Delinquent Subcultures vs. Consumer Lifestyles

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Most of the first Western scholarship on “youth subcultures” in the post-War period grew out of work on teenage delinquency. Sociologists explained the Teds, the Mods, Rude Boys, Greasers, the Sharks (vs. the Jets) as working-class youth using their own culture of fashion and argot to separate themselves from mainstream society.

Now that mass culture has fractured into smaller lifestyle segments and minority looks “trickle-up” to high fashion, the word “subculture” does not automatically imply deviance. In the West, there’s no bigger sin than being a “poseur” or having “inauthentic” reasons for subcultural affiliation, and in this context, Western (and often Japanese) critics tend to bash Japanese punks and B-boys for not keeping it “real.” Or conversely, certain champions of post-modernity celebrate these groups for their seemingly intentional depth-less re-appropriations of Western subcultural style.

The truth is, however, that Japan has two different kinds of youth cultural groups — delinquent subcultures and consumer lifestyles — and our failure to distinguish the two means attributing particular intra-group values to Japan as a whole.

The youth cultures recently venerated by Americans are essentially consumer lifestyles. Ura-Harajuku street fashion (A Bathing Ape, Goodenough, Supreme/Silas), Shibuya-kei border-shirt Euro-fetish, Cutie/Spring/Mini daintyness, Fruits extreme Harajuku-cute, hip-hoppers, Rastas, punks, mods, and “mode-kei” fashionistas are society-condoned, media-directed looks with matching music and activities. Before 1988, all fashion was essentially monolithic: There was only one way to dress “well.” But after the DC-boom backlash in the late ’80s, magazines responded by providing a huge list of possible choices — skater-kei, surfer-kei, etc. — each with their own brands, hairstyles, record labels, and leisure activities.

Japanese fashions may be largely based on Western working-class teenage defiance, but in the process of importation and distribution within a retail framework, the political content has all been sucked out — even the most basic ideas of inter-generational rebellion. In the West, parents would freak out over their kids looking like a lyseric baglady, but Japanese parents can cope as long as there stick to the implicit promise to wipe off the goth makeup by the time they leave university and get a job. Questions of authenticity are hence moot. Without specific instructions from magazines on how to put together the fashion code, these looks would not and could not exist. I would guess that a majority of adopters are upper middle-class kids from “good families,” and their participation in these “extreme looks” does not necessarily rule out future involvement in straight society. Actually these somewhat alternative cultures support the employment system by providing “play” before a lifetime of serious dedication to the workplace or motherhood.

Even though consumer lifestyles are the most conspicuous “subcultures” in Japan, there have always been strong delinquent subcultures. These follow the Western pattern closely — using alternative fashions, slang, and other cultural practices to break away from the mainstream. In the late 1970s, the yankii subculture developed from low performing students who bucked the system through wearing bleached permanent-waves and altering their school uniforms. Instead of high school, yankii quickly entered the workforce — an act that fully limited their future employment options to working-class labor. They roved in gangs, proudly picked up girls to gang rape (gombo), stared down kids from rival junior highs, and coordinated runs around the neighborhood on super-loud motorcycles (the so-called boso-zoku). Their fashion choices — yakuza-like short-cut punch perms, long jackets, kanji embroidery, severe sunglasses, women’s heels — were self-determined, not at all media-mandated (although I should note that at this point, Japanese consumer society was not mature enough to target such a small market segment.)

Meanwhile in Tokyo, the yankii-related Takenoko-zoku street dancers and ’50s-inspired Rollers were generally high-school dropouts engaged in smoking (gasp!), lighting firecrackers (gasp! gasp!), and other hankou (反抗), but opposed to the yankii, their culture depended upon a small consumer market tailoring to their explicit needs. This symbiotic relationship between rebellion and consumerism resembled the early Carnaby Street of ’60s London.

The late ’80s meanwhile saw the rise of the Chiimaa — car-based roving gangs of youth who terrorized Shibuya. Interestingly, however, these kids were generally furyou (no-good’ers) from wealthy Setagaya-ku families, and they invented their own sloppy casual style based on a mix of American-style preppie look (think loafers) and L.A. gang style. Their wealthy girlfriends were semi-dropouts from private high schools like Keio, who also developed their own rebellious alterations of school uniforms. But instead of lengthening skirts like yankii girls, they shortened them. The media eventually christened them “kogyaru,” soon famous in the Shukan Post for their rough language and brazen sexuality.

