A kogal can be identified by her loose socks and shortened skirt.

Kogal (コギャル Kogyaru?) is a fashion that involves wearing an outfit based on a Japanese school uniform, but with a shortened skirt, loose socks, and often dyed hair and a scarf as well. The phenomenon was prominent in the 1990s, but has since declined. The word "kogal" is anglicized from kogyaru, a contraction of kôkôsei gyaru (high school gal). The girls refer to themselves as gyaru (gals), although this word is applied to several other fashion looks as well.

Aside from the pinned-up skirt and the loose socks, or rusu sokusu, kogals favor platform boots, makeup, and Burberry scarves. They may also dye their hair brown and get artificial suntans. They have a distinctive slang peppered with English words. They are often, but not necessarily, enrolled students. Centers of kogal culture include the Harajuku and Shibuya districts of Tokyo, in particular Shibuya's 109 Building. J-pop singer Namie Amuro promoted the style. Kogals are avid users of photo booths, with most visiting a least once a week, according to non-scientific polls.[1] While critics condemned the gyaru as shallow, materialistic, and devoted to conspicuous consumption, admirers describe them as, "kindhearted, active young women in exuberant health, the women of today."[2]


The word "kogal" is anglicized from コギャル (kogyaru?), a contraction of 高校生ギャル (kôkôsei gyaru?) (high school gal).[3] It originated as a code used by disco bouncers to distinguish adults from minors.[3] The term is not used by the girls it refers to. They call themselves ギャル (gyaru?), a Japanese pronunciation of the English word "gal."[3] The term gyaru was first popularized in 1972 by a television ad for a brand of jeans.[4] In the 1980s, a gyaru was a fashionably dressed woman.[4] When written 子, ko means "young woman," so kogyaru is sometimes understood in the sense of "young gal."[5] However, if this was the meaning originally intended, 若いギャル (wakai gyaru?) (young gal) would be more logical.


This student is both a kogal (in a sexualized uniform) and a ganguro (in blackface makeup).


Kogals have been accused of conspicuous consumption, living off their parents and enjo-kōsai (amateur prostitution/commonly dating service). Critics decry their materialism as reflecting a larger psychological or spiritual emptiness in modern Japanese life. Some kogals support their lifestyle with allowances from wealthy parents, living a "parasite single" existence that grates against traditional principles of duty and industry. "The modern school girls' uniform, embellished with loose socks and a cellular phone, has come to be perceived as the dress code for promiscuity, easiness, greed, and stupidity," according to one commentator.[6]

Others have charged that the kogal phenomenon is less about the girls and their fashions than a media practice to fetishize school uniforms and blame those required to wear them.[7] "I wish that I were in high school at a different time," said one schoolgirl. "Now, with kogal being such an issue in Japan, nobody can see me for me. They only see me as kogal, like the ones they see on TV."[6] As for the accusation of conspicuous consumption, careful gal shoppers may know a thing or two about fashion that the male journalists and movie directors who accuse them do not. For every high-priced brand-name accessory, there is an off-brand version that goes for a fraction of the price. These are sold at stalls in back-alley markets like ura Harajuku.[8]


Kogals were far from the first generation of Japanese girls who oya o nakaseru (made their parents weep) and inspired salacious media exposés. The daraku jogakusei (degenerate schoolgirls) of the early 1900s violated taboos against dating, while the moga, or modern girl, of the 1920s, adopted Western fashions. The hard-partying "Mambo girl" arose in the late 1950s.

File:School girls in japan.jpg

These schoolgirls wear the regulation version of their uniform.

Japanese fashion began to divide by age in the 1970s with the appearance of gyaru magazines aimed at teens. Popteen, the most widely read of these magazines, has been publishing monthly since 1980. While mainstream fashion in the 1980s and early 1990s emphasized girlish and cute (kawaii), gyaru publications promoted a sexy aesthetic.[9] Top gyaru magazines, including Popteen, Street Jam and Happie, were produced by editors previously involved in creating pornography for men.[9]

Also in the 1980s, a male-and-female motorcycle-oriented slacker culture emerged in the form of the "Yankiis". The original kogals were dropouts from private school who, instead of lengthening their skirts like androgynous Yankii girls, created a new form of teen rebellion by shortening them.[10] These middle school dropouts were thus taking their cues from high school students and attempting justify their independence by looking and acting older. The gals added their own touches like loose socks and a cellular phone. Amateurs can create fashion in Japan by dressing up and hanging around places like Harajuku and Shibuya, where magazine photographers may take their pictures.[11]

The 1993 television special Za kogyaru naito (The Kogal Night) introduced the kogal to a mass audience and provided a model for aspiring kogals to follow.[3] Platform shoes were popularized by singer Namie Amuro in 1994.[12] Egg, a fashion magazine for kogals, was established in 1995.

