Genderless Kei - Japan’s Hot New Fashion Trend
One of the hottest Japanese fashion trends to watch for in 2016 is not a specific brand, type of clothing, or makeup look - it’s Genderless boys!
Genderless Kei (“kei” means “style”) blew up in the Japanese media after several top Genderless models appeared in the popular Tokyo Girls Collection 2015 Autumn/Winter fashion show. This new style tribe has been gaining popularity on the street - and social media - ever since.
Technically, the Genderless Kei boom applies to both men and women, but so far Genderless boys have been getting all of the attention.
What Does A Genderless Kei Boy Look Like?
These new Genderless Japanese boys incorporate male and female beauty techniques and fashion items to achieve an androgynous look. Styles vary greatly, but the popular idols of Genderless Kei so far are generally slim-bodied and cute-faced boys who dye their hair, wear makeup and colored contact lenses, nail polish, flashy clothing, and cute accessories. Genderless boys are not trying to pass as women - rather, they are rejecting traditional gender rules to create a new Genderless standard of beauty.
One important point about this new movement is that Genderless style is not related to sexuality. Most Genderless idols are straight, and even the ones who are gay are not necessarily dressing in Genderless Kei because they are gay. Rather, they may be gay men who also appreciate the Genderless aesthetic. Genderless Kei should generally be understood to be a fashion choice separate from sexuality.
Japanese Genderless Kei Idols
Genderless Kei is a relatively new fashion genre in Japan, so there are not too many well-known models in this space yet. However, the explosion in interest means that the first wave of Japanese Genderless idols have become popular quickly through constant media exposure. Here is a short introduction to a few of the most famous Japanese Genderless Kei models.
The most popular Genderless model in Japan right now is Genking, who first gained popularity on Instagram before crossing over to Japanese TV. His appearance with several other Genderless models at Tokyo Girls Collection in the fall of 2015 created a sensation that brought the Genderless movement into the Japanese mainstream. Genking is an out gay male who can pass as a woman, but he prefers to be known as Genderless. His style leans more traditionally femme than many of the other Genderless boys.
24-year-old Japanese model Yohdi Kondo is extremely popular with Harajuku-loving teen girls. Known for countless magazine features and fashion collaborations with teen-friendly trend brands like WEGO, Yohdi launched his singing career last year. Hailed by the media as “the male version of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu”, his most recent single is called “Pan” (as in Peter Pan)- a nod to his cute and innocent style. Yohdi is considered by many to be a leader of the Genderless Kei boom.
Toman is a member of the Japanese band XOX (Kiss Hug Kiss) and a popular model. He was originally inspired to adopt a Genderless style by Yohdi Kondo (the two are now good friends). Well-spoken and charismatic, Toman is often called on to explain and defend Genderless Kei on Japanese television. He commented on Genderless Kei in a recent ModelPress interview:
What we Genderless boys have in common is flamboyant hair, colored contacts, wearing ladies’ clothes and platform shoes. There’s also our sophisticated aesthetics and the fact that we wear makeup. However…it’s not that I think of myself as a “Genderless Boy.” Instead, I feel like maybe I am because that’s what people around me say I am. We each just wear the fashions we like, and just from that it spreads naturally.
I think that there are a whole lot more boys like me now, especially in Harajuku. We all just wear colored contacts as a normal thing, lots of boys wear makeup and do their nails, and I see lots of boys wearing platform shoes, too. When I was in Sendai, people looked at me, like, “What is this guy gay or something?” I think there are pros and cons to it, even today, but it’s become so widespread now that before long it’s going to be considered something totally normal - or that’s how I want to make it.
Harajuku Genderless Boys
In our recent article on the current state of Japanese street fashion, the top bullet point is the rise of “Kawaii Boys” on the streets of Harajuku. These Kawaii Boys are part of the larger Genderless Kei movement in Japan.