Since the kogyaru spawned at a time when fashion became subcultural, magazines such as Egg and Cawaii! moved in to codify the look and make it into a market. The first kogyaru were from elite families, but the fashion’s rebellious edge became very attractive to lumpen lower middle-class kids looking for an escape. By the mid-1990s, Shibuya was like a female-run Haight-Ashbury, littered with middle-school runaways, grotesque fashion witches (“the Yamamba”), and teenage kogyaru with babies called “yan-mama” (“yan” coming from “yankii”). When news of the kogyaru’s schoolgirl prostitution (enjo-kousai) hit the national consciousness, the first response approached the problem like an extension of classless consumerism instead of lower-class teenage delinquency — “This could be anyone’s daughter!” Perhaps this was true, but when a delinquent subculture had fully become a consumer lifestyle — sexual mores and all — no one knew whether to blame a certain group (like with past youth problems) or advocate society-wide campaigns (“Talk with your kids about compensated dating before your husband’s coworker does!”)

These days, the kogyaru fashion boom is over [Ed. — 2003 was a nadir, but gyaru culture came back strongly a few years later), but the look remains preserved within a small delinquent subculture. They still retain the organs of a consumer lifestyle — stores, magazines, clubs — but a comparison of Egg to Cutie instantly reveals that these are not just different exterior fashions chosen by similar girls, but radically different life-orientations. Egg casually talks about the best way to have sex in a car, while you can even barely find reference to boys in Spring.

Within the delinquent groups, the value system tends towards celebrating “authentic” behavior as a way to show solidarity with the other members. These groups do have a certain political content in so much as they are dropping off the accepted middle-class path. Where Japan differs from the West, however, is that it has never had a large-scale Bohemian-type middle-class, educated artistic subculture like the Hippies or even something like slackers. In an orthopraxical society, there’s no God to justify “dropping out” — deviants don’t leave, they’re forced out, or catch on early that their future opportunities are nil. If the only condoned path to success is an upper middle-class one requiring constant study and delayed gratification, those who don’t fit the mold unsurprisingly choose to make their own reward structures and cultural systems.

The rising number of friitaa could possibly be a sign that those involved with consumer lifestyles have attached a political content to their fashion and cannot easily give up their subcultural affiliation to join the workforce and adult society. We’ve seen that “real” subcultures can become commodified, but can “artificial” subcultures learn how to drop out of society?

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

40 Responses

  1. Rrose Selavy Says:

    nice article David. I work in the fashion industry and have many friends who are stylists here. I know many famous designers who always ask me to take them to Harajuku for inspiration when visiting Tokyo.

    At first glance many of these Harajuku kids seem so amazingly styled to my friends, but their styles are WIDE not DEEP. There are only a few different looks being recycled over and over.

    While the names you mentioned are slightly outdated, (they are being replaced by the new breed, ex: N Hoolywood and about 1000 Dior copies) The atitude remains the same, about 95% of these styles are completely dictated by the magazines.

    Although, there are some amazing, creative designers Ive discovered here, that Harajuku attitude spreads into the so called “High Fashion” brands/areas here as well.

    Ahh, maybe im getting old, I was complaining about the same thing about a week ago in NYC about the east village.

    Japan is still a strange/wonderful place.

  2. mmm Says:

    Would you consider the ヤマンバ, (or is it now just マンバ ) style a delinquent subculture or a consumer lifestyle?

    What about our friend the ヤンキー?

    Whether you like either style or not, they both seem to be a (post)modern Japanese take on “working-class teenage defiance”. ヤンキーdom doesn’t stop at motherhood. If it did we wouldn’t have such lovely words as ヤンまま and ヤンぱぱ.

  3. marxy Says:

    I talk about the yankiii in the essay: I think they were clearly a deviant subcutlure when they first came out, but the look now is a codified set of fashions stored in the media world. I don’t, however, think that magazines are specifically directing yankii style, even in a time when groups like Kishidan are selling yankii cool to kids.

    I think the yamanba were a good mix between the two: a defiant version of a consumer subculture. I think the girls from good families who were kogyaru could wipe off the makeup and go home to a certain degree, where the yamanba were so off the chart that there was a certain dedication inherent in their look.

