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Manga-Chic Fashion Glasses

Large-framed Glasses Are the Latest Unique Accessory in Japan

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Clear lens fashion glasses perfectly accent light-colored outfits. Women say they make the face look smaller, too!

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A surprising number of young people can be seen sporting eyewear in the streets of Tokyo fashion hubs Shibuya and Harajuku. Large-framed glasses are currently the hottest fashion accessory item among women in their teens and twenties, thanks to the revival of a flashy '80s look. Summed up by the words “disco” and “glam,” the trend was sparked by popular actresses and models, and later adopted by TV idols as their trademark style. Even though the '80s boom had leveled off, clear lense fashion glasses are still extremely popular with young Japanese.

The Thrown-Together “Mismatched” LookThe trend is a reaction to a popular, impeccably coordinated look from head-to-toe; the mismatched glasses add a touch of eclectic charm. Fashionistas playfully mix it up with oversized glasses to create different styles. Aesthetically, large frames have the added benefit of making the face appear smaller.

For ladies, glasses are no longer just for improving eyesight. Some women buy cheap glasses at accessory stores or 100 yen shops and wear only the frames. The lenses can go: they get in the way of false eyelashes and obscure the elaborate eye makeup that is a popular part of the look.

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Solely used for fashion, many people wear only the glasses' frames.

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Arale-chan Glasses Express IndividualityNicknamed “Arale-chan glasses,” the frames are especially popular with young Japanese. The nickname itself is an integral part of the fad; it originates from Dr. Slump, the Toriyama Akira manga first published in 1980, and the spin-off TV anime series Dr. Slump — Arale-chan. Beloved by Japanese young and old, the young heroine Arale-chan's trademark was a pair of over-sized black-rimmed glasses. While glasses have long evoked the image of a gloomy, unsophisticated bookworm for the most part, the high-octane star of the major hit series liberated them from this negative stereotype.

Manga and anime have since used glasses to imbue a character with an individual look, and such characters have proved to be consistently popular among certain fans. Phrases like megane-moe for describing people attracted to girls in glasses, and megane danshi for attractive men in glasses have crept into the Japanese vocabulary since 2000 as the boom grew out of manga and anime. Glasses are now full-fledged accessories in the world of cool.

The imagination of the Japanese is apparent in the pleasure they take in dressing in costume, their obsession with transforming appearances, and fascination with television and film characters. It is this imagination that has given glasses a special status among fashion accessories for expressing individuality. (June 2011)


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Left: Cute and charming, straight off a manga page. Is it the glasses that make her look like an anime or manga character?
Right: Arale-chan, the girl robot star of the Dr. Slump manga, carries off her glasses look with style.
(©Akira Toriyama / Shueisha)

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Large frames add a playful touch to a stylish outfit.

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