For much of the 1990s and 2000s, it seemed that you couldn’t walk down a street in any major shopping district in Japan without spotting a group of "gyaru" chatting enthusiastically about…something. But in recent years, the number of tanned young women with the very colorful (some might say “loud”) "gyrau" fashion style seems to have dropped almost to zero.
While "gyaru" subculture has been around for a few decades now, it’s popularity has waned significantly in the last 10 years or so. Perhaps the best indication that "gyaru" are on a decline is the state of their flagship magazines egg and Koakuma Ageha, both of which shut down last year. Though Koakuma Ageha, which some have called the bible for hostesses bar employees, many of whom are "gyaru" themselves, is resuming publication in April, egg is apparently completely dead. While we’re not sure how many are actually mourning egg‘s death, we do have to applaud it’s lengthy 19-year life, running from 1995 to 2014.
In addition to the fashion, part of what made these magazines so popular was the models, like Natsumi Yoshida, pictured above left. She was practically the very personification of "gyaru" while working as a model, but not so much anymore, as you can see in the tweeted photo above right. Though Yoshida is still working in fashion, she’s finished with the "gyaru" side of things.
Of course, like all subcultures, "gyaru" had a number of different subgenres, like the "ganguro." These fringe elements of the "gyaru" movement are almost impossible to find now, and the closure of egg is considered to be a result of their dwindling numbers. On the other hand, with Koakuma Ageha resuming publication, it’s probably safe to say that "gyaru" haven’t completely disappeared – they’ve just changed.
These days, women who might be called "gyaru" have adopted a more mainstream Japanese style, avoiding the dark tans and using a more natural makeup style. And the "kyaba-jo" (women who work in hostesses bars) have apparently “quieted down” their style in general as well. It makes one wonder just how relevant Koakuma Ageha is now and whether there is even a market to sustain the magazine anymore. Even in 2013, when this Koakuma Ageha issue was published, the move towards a more “normal” fashion style was already basically complete.
While it does appear that "gyaru" as we knew them have largely gone the way of the dodo, we can’t help wondering if they’ll make a resurgence or not. It seems unlikely, but a part of us can’t help rooting for them, since we always thought they helped make Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya a slightly more colorful neighborhood.
Sources: Biz Journal, Naver Matome
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