    I don’t know why the Yanmama would be a “postmodern” take seeing that one of the boundaries I’m setting for “consumer lifestyle” vs. “teenage delinquency” is whether these styles are abandoned at adulthood. For the yanmama, being a yankii/kogyaru is perceived to be a life-long interest – there’s no re-emergence within straight society. There is a “depth” to the fashion.

  4. Chris_B Says:

    Thanks indeed marxy. While I’ve certainly looked down my nose on the local punk kids for purchasing 60,000 pre-studded/logo’d/torn motorcycle jackets (and never having been beaten down for being punk), Rose makes an interesting point which I have meandered around before. Every time the members of a “sub culture” grow up, they look down on the new kids for not “keeping it real”. Its funny really.

    What I always wonder about though in regards to local youth sub tribes is how small the home grown elements seem in regards to the grafted imported elements. From what little experience I have on the matter, it looks like the last of the “authentic” home growns was the first round and after that the imported elements essentially took over. Or perhaps the hybrids are just that much more visible by force of numbers and marketing ¥.

    I suspect the unseen hand of market forces in this area. As has been discussed here before, the fasion soviet has become increasingly skilled at dictating the purchasing habits of the youth cultures. I also suspect this parallels the marketing forces in the west being quicker to tune in to the voice of the street and channel it to the mall. I dont think there is a copycat aspect, I’m beginning to twig on this as a new standard of business which may operate according to the same standards but with different methods.

    If indeed it is a basic concept of marketing rebellion/difference to cycles of youth, then it follows naturally that the kids who came after the yankii needed different product to consume to differentiate their style. Each successive generation would follow the same path. As for the accellerated splintering of sub-trends (as seen here and in the west) it looks like the same market cycle operating along different lines. It wouldnt surpise me at all if the varying genres of fasion manual magazines were in fact all published by the same company and all reported to the same group of editors and were linked to clothing/music marketing companies arranged upon similar lines.

    All this is just casual observation, not an assertion of fact nor am I pretending to hold an expert opinion on the matter. I know mr momus will quicky chime in with one of his “japan is the supreme pPomMo market/culture” chestnuts but I’d hope to avoid that myself.

  5. mmm@mmm.com Says:

    My apologies, I did not see that the essay continued past the fourth paragraph! I just did not want you to get away with not mentioning my two favorite and most often encountered “subcultures”, the yamamba and the yankii. Both seems to have an “authenticity”, or in the least dedication, about them that gives them depth.

    It is hard to do otherwise and I can’t really think of another way to do it, but it seems a little artificial to divide between delinquent subcultures and consumer lifestyles. Consumerism is delinquency.

  6. Josh Says:

    Fascinating post. I have nothing to contribute, just wanted to give props.

  7. Momus Says:

    I’d just like to say that I know it’s tempting to say that some styles, countries, bands, etc are “more postmodern” than others (I do this myself), but I think it’s better to take the position that postmodernism is simply the name of the cultural period all advanced consumer societies are currently in, and have been in since before all of us commenting here were born. Everything is therefore equally “postmodern”. Alex Kerr’s recreation of a “traditional” Japanese house is just as postmodern as the Shinjuku town hall he deplores. Oasis is just as postmodern as Tricky. It’s not a matter of choice.

  8. Momus Says:

    In the light of that, I don’t really understand the logic of this:

    “I don’t know why the Yanmama would be a “postmodern” take seeing that one of the boundaries I’m setting for “consumer lifestyle” vs. “teenage delinquency” is whether these styles are abandoned at adulthood.”

  9. dzima Says:

    You could have mentioned “Bounce Kogyaru” as a snapshot of all that era in the mid 90’s. Also (since you seem to be interested in how the Yakuza influences Japanese society from behind the curtains), the Yakuza was highly displeased with the way the kogyaru were stealing their paid-sex and other activities customers. What do you make of the fact that the main character in the film was trying to run away from Japan to… America?

  10. Chris_B Says:

    mr. momus: I knew you couldnt post here without using the p word. Please provide a citation for Alex Kerr deploring the Shinjuku town hall. I simply cant remember reading that comment in his texts.

  11. Momus Says:

    The book’s obviously not online, but here are two customer reviews on Amazon referring to Kerr’s take on the Tokyo town hall:

    “From the problem with Cedar plantations to city and towns with expensive and useless town halls and museumsm he details in each chapter one aspect of a land with a termial illness.”

