CONSTELLATION: Session 7: Harajuku Street Style

In this session, we summarised Groom’s (2009) perspective on Harajuku street style.


What are the style statements/influences and how can this be termed post modern style?

The style is self constructed, hyper-real, post modern, eccentric. excessive and exaggerated. The is a “superficiality of posed identity” within Harajuku style. They are not being themselves and are deliberately making it obvious that Harajuku is a role that they are performing. There is no sense of a “real me” an image of the people who wear this street style is projected as they want to be seen, for this to be true, they must be aware of the rules of posing. There is nothing natural about this street style, and fakery is a massive part of Harajuku. The image is adopted “through quotation marks”, just like words are borrowed when they are in quotation marks, so are the parts of this style, this is known as Bricolage, (Hebdige) bringing lots of different objects together and giving them new meanings. They know the original function of the items and change the meaning of them for example – using western childrens toys as fashion items. The style is highly exaggerated and is almost like fancy dress, something you put on and take off. There is no “ideological commitment” in Harajuku, it’s a style, not a message. You don’t buy this look on the highstreet, you make it yourself, “DIY Practice” and are not influenced by whats in fashion at the time. Harajuku is marked by Fusions and Fluidity. It is a fushion of then and now and a fusion of the east and the west. It fits in with Post modern theory as there is a blurring of subcultures and a “supermarket of style” (polhemus). They have taken many different parts from varied places and thrown them all together to make a style. The key to post modern style is that its been deliberately selected and put together.

What is suggested about social and cultural contexts regarding this subculture?

The Birmingham school says that subcultures arise out of a wider condition such as race or gender. Hebdige says that is where the statement lies and forms a reaction against something. Social and cultural contexts are really important, our societies affect the way we think. Groom suggests that formalities exist within japanese culture and the youth have to conform to these formalities when they are in the house by taking their shoes off etc. but when they are not they adopt Harajuku to rebel against these formalities and it is only enacted on the streets or in public spaces. According to Groom, Harajuku is a reaction against the rigid formalities of being at home. However, the youth still live at home so that they have a disposable income to afford fashions and music etc. You still have all the benefits of being young and Harajuku is all about keeping the Childhood alive. The street is a need for escape to get away from parents.

We then went on to analyse to images of Harajuku style in preparation to analyse our own imagery and formulate a case study.

We found characteristics within the image, thought about possible meanings and applied subcultural theory. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate the same images that were analysed to I have included similar to show the vast range of style that comes under Harajuku.
Image 1


Pink – Girly, Gender coded. Pastel Pink associated with young girls. Western connotations in this style.
Ribbons in hair, Knee High socks with Lace trim – femininity, western school uniform, girly, childish.
Fabric Polka dot skirt – Minnie mouse connotations
Cheap mass-produced  plastic jewellery – excessive, objects that relate to being a little girl – cute rabbit hairslides. Bricolage is occurring here, some of the rules of little girlishness have been selected but elements have been added that do not belong to the style and the meanings have been changed. The hair slides are in the front of the hair whereas their original function is to hold the hair back, changed. The hair slides are excessive and there is a knowingness of this exaggeration which fits in with post modern theory. Grooms theory of “style in quotation marks” comes in here with parts of a certain style being borrowed and paired with new style connotations. Hair – Pink is little girl, but dyed hair is not little girl. This has come from a punk sensibility, there is a fusion of things that don’t belong – Groom, bricolage is again clear. The harajuku in the image given to us was also wearing converse trainers not cute shoes, which again takes away the little girl authenticity. A leopard print back pack was on her back, leopard print is associated with adults and a sexual print. Prostitutes wore it in the 30s and 40s. There is post modern theory evident, a definite “resignification of objects” and a “supermarket of style” (Polhemus).

Image 2


The second image we analysed was a harajuku girl who had adopted much more of a punk sensibility and less little girlyness and so creating another signature look. There are different styles within Harajuku, it is far more diverse than the punks or the mods or the teds, its more post modern.

Ripped clothing, safety pins – not holding things together, meanings being changed, more retro and evidence of a British punk sensibility.
Brothel Creepers – teds used to wear them. In the 80s the punks and the teds combined together to form psychobillies, there is a psychobillie sensibility here, a “supermarket of style” (polhemus). She is not trying to look like a 1970s punk, she has adopted certain elements from the look. Within the Birmingham School, Hebdige claimed that subculture was rebellion – “resistance through ritual”. Groom says that there is possibly a resistance to rebelling against the formality of japanese Culture and may be why a punk sensibility is adopted by Harajuku.

I had never really looked at the Harajuku street style before this lecture and found it incredibly interesting and quite chaotic as a subculture, I found that there are no strict rules as to what you wear or how you act and it is visually very interesting. I was drawn to the idea that Harajuku girls are hiding the real them and performing and it is definitely apparent, as it is in many subcultures that this style is an escapism, from Japans formalities, but it is like a fancy dress, just for the streets and public spaces and not to be worn at home.


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