Japanese Ganguro Girls

Recently I was talking to a friend about if to stop wearing makeup is the right thing for me to do. I recognize the effects of my makeup extend past myself as an individual and contribute to a larger culture. Still, it is something  that is really fun for me and makes me happy. To me it feels kind of like art. We were going back and forth on things I can do to protest while still being able to participate in my hobby. Unfortunately, if I keep wearing it at all I will be contributing to sexist culture to an extent because I am supporting the industry, but there are still ways to improve. One thing my friend suggested is to only put on makeup on days when I’m staying home all day, but that doesn’t happen very much, and I honestly do use my makeup as a way of self expression and I like others to see. He also pointed out that I could do unconventional makeup, going farther than the big eyeliner or bold lipsticks I like to wear. This reminded me of the Japanese ganguro subculture.

The Japanese beauty standard consists of pale skin, dark hair, and natural makeup. Their culture values collectivism and conformity. Ganguro (literally dark/black face), a subculture that was most popular in the 90’s, seeks to completely rebel against this by doing the opposite. It is characterized by dark tanned skin, blonde or rainbow hair, thick eccentric makeup, and brightly coloured clothes. A Listverse article called “10 Unusual Japanese Fashions and Subcultures” said that the ganguro girls were often viewed with distaste or even harassed and the style died down, however a more recent Daily Mail article says that it continues to live on.

Young woman in ganguro style

So, am I planning on starting to do my makeup like the woman above? Well… no. But, I do think the idea and their commitment are pretty badass. Maybe I can take some sort of inspiration from their movement without killing my hair and skin.


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