What is Gyaru? Meaning, Substyles + Resources
Hey cutie, and welcome to the wonderful world that is Gyaru! Here is where you can find out about the meaning of Gyaru, it’s brief history, as well as the numerous types (aka substyles) that belong to it. It is my favourite Japanese fashion style and I’ve also included a list of resources for you to find out more about this wonderful style.
Gyaru – Meaning + Brief History
Okay if we have to be specific with the meaning, ‘gyaru’ can just be literally translated as ‘girl’ but… it’s so much more than that. Gyaru is not just a fashion style, but a subculture* which originated in Shibuya (a district in Tokyo) in the ’90s as a rebellion against the stereotypical beauty standard of having pale skin and dark hair. These Gyaru – or gals – were flashy, outgoing, and were quite frankly shocking to Japanese society. Their tans were very dark and their makeup extremely exaggerated, and although it has developed a lot since then but the main aesthetic of gyaru is still in place; we live for the famous tagline “get wild and be sexy!”
Well, that’s a very very brief roundup of what gyaru is, in any case. The gyaru timeline looks more like this:
Phase one: Namie Amuro became super popular in Japan, who had tanned skin with dark hair. Young women wanted to emulate her look, and went clubbing wearing tight body-conscious (aka “bodicon”) clothes. Schoolgirls then tried to copy their look in order to look older and sneak into nightclubs.
Phase two: These schoolgirls were called kogyaru. They’d shorten their skirts, wear super loose socks, have slightly tanned skin, and often carried flashy European bags and accessories. Not only was this look influenced by their clubbing peers, but was also in rebellion to what a normal high schooler would look like.
This then led to the fascination with kogals where they’d become the main sexual focus for older men (ew) which led to the stereotype of kogals = teenage prostitutes, or where all kogals wanna go on paid dates aka enjo kosai.
Phase three: Ganguro came onto the scene to combat this by abandoning all Japanese beauty standards as a way to ward off the creeps. In came in the deep tans, the “vulgar” way of speaking (as gyaru slang is veeeeery different to normal Japanese talk) and the bleached hair.
And the rest is history!
If you want to read more about this I would highly recommend this website because they’ve backed it up with lots of sources and often interviewed the people directly involved in the history of gyaru. There’s also this website which has a gyaru timeline of sorts.
*an easy way to explain what subculture is to give a few examples of those we are already familiar with e.g. goth, hippies, bikers and punks.
Different Types of Gyaru – Substyles
One of the most amazing things about gyaru is that there are loooooads of different substyles so it’s very easy to find something that suits your current style (obvs with a gyaru twist, of course!).
Agejo is a sexy and glamorous Gyaru style, and is/was worn mainly by hostesses (those who work in exclusive clubs to men) and older gals. Ageha magazine was a huge source of inspiration for agejo and their clothes feature a lot of lace, fishnets, and stockings, and a little dash of cuteness, too.
A style featuring heavy American aesthetics such as bright colours, slogan tees, and baseball caps. It’s such a cute and colourful style and more ‘comfortable’ than the other styles in terms of attire as they mainly wear jeans and tshirts. One of the main Amekaji brands is CoLu aka CoCoLuLu. My circle sister Wib wears this quite often (which you can see here in one of my previous posts).
This is the more grown up version of agejo, and perfect for those who want to want to tone down but without losing their agejo aesthetic. In my personal opinion, I just regard ane agejo as onee but thought I’d include it in this list as it’s a term widely used in the gaijin gyaru community.
That’s us! This is the term for those who are into Gyaru but aren’t Japanese, and I’ll be using this term a lot throughout this blog. I’ve even named my series ‘Gaijin Gyaru Guide’ which is a collection of resources and blog posts I’ve created to help you on your Gyaru journey.
Ganguro, Manba, Yamanba + Kurogyaru
Ganguro are the OG gyaru with a deep tan and contrasting white makeup. I decided to group this together with Manba, Yamanba and Kurogyaru as they are all developments of Ganguro.
However, there is a key difference between each one but the deep tans connect them all:
Ganguro – old school gyaru with the deep tan. The OG gyaru.
Manba – wears white makeup above and below the eye (and is probably the style most outsiders think of when they think of gyaru).
Yamanba – wears white makeup but only above the eye.
