Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Japanese Trends in Asia

A concern would be to question the theory that women of Southeast Asia are trying to become Japanese. A popular topic discussed these days is how Japanese women are trying to become American. Some foreigners and Japanese are disgusted by the bleaching of natural dark hair to emulate a western appearance. Has the possibility that they are simply trying new things and gaining a global taste for their appearance failed to cross anyone's mind? Jimabelle Parentez conveys her thoughts very well, "I'm proud of my Asian background. Sure I've dyed my hair red but that doesn't mean that I want to be white. That's probably the last thing I would want; I dyed my hair red because I think it looks good".

The situation may be similar for South East Asia. These women seem to be embracing Japanese fashion trends at a rapid pace. Does this make them inferior in that they can't enjoy their own culture's fashion? That would be a narrow-minded way of viewing it. To think that the masses of women living in South East Asia enjoying this kind of dress are only trying to be something they are not is likewise narrow-minded.

Another question raised is the ever-present comparison to America. If Southeast Asia can adopt Japanese fashion, what keeps America from doing so? It could be the fact that Asian countries are able to relate with one another more easily when it comes to pop culture. Another speculation is the habit of trends in America. Most trends are concrete. In other words, the trend may be one style of pants or one kind of hairstyle at any given time. The trends do not usually include a range as wide as that of the Japanese.

To clarify this point, take the following example that comes to mind. Let's say a Japanese girl dresses in hot pink leg warmers, a tiny skirt, carries around plastic toys, spikes out her hair, and wears shoes that make her twice her own height. That is supposedly considered a fashion statement in Japan. Yet, a girl wearing enormous cargo pants with huge patches sewn onto them, half her head shaved, and a neon fur coat is grouped under the same category as the girl in the pink leg warmers. America thrives on continuity, and the fashion world reflects that. If the trend is a certain scarf by a certain designer, everyone will wear that scarf. If the trend is a certain kind of pants, everyone will buy those pants in a certain color and wear them a certain way. If they were to adopt Japan's fashion all at once, all definition would be lost.

Looking at the clothing that is popular among teens in Japan, you can tell that no specific items are "Japanese". The entire outfit as a whole might resemble the eccentric fashion of this group but there is no one item for America to adopt that would enable the public to label this process as an adoption of Japanese fashion. This may be only one reason for the resistance of a full J-fashion invasion. In fact, some experts say that the circulation of trends has been happening for a while now, but it has gone largely unnoticed because these are not specific material trends. The vibe of carefree and creative dress is what the Japanese give off. There is no real way to identify that in another country, as it will always be molded to fit the needs of that culture's youth. So perhaps the Southeast Asian women are not exactly trying to be Japanese. Borrowing certain fashion ideas and finding some new confidence in a way of life is not necessarily a form of emulation. It should be thought of as trying new things and being international in the way of self-expression. People spend more time accusing cultures of copying Japan than they do looking at the process of cultural diffusion in its simplest form. People will always flock to something they admire, whether it is fashion of another country or of a friend. This should not be reported as a mass conformity, as it has been recently.

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