The Japanese Take Fashion-Forward Gender Bending to the Next Level

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The Japanese live and die by fashion (and cultural) extremes. They rock elaborate looks that make Western street style look positively pilgrim. Whether it’s Harajuku, ganguro, or Cult party kei, of any variation of, their style boundaries are often gleefully nonexistent.

The latest fashion trend is “genderless danshi” (dashi is men in Japanese), where young, stylish men present as female, wear both makeup and non-gender conforming clothing and hairstyles. But not all of the “genderless danshi” identify as bi, gay, trans, gender fluid, nor even as feminine. They simply want to live by their own gender norms. They believe that indulging in fashions not necessarily meant for them create a unique sense of style extreme.

Unlike in the West, cross-dressing in Japan often has very little to do with sexuality, according to the NYTimes. In the wake of the one-year anniversary of the death of androgynous God David Bowie, this would seem tobe Japan’s call to a new era of self expression, where colors and styles don’t matter, and gender identity norms don’t exist. It’s the youth’s answer–and rebuttal–to the strict conformity of their culture where most men wear the same dark suits and work office jobs, and women usually wear the high heels.

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When Gwen Stefani fed the American masses Harajuku style, mimicking the outlandish and colorful street getups of the girls named after the Tokyo neighborhood in which they dwell, we got a taste of the Japanese extremes. Though the clothes and wild makeup never caught on to the mainstream beyond a select and devoted few, there was a still a minor rift in the culture that informed the runway, and Stefani’s own clothing brand, L.A.M.B., with the Harajuku Lovers line. Now American rave culture borrows from such extremes, making the outlandish style its own. Will “genderless danshi” become something we see more and more of in the West, or is it a trend that, like most, exist solely on the streets of our Eastern neighbors?

 

Main image: NYTimes

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Robbie Imes is FourTwoNine's Director of Content and Social Media

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