What is the True Meaning of Gyaru?

What exactly makes you ‘Gyaru’? Is it the clothes, the hair, the makeup… Or the attitude? This has forever been on our minds and one day I found myself chatting to (Jesus) Chris *tehe* on the true meaning of being Gyaru. The conversation blew my mind so I knew I really wanted to interview Chris as part of my ‘Interview with a Gaijin Gyaru’ series to share their insights on what it really means to be Gyaru.

Gaijin gyaru Chris from the Netherlandds wearing manba gyaru

Hey Chris! Thank you so much for joining me in this interview today. Let’s start with the basics – what’s your gyaru story?

I first learned about gyaru when I was 13ish. My partner back then was a lolita and I started wearing lolita to be all cute and “matchy matchy” with them at meets. Back in those days it was fairly common for girls to wear both lolita and gyaru, but when I learned about gyaru it immediately clicked for me that “yes. This is me.”

I did my first attempt at 14, and only really started going for it after my ex and I broke up, so by the age of 15 I really started and I haven’t looked back since. The fact that I started so young is also why I call myself the communities baby, despite being 21 now.

Gosh, 14?! Wow you were so young when you started! Now to jump right into the main part of this interview – we had a chat a few weeks ago about the ‘true meaning of gyaru’ online and I really wanted to share it with the rest of the gyaru community. What I loved most about our conversation was the fact that you emphasised how important makeup and attitude is. Could you please further elaborate on this? Why do you think those are so important?

When people talk about Gyaru they often describe it as a (fashion) style, I think that’s a bit too big of a “shortcut” to the point, in which it loses most of its essence.

I think Gyaru as what it is is close to what Goth is. Fashion is only 1 side of its many faces, and by far not the most important one. To be “Goth” you need to have more than clothes, or you are what they call “darkly-inclined”. Or maybe it’s easier to say that to be Goth, or to be Gyaru, is different than to just wear it. This is also why I dislike saying “I’m wearing Gyaru”. No. I AM GYARU, I am just wearing Gyaru-brands. Though, to be a gyaru you have to be fashionable, because that is part of the identity. To be fashionable, to be carefree and to be yourself. This is also why it’s difficult to perfectly translate Gyaru to the Western world. We want to believe that if you wear some kind of lashes and a D.I.A. shirt, you’re Gyaru, but like I said, it feels like you’re almost cosplaying a Gyaru.

oraora, gyaru
Velvet gyarusa from the Netherlands

So then what IS Gyaru? What is that balance that differentiates you? This is where I think makeup and attitude are the most important factors. Makeup has been one of the most unchanged factors of a Gyaru’s look over the 20+ years the movement has been around. Whereas the clothes have gone from bright and colourful, to skimpy, from rock to boho and back… the makeup has always held a few base-rules: focus on the eyes. The eyebrows are always thin and lighter coloured so they don’t draw attention away. Lips have also always been a lighter nude or pink colours. Eye makeup is always the most heavily applied, even if it’s a Ganguro eyeliner and mascara, or the heavy white/black Manba makeup. Even the 2009 “mori” eyes! All of them are about EYES EYES EYES – aim for mature, but cute. Defined faces, highlights and heavy arches, even focussing on the droopy-eye look, it’s all to create a sultry-cute look, and to keep the balance. This is why contour, highlight and blush are applied the way they are (blush is also that heavy because of selfie cams not picking up the colour as well).

If you lack 1 item, you can compensate it in the next. Eye shape, contour, highlight, eyebrows arch/colour, lashes, circle lenses, tan… if you can’t do one, you can just amp up the rest. As long as your makeup is super Gyaru, you could even wear a trashbag and look gal.

Gaijin gyaru Chris from the Netherlands (1)

Attitude is another one that is very vague, and might be difficult to translate from Japan over to the Western world. Gyaru are fashionable, loud, party animals with a love for life and a big f*ck-you to the very corporate and clean Japan. That doesn’t mean you have to drink yourself into a ditch to be Gyaru, or you can’t be Gyaru with a 9-5, but it does mean that you shouldn’t just do things to fit in, or do things “because that’s how life is supposed to be”. Being Gyaru means that even if you want a 9-5, you do it for YOU and no other reason. The same as why you are Gyaru for YOU, and nobody else.

So even if I sit in front of the TV with no makeup watching Netflix, eating popcorn with my long deco nails, I am still surrounded with all my zebra and leopard, and the moment I want to step out of the house I can put on my favourite BlackQueen tracksuit, I will always be a Gyaru.