In the mid-1990s, the Japanese media gave a great deal of attention to the phenomenon of enjo-kōsai (amateur prostitution) supposedly engaged in by bored housewives and high school students, thus linking kogals to prostitutes.[7] The movie Baunsu ko gaurusu (Bounce Kogal) (1997) by Masato Harada depicts kogals prostituting themselves to buy trendy fashion accessories.[13]

Kogal culture peaked in 1998. Kogals were then displaced by ganguro, a gal culture that first appeared in 1999 and used blackface makeup (as opposed to tanning). The deliberate ugliness of the look may reflect a desire to discourage chikan (subway perverts) and men seeking enjo-kōsai. Ganguro evolved into an even more extreme look called yamanba (mountain hag). As looks grew more extreme, fewer girls were attracted to gal culture. Although there are still female students who sexualize their uniforms, the kogal is no longer a focus of fashion or media attention.

Gal fashion recently reemerged in the form of the skin-whitening shiro gyaru, associated with Popteen.[14] The hime gyaru (literally "lady gal," also translated as "princess girl") first appeared in 2008 and wears a print dress and sports curly brown hair.[14][15]


Gal with a tan.


Kogals are identified primarily by looks, but their speech, called コギャル語 (kogyarugo?), is also distinctive.[3] Her boyfriend is an イケ面 (ikemen?) (cool dude) who is naturally 超かわいい (chou-kawaii?) (totally cute).[3] She, meanwhile, will gyaru-yatte (do the gal thing) by buying her gyaru-fuku (gal clothes) at a gyaru-kei shoppu (gal-style shop) thereby gyaru-do appu no tame ni (increasing her degree of galness), unless of course she simply cannot find anything that isn't 超マジでむかつく (chou maji de mukatsuku?)(real super nauseating).[3] In a land obsessed with self-sacrifice and group identity, the gals proclaim, biba jibun (long live the self).[3]

Gals words are often created by contracting Japanese phrases or by literal translation of an English phrase, i.e. without reordering to follow Japanese syntax.[16] Gal words may also be created by adding the suffix -ingu (from English "-ing") to verbs, for example ゲッティング (gettingu?)(getting).[16] Roman script abbreviations are popular, for example "MM" stands for maji de mukatsuku (really disgusting). "MK5" stands for マジでキレる5秒前 (maji de kireru 5 byoumae?), meaning "on the verge of [lit. five seconds away from] going ballistic."[16] Another feature of gal speech is the suffix -ra, meaning "like" or "learned from," as in アムラー (Amura?) (like singer Namie Amuro).[16]


Kogals appear in the movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).

The Ribon manga Gals! chronicles the life and times of Ran Kotobuki, "the greatest gal in Shibuya.“ Published 1999-2002. It spawned a 52-episode Japanese/English dubbed anime series named "Super GALS! Ran Kotobuki".

Episode six in the third season of BBC's Japanorama documentary series covers kogal, ganguro (blackface), and yamanba (extreme blackface) "bad girl" culture.

A Japanese drama titled Gal Circle prominently features gals.

Usamaru Furuya - "Short Cuts (manga)" (1998-99).

See also


  1. Laura Miller, Jan Bardsle, Bad Girls of Japan, p. 130.
  2. "のぶかつの部活動 since 1970"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Miller, Laura, "Those Naughty Teenage Girls: Japanese Kogals, Slang, and Media Assessments", Journal of Linguistic Anthropology: Volume 14: Number 2 (2004).
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Shiro Gal (Light Skin Gal)"
  5. "Osaka - Japan"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sky Whitehead, "K is for Kogal"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kinsella, Sharon, "What's Behind the Fetishism of Japanese School Uniforms?", Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, Volume 6, Number 2, May 2002 , pp. 215-237(23)
  8. Miller, Laura, "Youth Fashion and changing beautification practices," Japan's Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society edited by Gordon Mathews, Bruce White, p. 91. ISBN 0415322278.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kinsella, Sharon, "Black faces, witches and racism", Bad Girls of Japan, edited by Laura Miller, Jan Bardsley, p. 146.
  10. "The Misanthropology of Late-Stage Kogal"
  11. Evers, Izumi, Patrick Macias, (2007) Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook, p. 11. ISBN 0811856909.
  12. Miller, Laura, "Youth Fashion and changing beautification practices," Japan's Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society edited by Gordon Mathews, Bruce White, p. 89.
  13. Nix, "Bounce ko Gal aka Leaving (1997) Movie Review"
    "Bounce KoGALS (1997)"
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Gyaru Resurgence", Mekas
  15. "Japan's Latest Fashion Has Women Playing Princess for a Day", Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2008.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 "コギャル語&ギャル語辞典"

Further reading

External links

it:Kogal ru:Когяру

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