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Tokyo subcultural street styles: Japanese subcultural street style as a uniform

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Japanese subcultural groups create safe and inventive spaces for youth to explore new identities, styles and globalization that are not available to them in other areas of their dominant culture. Japanese youth often join subcultures in the process of rejecting their parents’ generational values and the workforce uniforms commonly associated with adulthood and socio-economic failures of past generations. Accordingly, the Japanese subcultural street styles visually communicate a desire for prolonged childhood and deferred responsibilities of adulthood, while drawing significantly from global stimuli. Using ethnographic methods, it is revealed how many of the elements from Japanese subcultural dress are culturally authenticated from western styles and aesthetics, and their public display communicating the subculture member’s understanding of conspicuous consumption of perceived global ideals − wealth, diversity, authenticity and individuality. While these subcultural street styles function as alternatives to the standard Japanese uniforms (e.g., the business suit or occupational uniform), this dress style also communicates a new and modern identity for Japanese youth. Japanese subcultural street styles are so prescribed that they are, in fact, uniforms.
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Keywords: Harajuku; Japanese culture; Tokyo; dress; style; subculture; uniforms

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Michigan State University

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the first academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers, and students from around the world who have an active and passionate interest in the Popular Culture of East Asia. The journal is devoted to all aspects of popular culture in East Asia and the interplay between East Asia and the wider world. With the growth in popularity of Asian visual products in the Western world and the increasing strength of the Asian markets, this publication fulfills the need for an international journal that allows Western and Asian film, media, literary, music, fashion, digital media, television, art and cultural scholars alike to engage in discussion. In the last few decades there has been a huge rise in the interest in East Asian popular culture. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture will be engaging directly with that trend. From film to music; art to translation and fashion to tourism, this journal will offer a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways.
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