What is Harajuku Fashion?

Tara Barnett

Harajuku fashion is not precisely a way of dressing, but rather an attitude toward clothing and life. Any of the clothing styles represented in the Harajuku area could be called Harajuku fashion, but what they all share in common is a devotion to fashion and an idea of expression through clothing. The people who hang out in this area of Tokyo dressed in the way associated with this type of fashion may not share stylistic conventions, but they do share a kind of exhibitionism and pride in clothing. Among the styles represented in Harajuku fashion, some of the most iconic include Lolita styles, Cosplay, and punk. In the eyes of many people, the innovative styles represented in the Harajuku area make it a fashion capital of the world.

Known for their outrageous fashion, Harajuku girls populate the shopping area around Harajuku train station in Tokyo.
Known for their outrageous fashion, Harajuku girls populate the shopping area around Harajuku train station in Tokyo.

The area associated with Harajuku fashion is located near Harajuku station in Tokyo. This area has many stores, but the main fashion attraction occurs out on the streets. People usually hang out, dance, and pose in parks, on streets, and in other open areas. Even though they are outdoors and may appear to others to be exhibitionists, it is still polite to ask before photographing anyone in this area.

The Harajuku area is in Tokyo.
The Harajuku area is in Tokyo.

Clothing that is often called Harajuku fashion actually includes a number of different styles, although they are all usually quite loud and vibrant. One popular style is called Lolita fashion and is worn almost exclusively by women. There are several varieties within this style group, including gothic Lolita, wa Lolita, and sweet Lolita, all of which include many frills and very conservative coverage.

Another style associated with this area is called Cosplay and involves dressing up as characters from different storytelling mediums. Commonly, anime and manga characters are the subjects of Cosplay outfits, although music figures are also sometimes imitated. Often, a replica of the character's costume is combined with adopting that character's attitude for the duration of the dress-up period.

While Harajuku fashion is almost exclusively worn by women, there are some fashions that are displayed by men as well. Rockabilly styles, for instance, are appropriate for men. Many young men who participate in Harajuku fashion engage not only in dressing up but also in dancing. It is also common for men to coordinate outfits with women.

All these different Harajuku styles make it difficult to pin down just what Harajuku fashion really is, but it is clear that everyone involved in the Harajuku scene shares a respect for clothing and style. Many people see Harajuku as a place to express individuality and freedom, providing escape from restrictions such as school. Others adopt this clothing style all the time. Any fashion associated with this area may be considered an individual’s artistic expression.

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