know if it's probably a coincidence but something that attached my attention is the sense of sisterhood we started to see on Manba gals during this era. Unlike models for brands and magazines, Manba gals used to be actual gals mostly seen on their Gyarusa (gal circles) like Angeleek. Until now, these circles of support and galhood are things I consider a must in Gyaru. They're still really important to preserve Gyaru culture.

And by the end of this decade Gyaru started to transition again to show more faces and styles like Himekaji, Hime Gyaru and Tsuyome.

Gals in the 2010s

  • We got new players in Gyaru, more brands and more substyles. This time what shined the most in Gyaru was the creativity and versatily in gals.
  • We saw substyles like Amekji, Rokku (Rock), Goshikku (Goth), Agejo (once kyabajo aka. hostess became part of Gyaru as well) and the main boom of Himekaji and Tsuyome.
  • The main brands of the era were Liz Lisa, Jesus Diamante (that got their boom on the late 00s until this era), MA*RS, COCOLULU, W♡C, d.i.a (as one of the most important Gyaru brands, if not the most), Ghost of Harlem, Glad News, GLAVIL by tutuHA, Delyle Noir, Rienda and more.
  • The whole subculture was divided in two: Kuro Gyaru (gals with tan / darker skin) and Shiro Gyaru (gals who don't tan / light skin). 

It was during this decade Gyaru had an international impact, Gal circles like Angeleek and Black Diamond were admired, gals started to have more appearances on traditional media and had the opportunity to share their stories. 

Tokyo Fashion 2012. 

However while social media got bigger and bigger each time and people and gals and models started to blog about their lives, Japan had a economical crisis and Gyaru brands started to go pretty bad. There is this article on Tokyo Fashion called "Is Shibuya Gyaru Culture in Decline? If So, Why?" where they talk about this and quote another article from Japan Times, "Where all the Gyaru have gone?". They talk about this issues in Japan, but also how during these years gals were growing and didn't wanted to "go crazy" as on their younger days, they also talk about how fast fashion impacted in the market (let's remember Gyaru is expensive), and they mentioned something really interesing, that at some point Gyaru had a strong presence in the fashion industry until in a Tokyo Fashion Week Liz Lisa and another brand presented their collections but they were not accepted. So the fashion industry moved more towards luxury brands and minimalistic trends.

During these years Gyaru brands also were toning down and Harajuku fashion styles were doing better, so you're going to see more and more styles with inspiration from them like Amekaji. Or styles getting more kawaii like Himekaji, specially once the Larme magazine became super popular on alternative people. And we also had the infamous Neo Gyaru, which was not Gyaru, but the path ex-gals decided to take with more pastel goth / harajuku looks. Basically brands tried to survive, many died, some others had to closed many stores and Shibuya 109 was not a Gyaru mall anymore but included many different brands to stay active.

Ageha 2013 & Popteen 2013

The Reiwa gals

This is the current name of the modern gals since 2019 due to the era change in Japan once they got a new emperor. They are also called "Gyau" and were announced on the re-released of the EGG magazine, which was inactive for some years like other Gyaru mags. The main difference between Gyaru and Gyau is the essence. Even without knowing Gyaru had a purpose, a lifestyle and anti-system statement on the things they used to do. Now Reiwa gals could be considered fashionista models who don't have the same needs whatsoever and don't look forward to break standards, but to be cool.
  • There are still former gals in magazines like Ane Ageha, which has a luxury view on the style for successful women on their 30s. And more tone down models in Koakuma Ageha, featuring the hostess life.
  • There's been a huge incorporation of luxury brands like Chanel, Supreme, Louis Vuitton, but also the rise of brands from former and new models like Riina Couture, Emiria Wiz, Alency, Pinky Shake or Michell Macaron.


The importance of Gaijin Gals

I didn't want to finish this post talking about us, gaijin gals. I feel like every time we talk about Gyaru we never mention the fact that now there are more gals all over the world than in Japan, we don't mention that there are many gyarusa around the globe and tones of gals and people interested in being gal. Specially with the growth of social media, it's being super easy to meet each other. From Twitter to Tiktok, from Discord to Amino and from VK to YouTube, you're going to see gals everywhere. 

There's been Gaijin Gyaru Awards and International Meetups every year (excepting the last one because of pandemic) organized by different gyarusa in different countries each time. There are still Para Para events for gals too and there's been even online magazines like Gal VIP (for EEUU and Europe), GyaruGO (for Latinoamerica) and now Papillon (with gals from everywhere). 

2013 International Meeting in Düsseldorf. Photo from Rin-tan, Chesire Gal blog.

2014 International Meeting in Frankfurt. Photo from Grazia, Kawaii Italy blog.

There's also been controversies about Gyaru of course, but those things during the years has also been reclaimed that BIPOC gals who are now living their Gyaru life honoring their own cultures. While we're also educating ourselves constantly about that. (I'll make another post talking about that and desmythifying some things)

And finally and being really honest, seeing the absense of the original Gyaru essence in Japan nowadays it's really comforting to see how many gaijin gals live their lives as we wish and with more responsability. I think the fact that most gals in the international community are adults also helps, because we're able to understand things that in the past were not talked about or things that didn't even exist on the minds of OG gals during their eras. And that's also something that is divorcing us from current Gyau. 

So I'm really happy with how Gyaru is now internationally. At this point, the activities, events, magazines, blogs and everything are also happening with us and that makes me feel really proud. Of course there are always things that could be better, but I'm really positive about that. 

Recommended readings and sources 

Some things may have changed because now we have more information available, but they're still worthy to read to understand the context.


6 comentarios

  1. Such a super useful post for new gyarus! I like to exist in the 2010 gyaru bubble but I've lately been really loving the old school gyaru style <3

    1. Thank you!! And me too. I think the bridge from 2008 to 2010 was the ultimate best. T^T ♡

  2. Nice work doll. Good read

  3. I couldn't better explain it! Thank you very much for your hard work to explain everything so well <3

    And for me, the best era is 2008~2014! ^^

    1. Thanks you!!! And yes, that was such a good era!