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0809039435/ref=cm_rev_next/102-0778600-7313746?%5Fencoding=UTF8&customer-reviews.sort%5Fby=-SubmissionDate&n=283155&customer-reviews.start=11&me=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    “He complains about the ugly new train station in Kyoto and the monumental buildings of the Shinjuku government center.”

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0809039435/ref=cm_rev_next/102-0778600-7313746?%5Fencoding=UTF8&customer-reviews.sort%5Fby=-SubmissionDate&n=283155&customer-reviews.start=61&me=ATVPDKIKX0DER

  12. Momus Says:

    (The new train station in Kyoto is fantastic, by the way.)

  13. Momus Says:

    (By the way, I’m going to adapt that mistype about “a land with a termial illness” as a refrain. For instance, I shall say “From truck stops to bank lobbies, Henry Miller in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare documents the decline of 20th century America, a land with a termial illness.”)

  14. Momus Says:

    “From Disneyland to the Jerry Springer show, Martin Amis in The Moronic Inferno documents a land with a termial illness.” Or how about “From cherry blossom-filled bicycle rides to trips to the Aichi Expo, Marxy in Neomarxisme documents a land with a termial illness.”

  15. marxy Says:

    I’d just like to say that I know it’s tempting to say that some styles, countries, bands, etc are “more postmodern” than others (I do this myself), but I think it’s better to take the position that postmodernism is simply the name of the cultural period all advanced consumer societies are currently in

    This is an odd point in time to bring this idea up, Mr. Let-Us-Argue-Incessantly-About-Japan-Being-the-Most-Postmodern-of-All-Possible-Worlds.

    However, I do think you agree that there are “symptoms of PM,” one of which is “a collapse between surface and depth.” I’m defining depth here as “political content,” and a refusal to join the adult ranks (therefore, society) in Japan is a political action. The consumer lifestyles generally do not have this political content – the commodification and cooptation of political cultures is very symptomatic of postmodernism – but these delinquent subcultures do, which makes them still believe in “depth” which makes them harder to “flatten.”

    We can talk about this without using the word p—m-d-r—m but there seems to be a point about “Japanese” depthlessness makes Japan the “Most Postmodern Nation.”

  16. marxy Says:

    Consumerism is delinquency.

    I think this is catchy, but ultimately inaccurate. Consumerism is like breathing at this point, and as Gary Cross points out in An All-Consuming Century, if anything “won” the 20th century, it was not democracy or capitalism, but consumerism.

    I will say that the nation’s top elite students are relatively uninterested in fashion – at least my school is pretty sorry on the trendy scale – but to say that modern Japanese society views consumption as “delinquency” is overreaching.

    Old-school Confucianism held all economic activity as base, and the Japanese government has always encouraged postal saving (to fill the coffers of the Ministry of Finance), but since Ford, capitalist societies have welcomed workers to consume in order to keep markets moving. Japan would he a lot happier if people were consuming more at this point – it would sure help growth.

  17. Momus Says:

    I think we need some notion of reluctance or enthusiasm here, or some notion of vocational pomo as opposed to a pomo embraced belatedly and against the grain. For instance, Bin Laden’s intervention on 9/11 was very much part of “the society of spectacle” (as are his TV shows, audio tapes, etc). But he would probably say (wrongly) that his mission stands outside of pomo and is a reaction against “the society of spectacle”, and that he merely uses spectacle (in fact, the most spectacular event of the last decade) to communicate.

    Similarly, to use my 90s pop example, Tricky seems to delight in pomo production tricks whereas Oasis prefer to make retro references. So although both are pomo, one is enthusiastically, progressively and passionately so, the other reluctantly, conservatively and passively so.

    Historical reasons, like the emphasis on form and surface, equip Japan to embrace pomo with enthusiasm, therefore ensuring the nation a progressive flow through postmodernity.

    I differ with you on two points:

    1. I don’t think that political content anywhere in the world right now has depth in the way you describe. I think it’s all “spectacularism” of one sort or another.

    2. I don’t think anyone can or does opt out of Japanese society. Whereas someone like Margaret Thatcher said “There is no such thing as society” and Western social democratic politicians talk about “social exclusion” as if shitty lifestyles, unemployment, homelessness etc are somehow not part of social reality too, I think the Japanese have a good understanding of the reality that there is no human life possible that is not social, and no social life possible that is not human. That may be why the Japanese homeless, for instance, are so industrious. Being homeless is a job too. In Japan, “tune in, turn on, drop out” rings even more hollow than it does in the West.

