Popstar and fashion icon Gwen Stefani was my introduction to Japanese streetwear. Growing up with an affinity for unique fashion styles, I would tune into MTV’s TRL Live just to see the different outfits that Gwen Stefani and her back-up dancers wore the music video.
As a child, one of my music videos by Gwen Stefani was Hollaback Girl. The Hollaback Girl music video began with Gwen Stefani in American skater girl attire photographing four swaggered out Japanese girls with definitive makeup and stylish ensembles leaning on a Cadillac.
I immediately fell in love with different yet uniform outfits of the Japanese girls Gwen was photographing, and curious about why she called them “kawaii.” Later I learned “kawaii” meant cute in Japanese, a common term associated with Harajuku culture.
I also learned that the girls I first discovered in Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl video were titled “The Harajuku Girls.” At this point, I fully began immersing myself in the Japanese streetwear culture.
Once I began researching Harajuku styles and clothing, I realized that Harajuku was just an umbrella term for Japanese streetwear. There are a variety of subcultures within Japanese fashion, originating in the various fashion districts in Tokyo which include: Harajuku, Aoyama, Ginza, Odaiba, Shinjuku, and Shibuya.
My favorite Japanese streetwear visuals always straddled between Decora ——prominent in the Harajuku fashion scene, Kogal and Japanese Lolita street fashion. Japanese streetwear has been ahead of the curve in urban fashion for almost two decades now, deriving from a conglomeration of influences like American hip hop, Japanese anime, the Tokyo party scene.
In my younger years, one of my favorite Japanese clothing and footwear lines was A Bathing Ape. Since I loved hip hop and urban fashion, I enjoyed seeing how American trends were redefined and created with a Japanese twist.
Although some Japanese streetwear is considered more avante-garde and exaggerated —like certain Gyaru trends— much Japanese streetwear can be worn in everyday looks.
Japanese Brands That Will Enhance Your Fabulous Style
There are a plethora of Japanese brands that are dedicated to providing you the ultimate outfits that are streetwear chic. Some Japanese brands are dedicated to serving you J hip hop and some are designed to accentuate your otaku aesthetic. I am a fan of various Japanese brands, especially those that sublimely represent the essence of Ura-Harajuku, Tokyo.
Founded in 1994 by Shinsuke Takizawa in Ura-Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan, NEIGHBORHOOD streetwear is a must-have. The brand is a mashup of military, workwear, and motorcycle apparel with outdoorish themes.
Great for casual wear, NEIGHBORHOOD has an extensive collection of graphic tees and logoed hoodies that will pair great with jeans or joggers. Known as one of the head honcho’s in contemporary Japanese streetwear, the NEIGHBORHOOD brand is essential if you want to look J hip hop chic.
If you’re a lover of Japanese anime, a proud otaku, or just like the look of urban Japanse is streetwear, then Imouri may be your scene. Imouri brands themselves as an original anime clothing line, creating signature designs that represent the heart of anime culture rather than just selling anime T-shirts with mainstream anime characters.
Created in 2015, the Imouri brand creates laid back yet trendy Japanese urban fashion brands that will make you stand out!
The WTAPS brand is one of “The Godfathers” of the Japanese streetwear movement. Started in 1997 by Tetsu Nishiyama in Ura-Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan WTAPS is the ultimate men’s Japanese streetwear brand.
WTAPS, similar to NEIGHBORHOOD, infuses military inspo into everyday streetwear, designing T-Shirts and jackets with dark mute colors. WTAPS blocked pattern windbreakers with the exclusive WTAPS logo on the arm pairs nicely with the WTAPS hat, enabling you to dress sensationally with minimal effort.
SueUndercover is one of the hottest Japanese brands for women. Merging high fashion with a street swag, SueUNDERCOVER has stylish ensembles for women that will make your everyday attire look like haute couture Japanese urban fashion.
With some of the pieces complimenting the baggy J hip hop style and other pieces designed with an edgy appeal, SueUNDERCOVER has a great variety of clothing options spanning trendy casual wear to sassy Japanese chic.
SueUNDERCOVER is the product of legendary fashion designer Jun Takahashi, founder of the famed UNDERCOVER brand. Jun Takahashi was also one of the founders of the iconic Japanese streetwear brand NOWHERE.
Denim on Denim is the epitome of the brand KAPITAL. KAPITAL provides the best denim pieces for your buck. KAPITAL creates loose-fitting styles and boho aesthetics with unconventional patterns and designs.
No longer just known for denim— like they were when they started in 1985, KAPITAL offers a range of styles including graphic T’s, socks, work pants, vests, and jackets. KAPITAL has things for women and women, including accessories for everyone.
Androgyny and nonconformity is the essence of YOHJI YAMAMOTO. Currently with only one flagship store in Tokyo, the YOHJI YAMAMOTO name is universal and trailblazing. Founded by the incomparable contemporary Japanese designer YOHJI YAMAMOTO, YOHJI is great for those who are bold and are looking for more dynamic and eye-catching clothing.
There is an expansive list of Japanese streetwear lines, however, these are just a few that scream Tokyo, Japan!