Rachel Haywood BFA Thesis Spring 2011
Harajuku's Lolita and Visual Kei Fashion Subcultures: Youth Seeking Identity in Westernized and Traditional Japanese Ways
My objective with this paper is to trace and explicate the historical roots of the visual kei and Lolita fashion subcultures and why and how they function for the youth in Harajuku. I hope that this investigation will intrigue others and help demystify some of our misconceived notions of what these subcultures are trying to do. When we dig past the culture shock, we can see the complex way these youth are participating in these fashion subcultures and how their actions are informed by history and expressed through symbols within their fashion that require cultural knowledge to understand fully. These fashions, adopted from Western fashion, reflect nuances of ideology and provide a counterpart to how they are used in Western culture. I also argue that while defining group identity these subcultures can provide as much or more an outlet for personal expression and sense of individuality than America’s approach to fashion and underlying ideology of conforming to market forces.