  18. marxy Says:

    I don’t think anyone can or does opt out of Japanese society

    Where do we draw the lines of “society”? As far as the Japanese media’s concerned, Japanese society is only the middle-classes. Certainly, there’s a lower-class world inhabited by people with their own culture, values, activities, relations, and vocations. The Japanese consciousness – heavily influenced by the media – tends to ignore anything rejecting the mass values, so I wouldn’t be so eager to say that the Japanese embrace anyone “outside the system” as part of society. I see your point, but as always, I think a more nuanced approach would get at the most accurate answer.

  19. Momus Says:

    I wouldn’t recommend using what the media report as any part of the definition of society whatsoever.

  20. marxy Says:

    I wouldn’t recommend using what the media report as any part of the definition of society whatsoever.

    Yes, but I would hardly take it out of consideration when talking about “perceptions of society” not “definite” meanings of society. The media have a large role in creating/suppressing class consciousness.

  21. Chris_B Says:

    I dont have boots tall enough to wade through the bullshit here, but I’ll stick to the facts and point out that mr. momus got it wrong once again. Those amazon reviews you pointed to refer to the Tokyo Tocho government buildings, not the Shinjuku Kuyakusho. Are you really such a lightweight or were you hoping to pull the woll over the heads of your readers? Perhaps you have not even read the texts you villefy?

    Mr. momus’s bashing targets and modes of doing so are as predictable as his insistance on diverting every thread off into his personal philosophy. I’m beginning to wonder if he isnt just a bot and if he isnt, if I could write one that would serve here just as well.

    marxy: indeed more consumerism is what the ministries want and have been trying to plan out for years now. Rampant consumerism at best creates jobs or at least may help prevent manufacturing jobs from dissapearing. The current plan to increase exports of media content products (perhaps this is a pale shadow of the “Cool Britania” plan?) as a method to move from manufacturing to services is a slippery one. Not as many jobs are created by increasing media content production or even reshaping back catalog for overseas licensing (from what I hear on this one, all the legal services work is generally offshored to the target market anyway). It may work as a stopgap measure until the local markets recover enough to buy more stuff, but I cant see it working as a longer term plan. This comes back to a central question here, how does an industrial/manufacturing based economy transition to services or create a good balance when manufacturing no longer serves its intended purpose?

  22. Momus Says:

    I agree if you’re saying that people are always just playing with perceptions of being outsiders. This is actually a theme Malcolm McLaren is very strong on: fashion and delinquency play an eternal pas de deux with each other. This year’s “outsider” is next year’s “rebel without a cause”, this year’s “delinquent” next year’s “role model”. None of this happens “outside”, it’s all a perfectly social negotiation.

    Where Japan differs from the West, however, is that it has never had a large-scale Bohemian-type middle-class, educated artistic subculture like the Hippies or even something like Slackers. In an orthopraxical society, there’s no God to justify “dropping out” – deviants don’t leave, they’re forced out

    This is where I think your argument goes wrong. Japan has had artistic types, or people trying experimental new ways of living. Groups of writers, painters, students, musicians, intellectuals, radicals… all that exists and has existed in Japan. I think the difference is that these people haven’t been tempted to project themselves into some imaginary space “outside society”, as Romanticism and Christianity have encouraged Western bohemians to do. And, look, the very fact that we can name the traditions inside the culture which people use to portray themselves as outside the culture shows what a hollow sham that is.

  23. r. Says:

    These kids are rebelling, but they aren’t aware of it, and unfortunately, the only thing they are rebelling against anyway is their right to refuse the (in Nick’s words) “the masochistic triumph of the capitalist creative” as they are “falling in love with the great machine even as it cuts the death sentence into the flesh of [their] back[s]”

  24. Momus Says:

    Chris, are you wearing your bullshit boots? Good. Then go here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Metropolitan_Government_Building

  25. marxy Says:

    Groups of writers, painters, students, musicians, intellectuals, radicals… all that exists and has existed in Japan. I think the difference is that these people haven’t been tempted to project themselves into some imaginary space “outside society”

    Yes, but they’ve also had way less influence on society than the Romantics, the Christians, and the Hippies did on the West. We orthodoxical society members tend to understand and respect those working outside the system, whereas the Japanese dismiss anybody that doesn’t color within the lines. Maybe “dropping out” is a fallacy, but it’s an attractive one and often influences “proper society.”

