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Kawaii Fashion & Clothing History

Apr 12

In Japan, the culture of cuteness is known as kawaii. It may apply to both people and non-humans who are charming, fragile, bashful, and infantile. Cute handwriting, particular manga genres, and characters such as Hello Kitty and Pikachu are all examples.

The cuteness culture, also known as the kawaii aesthetic, has become an important part of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothes, cuisine, toys, personal appearance, and mannerisms, as is Kawaii clothing and other K-pop cultural trends.

Definition of Kawaii

The term kawaii first appeared in Lady Murasaki's 11th century classic The Tale of Genji, where it alluded to pitiable traits. Women started to be included under the word kawaii during the Shogunate era under the philosophy of neo-Confucianism as the idea of women as animalistic was replaced with the image of women being docile.

In addition to the usual meanings of "adorable" and "pitiable," forms of kawaii and its derivatives kawaii and kawairashii are used in current dialects to imply "embarrassing/embarrassed, shameful/ashamed" or "good, lovely, fine, outstanding, superb, magnificent, admirable."

Kawaii Handwriting

The popularity of the kawaii aesthetic spawned a literary style in the 1970s. Many young ladies used this handwriting style, which was created by writing laterally, typically with mechanical pencils. In contrast to conventional Japanese writing, which varied in thickness and was vertical, these pencils created incredibly thin lines. The females also used large, round characters and added little graphics to their writing, such as hearts, stars, emoticon faces, and Latin alphabet letters.

The graphics made it difficult to understand the words. As a consequence, this writing style sparked much debate and was outlawed in several schools. During the 1980s, however, this new "cute" language was embraced by periodicals and comics and was often used on product packaging and advertising, particularly for toys for children or "cute accessories."

Kazuma Yamane investigated the evolution of adorable handwriting (which he named Anomalous Female Teenage Handwriting) in detail from 1984 to 1986. Although it was widely assumed that teens took up the writing style from comic books, Kazuma discovered that teenagers came up with the style on their own, spontaneously, as a 'underground fad.' His conclusion was based on the fact that the availability of technological tools for generating rounded writing in comics precedes the availability of charming handwriting.

Kawaii Merchandise & Fashion

According to Tomoyuki Sugiyama, author of Cool Japan, charming fashion in Japan dates back to the Edo era, with the popularity of netsuke. From the 1950s until the 1970s, illustrator Rune Naito is credited with pioneering the culture and aesthetic of kawaii by creating images of "large-headed" (nitshin) baby-faced females and cartoon animals for Japanese girls' magazines.

As a result of this expanding demand, firms such as Sanrio released goods such as Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty was an instant hit, and the infatuation with cuteness spread to other sectors as well. Sanrio has lately produced cutesy characters with deeper personalities that appeal to a more mature audience, such as Gudetama and Aggretsuko. Fans are captivated by these characters' particular eccentricities as well as their adorable appearance, which has resulted in their high popularity. Cute idols such as Seiko Matsuda, who is often credited with popularizing the genre, rose to prominence in the 1980s. Women started to imitate Seiko Matsuda's charming dress style and mannerisms, which highlighted young girls' vulnerability and purity. Japanese females between the ages of 15 and 18 used to drive the market for attractive items in Japan.

Kawaii Fashion & Influence in Other Cultures

Kawaii items have gained appeal outside of Japan in other East and Southeast Asian nations in recent years, and are also growing increasingly popular in the United States among anime and manga enthusiasts, as well as those inspired by Japanese culture. Cute stuff and products are very popular in various regions of East Asia, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and South Korea, as well as Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Japanese kawaii seems to act as a center of worldwide appeal. This worldview seeks a worldwide market, resulting in a plethora of applications and interpretations in various cultures.

The spread of Japanese youth fashion, Lolita Fashion, and "kawaii culture" is frequently connected with Western society and trends produced by designers who have stolen or drawn inspiration from Japan. With the rise of China, South Korea, and Singapore as global economic powerhouses, the appeal of Kawaii apparel and products has switched back to the East. Depending on the target demographic, the kawaii notion takes diverse shapes and varied methods of presentation in these East Asian and Southeast Asian regions.