Kurogyaru – is a very modern version of ganguro. Key example: Black Diamond Gal Unit.
The male equivalent of Gyaru! These are super stylish guys and can also be separated into the same subcategories of Gyaru e.g. Ganguro gyaruo, Rokku gyaruo, OraOra Gyaruo etc. but Gyaruo is the male term for Gyaru. Sadly there aren’t many Gyaruo left, but my good friend Wes is the perfect example of a Gyaruo and I did an interview with him here on his Gyaruo life.
The princesses of the Gyaru world! This is one of the most over-the-top styles of gal, and often includes wearing multiple wig pieces to create a voluminous hair with lots of curls. Pearls, crowns, lace and bows feature quite often in their accessories as well as the colour pink, but other colours like black are worn, too. People often confuse this with Lolita but the silhouette is completely different and makeup and hair is more exaggerated. Ayano Tokumaru, Himena Ousaki and La Pafait staff are the perfect examples of Hime Gyaru (and you can also look at Jesus Diamante for Hime Gyaru inspo too).
Think of a princess but on her day off where she wants to go shopping with friends instead of meeting other royalty. It translates as ‘casual’ princess and the most popular himekaji brand is Liz Lisa (although I’d suggest looking at their older collections for inspiration). It has an overall very romantic look and is softer than the other gyaru styles, so is a great starting point for newbie gyaru. This is another one of my favourite styles and I wrote a massive himekaji Q&A post here.
One of the earliest types of Gyaru, in fact, the first one. These are basically high-school girls who dress in Gyaru fashion, and often wear very short skirts, lots of accessories, and have blonde/brown hair.
The older sisters of the gyaru world, and is often the style that gals ‘graduate’ to. So while they still retain the overall aesthetic of gal, their makeup and hair is more toned-down. Sakurina is a great example of being an onee gyaru but with her own recognisable style, and I absolutely adore Shizuka Muto.
OraOra + Ane Gyaru
In the UK, these can be compared to chavs in their attire as they wear a lot of tracksuits but they pull it off so stylishly! It combines a lil’ bit of badass vibes from Yankii culture and they often have deep tans. Both OraOra and Ane Gyaru are very similar but to make it easier, Ane Gyaru is basically the rebellious sister to Onee Gyaru. Soul Sister is a primarily OraOra magazine so look that up for some inspo.
Rokku + Goshikku
The rockstars and goths of the Gyaru community! This is one of the easiest styles to get into when you’re just starting out as they share the same elements (in terms of clothing) as we do in our goth communities. Sakurina was a huge Rokku icon back in the day, as well as Amihamu and Re:No.
Gaijin Gyaru Guide is my blog series where I create lots of content to help you on your Gyaru journey. I also share a ton of inspiration as well as advice – feel free to give me a shout if you need any help!
The Beginner’s Guide to Gyaru is a whole collection of YouTube tutorials that we Gaijin Gyaru have put together to help you learn more about gyaru. It includes a brief history of gal as well as tons of advice.
EGG is one of the biggest Gyaru magazines out there, and they’ve recently re-launched and now have a website! Most gals on there aren’t as over-the-top as before but they are still big inspirations. They are incredibly active over on their instagram and TikTok.
Neojapanisme have also done a history of gyaru, but in a lot more detail and is perfect for those who want more information about it in a chunkier format.
Another very very good history read is this one via a college website that I’ve already mentioned.
GalVIP is a magazine created by gaijin gyaru (non-Japanese gyaru) and it’s an oldie but goldie.
Shibuya Gals – the ultimate library of gyaru mag scans. Would highly recommend their facebook page, especially if you’re into old school gal.
Mercari is great for buying decent second-hand items, however you’d need a shopping service to buy items from there.
Taobao is another site where you would need a shopping service but you can find SO MUCH on there! I bought quite a few MA*RS items from there in the past as well as a DaTuRa dress. However it is very likely these are fake items but when they look so good… Who cares?
Pinky Paradise sells lots of circle lens as well as accessories, and quite a lot of my gal pals buy from there.
Gyaru Sales group on FB is my go-to for when I want to buy secondhand brand from fellow Western gals. 80% of my gyaru wardrobe is secondhand and bought from there & through friends!
And there we have it!
Hopefully that covers the basis of what you need to know about the meaning of Gyaru and some of the different substyles, so now you can start your gyaru journey!