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Cute and Punk

Merger of Contrasting Styles Produces New Look


The cute and punk style. ©Zenmall

A new punk look is gaining ground among teenage girls in Harajuku and Shibuya. The style, however, is not a full-fledged, head-to-toe hardcore punk look but an eclectic mix of cute and punk, with pretty miniskirts and dresses coordinated with riders jackets, engineer boots, skull-motif accessories, stud belts, and other hardcore punk items. Black hair is also making a comeback, and black is becoming a trendy shade in makeup, with eye shadow and eyeliner in this tone applied for a cool "dark" effect.

Roots of the Current Trend
The cute-and-punk look was a focus of attention at the most recent Tokyo Girls Collection, a fashion extravaganza targeted at young women in their teens and twenties that showcases affordable, fashionable streetwear. The show, held in September 2008, drew more than 20,000 visitors. Punk elements were featured in the collections of a number of popular brands, with subtly "toxic" and harsh elements embedded in cute designs.

Punk fashion has its roots in punk rock music. This genre of hard rock originated in London and New York in the 1970s and later evolved into a major movement among young Londoners. Many punk bands were formed, prominent among them the Sex Pistols.

Punk themes subsequently made their appearance in the world of fashion. Designer Vivienne Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren played a particularly influential role in putting punk in the spotlight by offering provocative, antiestablishment clothing at their shop in London. The punk look returned to the scene in the 1990s as "neo-punk." But this time it was mainly fashion, stripped of its radical elements and association with hard rock music.


An attractive combination of a frilled skirt and boots. ©Color & Design Research Room of Kyoritsu Women's Junior College

An Indigenous Japanese Punk Look
In Japan, the cute-punk look began to take shape around the turn of the century. One of the sparks that ignited the trend was the bestselling manga Nana by Yazawa Ai about two girls named Nana, one of whom is a punk singer who dresses in Vivienne Westwood clothes. Following the publication of Nana, a growing number of teenage girls took to punk clothing, while individualizing it with kawaii (cute) elements.

One of the features of this year’s look is the juxtaposition of hardcore punk-style clothing with frills and ribbons. Punk and cute stand at opposite ends of the style spectrum, but young people today are freeing themselves from preconceived notions, mixing styles as they see fit, and turning punk into something indigenously Japanese. Like anime-inspired cosplay (costume play), the cute-punk style is now attracting attention from overseas. (November 2008)