Oh wow that is absolutely amazing, and I loved how you drew up on the importance of eye makeup in particular. Gyaru attitude is so tricky to talk about especially because it’s easy to feel not gyaru enough if you are, say, an introvert. What advice can you give to people who are a bit more introverted?

That’s difficult to say as someone who is more extroverted, but I respect Danielle (member of QueenE gyarusa) for that. She is an introvert but truely has the gyaru spirit. I think what sets her apart is how she will push her boundaries to do what she loves without breaking them. Do everything on her own terms and use gal as an empowerment in HER terms.

Yes omg, I love Danielle! I’m so glad you mentioned about how it’s good to try and be as gal as you can be but remembering what you’re boundaries are, and not to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s also quite refreshing to read because I’ve really struggled with the whole partying persona that Gyaru usually comes with. I’m not much of a drinker, and I very much enjoy my own company and get tired really easily, especially after spending a few hours with lots of people. So I try to enjoy the moments where I’m not like that and then crash out in my bed later!

manba gyaru by Chris

But let’s talk about the clothes for a bit. What I feel lately is that people (including myself) aren’t really experimenting with clothes anymore, especially in the Gaijin Gyaru community. What do you think about this?

Some Gaijin Gyaru can’t accept that “being fashionable” also means adapting to current trends, and just want to stick to the old. I’m also the same though – I could never give up on D.I.A. They just think it’s “getting boring” without giving things a try. Reina (from Blackout gyarusa) is a good example of using current fashion in gal.

“Out with the new, in with the old” is what I used to say when I first saw the trend in toning down in gal haha. You are so right though. While it’s not to say that we should blindly follow new trends if we don’t like them, we need to learn how to adapt it to suit our own preferences! It’s the only way us gyaru can survive. I guess it doesn’t help that we had a huge love for gyaru brands. Old gyaru brands, that is – I don’t see many people buying new collections.

You can still wear them! but instead of going “I wear this because its D.I.A” I go “camo is starting to get popular again I have some gal brand that’s camo!”

Yesssss that is perfect! Thank you so so much for such an insightful session, and for teaching us the true meaning of gyaru! I’ve learnt so much by talking to you and I really can’t wait to see what other people think about this. But before you go, I have one more question for you – what is your favourite dessert?

AAAAAH THATS TOO DIFFICULT. Anything with chocolate or strawberry, but not chocolate covered strawberries.

Chocolate is the best!

What is the true meaning of being gyaru? Read more on hellolizziebee
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And that’s all for today! I really hope you enjoyed reading this, especially if you’re new to the gyaru scene! Please feel free to give Chris and I a shout if you have any concerns – I had an amazing time chatting to them!

Lizzie xx

Previous interviews:
Singing Contests in Japan + Onee Gyaru Advice
The Life of a Gaijin Gyaruo

What do you think?

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  • Kieli
    May 22, 2019

    This was so awesome! I love Chris! I got a lot of help from her when I was trying to get my Gal makeup better. Always super helpful and such a sweetheart!

    • hellolizziebee
      May 27, 2019

      Yesss Chris is so amazing and I love how enthusiastic they are in helping others out!

  • Jull
    May 22, 2019

    This has been wonderful to read! Chris is one of my biggest Gaijin Gyaru inspos and reading about their opinion on what Gyaru truly is has been very insightful… Thank you for the interview!~

    • hellolizziebee
      May 27, 2019

      Awh you’re most welcome! I was so happy to talk to Chris about this as I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, so I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Ashley
    June 11, 2019

    … “They?” ☆*: .。.☆ \(≧▽≦)/ ☆.。.:*☆ I just checked out their Instagram and I’m squealing so much, so many of their outfits resonate with me. (Sorry, hermit genderfluid here, massively overexcited by their confidence and hotness and fellow genderqueerness. orz {I hope they don’t mind the umbrella term in this context, I don’t know how else to express that feeling without it being super clunky. Boo tired self. Xness? Idk, I’ve never heard that used that way before. orz})

    Damn… between Chris and Lzzy Hale I might *actually* make an Instagram account after all these years. I don’t usually have the energy to keep up with social media, but…

    • hellolizziebee
      June 11, 2019

      Oh my gosh you’re so cute! I am getting so many positive and happy vibes from your comment and I love it. In terms of insta – do what makes you happy!