World Fashion: A Brief History of Tokyo Street Fashion

Words by Jane Pipkin

Artwork by Ana Hill Lopez-Menchero


Japanese Street Fashion has had a monumental effect on the Fashion industry. Notably, in the last decade publications like Vogue have gifted their readers with numerous articles featuring the best street looks from Tokyo Fashion Week. Designers from all around the globe have been eager to recreate precise looks for their own runway collections.

The blending of contemporary popular culture with traditional aesthetics is what makes this fashion so artistic whilst refreshing. Many Japanese people have not only become renowned style icons because of their curated fits but have helped make Tokyo a fashion capital across the world. What I personally love most is how these distinct fits look highly thought out yet effortless. Each completed look has so much life, a story to tell and that’s what fashion is all about. It’s what I love most about fashion, reflecting a mood, a vibe or a message through the clothes you wear.

So where did it start? Arguably, the kind of Tokyo Street Fashion which we know and love today began around the 60s. During this period the American influence was rampant, the biker style, vintage style, alongside the music and popular culture all inspired the ways that the Japanese dressed. Near the end of the 70s and the start of the 80s, magazines such as Popeye played a fundamental role in promoting the Japanese take on the ‘preppy’ college look formen whilst a female version named ‘female college girl’ or joshi daisei (女子大生) was also being created.


Moving forward to the 80s and 90s where the style flourished under the backdrop of the booming Japanese economy. The 90s truly was the time in which Street Fashion made a name for itself. It was also the time where the diverse subcultures were becoming increasingly visible, with the emergence of ‘Shibuya Casual’, a casual yet sophisticated sort of style and the ‘Urahara Movement’ which was a mixture of skater, bohemian and American streetwear fashion. The famous Shibuya-based ‘Gyaru’ (ギャル) movement was also created at this time alongside the popularisation of the cute schoolgirl trend. These would both go onto to have a massive influence on American celebrities in the 2000s and on mainstream styles seen today.

Another pivotal point was the creation of FRUiTS magazine in 1977, by photographer Shoichi Aoki. This monthly magazine captured the quirky, punky, colourful, fun and creative spirit of Harajuku fashion. It can be said that the Harajuku style is one of the most influential to date. Lolita, Decora and Cosplay are all recognisable styles which are replicated all around the world. Although it is believed this style has died out with the ending of FRUiTS, I think it is still very much alive but in a new way.

Today, more than ever the streets of Tokyo are filled with a range of stand out and experimental styles. The elements which made 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s Street Fashion so memorable are still seen. Now, the incorporation of Western brands, customised pieces and the use of mixing and matching in an outfit is the desired style. The reason why Japanese Street Fashion has remained so unique and been around for so long is because individuals can take a trend and make it distinctively Japanese.

What can we learn from Tokyo Street Fashion and how can we replicate its vibes? Well, I think the style thrives off originality, so there isn’t a perfect formula or clear process. Plus, since there are a lot of subcultures it all comes down to which you most relate to and how you want to express yourself. However, a couple of tips which may prove useful is to prioritise layering, shapes and accessorising. If you can start off with a few thrifted pieces and put your own spin on the everyday items, soon enough your clothes will be able to tell a story just like the ones of those walking the streets of Tokyo.




Image reference 1: https://www.vogue.com/article/tokyo-fashion-week-street-style-accounts-to-follow-now

Image reference 2: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/japanese-preppy-1/aQFdreyD-f-7Zw

Image reference 3: https://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/tokyo-fashion-week-street-style?image=5f85d6c9afba3c5560ff50d2

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