  26. Chris_B Says:

    Did nick make a reference to Kafka in regards to the life of Japanese workers? How cute! I think I used that same text in a song 20 years ago, not that it counts for anything.

  27. Chris_B Says:

    sorry mr. momus, you got the links right but if you are trying to say that the Tocho houses the shinjuku city government you are still wrong. The kuyakusho can be found here http://www.city.shinjuku.tokyo.jp/ Its located at the edge of Kabukicho while the Tocho is in western Shinjuku.

  28. Momus Says:

    Do you have anything to say about which building Alex Kerr disapproves of, Chris?

  29. Momus Says:

    (Okay, cross post. Apology accepted.)

  30. Chris_B Says:

    My copy of Dogs & Demons is on load to a co-worker right now, but as I recall, it was the Tocho building. The kuyakusho is really pretty much nothing to look at except for the statue and fountain outside.

  31. Momus Says:

    Did nick make a reference to Kafka in regards to the life of Japanese workers? How cute! I think I used that same text in a song 20 years ago, not that it counts for anything.

    You really need to get some sleep, Chris — that was Robert’s post.

  32. Chris_B Says:

    pardon me I read it as a continuation of your quote, the salaryman life has taken its toll.

  33. Momus Says:

    (Okay, but he was quoting me quoting Kafka, fair ’nuff, my turn to apologise.)

  34. marxy Says:

    We’d all save so much blogging time if we would read others’ posts carefully before responding. Efficiency, people!

  35. mmm Says:

    “…I think it’s better to take the position that postmodernism is simply the name of the cultural period all advanced consumer societies are currently in, and have been in since before all of us commenting here were born.”

    I totally agree. When I first mentioned “(post)modernism” in my previous post this is what I had meant. I did not know that the term was so disliked here.

    But I have to disagree that a “tune in, turn on, drop out” idea would ring hollow in Japan. Taoism, which is very “in/on/out” had a major impact of Chan/Zen buddhism, which in effect had a major effect on art and literature and eventually lead to the 私小説, shishousetsu, or “I-novel”. Dropping out of society to glance at society and oneself is a major idea in the shishousetsu. It is different from the Western idea of the autobiography in that it does not mark one’s journey into society but one’s journey out of it.

  36. Momus Says:

    They’re “fogey retro-modernists”, mmm. Which is, in itself, terribly postmodern. You know, like Wallpaper magazine raving about Mies Van Der Rohe.

  37. Momus Says:

    I suppose this inside / outside argument is getting a bit semantic. We seem to be approaching a paradox not unlike Max Weber’s idea of “worldly asceticism”.

  38. marxy Says:

    They’re “fogey retro-modernists”

    The I-novelists? They’re dead and buried and on Japanese currency.

  39. mmm Says:

    They’re dead and buried…

    So is Timothy Leary.

  40. Ana Droid Says:

    I think it is possible for an “atrificial subculture” to drop out of society…

    I mean, I want to vomit when I see Harajuku in the high school set here…
    and you know what I mean
    the type of kids who go to the mall to buy clothes for a “bohemian summer”, but have no concept of what it once was to be bohemian…or in this case no concept of Harajuku (etc) styles.
    In a way though-the originators of the Harajuku styles are similar to these kids, as it seems to be more a look than a lifestyle to them.Or a very manufactured lifestyle.Temporary.
    For many, I guess it must be a lifestyle that ends when it’s time to get in to a good school…while in North America people who adopt styles at a young age don’t always drop them in adulthood-the style becomes a permanent fixture in their lives.

    But I think that in the back and foward trade of fashion trends
    somewhere along the way
    creativity comes in.

    Say a kid somehwere in America, with not a lot of disposable income sees this stuff on tv…and tries to adopt the style.
    Not having the resources to obtain the actual Japanese designs,
    (s)he will probably try the best to emulate it through whichever means possible-thrift stores,costumizations …whatever.There’s a hands on approach which is individualistic-
    the creation
    even if they are all trying to emulate the same look.

    I say in these cases an “artificial” subculture can end up serindipitously dropping out of society.