#3. Male Hosts
Gyaruo style, which started out as male versions of gyaru, is the weapon of choice for the young dudes who want to look cool. They wear expensive clothes, gallons of cologne and sport Rod Stewart haircuts. Male Hosts--men who make their livings drinking with older women--are at the pinnacle of this trend.
Like the gyaru, they keep their skin tanned and their hair an unnatural shade of dirty blond. By dirty, we mean it looks like they haven't washed their hair for a very, very long time. But unlike the gyaru, who ended up looking like mountain hags, the gyaruo took it up market and some of them have been raking it in ever since.
Not all men who dress like this are actual hosts, but the ones who are make large sums of money in specialized clubs all over the country. And what do they do for these women? Nothing; except sit with them, drink with them and slip them a romantic line every once and a while.
That's it. And since they were smart enough to figure out a way to make money drinking and talking to women in bars, they set off a trend among young Japanese men. Because if you can't actually get women to cough up their hard-earned money just to watch you get drunk and hear your lame pick up lines, at least you can look like you do.
The closest thing Japan has to white trash, yankii, (a corruption of Yankee) are young men and women who dye their hair blond or orange, wear trashy clothes and smoke, drink and have children before they're out of high school. They are famous for being loud, rude and refusing to take part in the strict manners of Japanese culture.
There is some overlap of the subcultures here, as the yankii borrow some of their style from gyaru and gyaruo, but their clothes and hair aren't what set them apart. Less a style of dress than a social phenomenon, the yankii have long been the boogeyman of contemporary Japanese culture and are regarded as a symbol of how far the country has fallen from its glory years. When the yankii started to appear in the late 80s and early 90s, Japanese media quickly whipped up a frenzy, predicting an Akira-like lawless Tokyo full of bad mannered punks with bad haircuts terrorizing little old ladies and not doing their homework.
Of course that only happened in cool Japanese manga and kickass movies like Battle Royale. Instead, yankiis turned out to be nothing worse than young people with bad taste in hair and sloppy manners. The yankii girls wore too much makeup, got married too young and ended up as really old looking 35-year-olds. The guys all end up as construction workers for some reason.
#1. Visual Kei
Japanese pop music is widely regarded by experts to be terrible. Doing nothing to dispel this reputation is visual kei, a term that represents both a style of music and a particularly insane style of dress that both the bands and fans embrace with frightening gusto. The music itself is largely forgettable, warmed-over 80s hair metal. But the costumes look like the aftermath of an orgy between lolitas, goths, vampires and anime characters where everybody had to hurriedly get dressed in the dark.
The result is an unholy hodgepodge of teased hair, industrial drum-fulls of white makeup and more lace than a doily convention. It would be crazy enough if all they did was wear this stuff to concerts and nightclubs, but like the lolita, they aren't afraid to strut down public streets in clothes that Prince would find undignified.
Aspects of visual kei style have even infiltrated regular fashion, as regular young Japanese women wear flouncy scarves in their hair and young men wear ass-hugging jeans. Yes, in about five years, real-life Japan will look exactly like a Final Fantasy cutscene.
Follow Geoff at Twitter and he'll promise not to dress like a Victorian school girl. Except for special occasions.
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