Ryucheru is the most popular of Harajuku’s Genderless Kawaii Boys. He first came to fame as the boyfriend of fast-rising Japanese model Peco, but has built his own fan base during his numerous television appearances. Ryucheru dresses in colorful clothing, wears makeup, and dyes his hair. His trademark item is his headband. Ryucheru’s high profile in the media makes him a style inspiration for other young Japanese men who want to try Genderless Kei.
Pey is another popular Genderless Kawaii Boy in Harajuku. He works at the WC boutique on Takeshita Street. Like Ryucheru (with whom he is friends), his style is bright and childlike, rather than feminine. The concept of the shop where Pey works is “a kawaii bedroom”, and this cute Genderless boy fits right in. Though not as popular as Ryucheru, Pey has a growing legion of (mostly female teen) fans.
Satoyupi is not famous, but we have seen him around the streets of Harajuku a few times recently. We are including him in this piece to show you what the non-famous kids who have gotten on board the Genderless Kei movement look like. His style is likely inspired by Ryucheru, Pey and possibly Yuutaro. These are the types of Genderless Kei-inspired street styles that we expect to see more of in the future.
In addition to the “Kawaii Boys” style, there are several well-known Harajuku models of different styles who are often included in the Genderless Kei movement by the Japanese media.
Yusuke Hida - more commonly known as Devil - has been a popular personality around the streets of Harajuku since at least 2013. The 21-year-old icon has a strong following with Japanese teen girls, as well as inspiring many young fashionable Japanese men. His style - which the Japanese media has lumped into Genderless Kei - has been compared by some to K-Pop style, but with a Japanese twist.
Shoshipoyo is a 20-year-old student at Japan’s most famous fashion school, Bunka Fashion College. He made a name for himself via countless Harajuku street snaps published in Japanese magazines and online. Shoshi has also worked at several avant-garde Tokyo boutiques including the famous Dog Harajuku. Shoshi’s futuristic social media-inspired style - which he calls “Neo Boy” - is unique among Japanese Genderless models.
Kanata works at the famous Harajuku “Kawaii Anarchy” boutique 6%DOKIDOKI. While his style may fit into Genderless Kei because of his use of flashy fashion, makeup, hair color, and nail polish, Kanata’s style is - like Shoshi’s - very unique and is not easy to fit into any single genre.
Sakupan came to fame as one of Devil’s good friends. His style, similar to Devil’s, has many labeling him as part of the Genderless boom as well.
Genderless or Just Very Kawaii?
There are a number of Harajuku models who the Japanese media sometimes groups into Genderless Kei that may be Genderless or may just be very kawaii in a not-traditionally-male way. Because Genderless Kei is a new categorization, there is some confusion about to whom exactly it applies. Some of the boys above could fit into the “are they Genderless or are they just kawaii” group, as well as the two models listed below.
P-Chan Tempura Kidz
P-Chan is the only male member of Tempura Kidz - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s backup dancers and a popular group in their own right. P-Chan is also a well-known Harajuku model and personality. We’ve seen him mentioned in Japanese articles on Genderless because of his fun, colorful, and cute style.
Yuutaro works as a charisma staff at the popular Harajuku resale boutique San To Nibun No Ichi. His look is cute and childlike, with lots of pastel colors. The legions of teen girls and boys who frequent the shop look to him for inspiration. Like a few of the other models listed here, he has been popular long before Genderless became a buzz word, but the Japanese media has decided that he fits the mold.
The Genderless Kei boom is very new in Japan. As more models join the movement, they’ll likely find new and exciting ways to experiment with fashion unbound by traditional gender rules. We also haven’t heard much from Genderless Kei women thus far - something that will hopefully change in the future.
It’s possible that Genderless Kei is just another fashion trend that will fade away one the initial interest is gone. But it could also be the beginning of a different way for people to look at the rules of fashion in Japan. Either way, it’s already proven itself one of the hottest Japanese fashion trends of 2015 and 2016.
If you’d like to know more about Genderless Kei, you can search for either “ジェンダーレス系” (Genderless Kei) or simply “ジェンダーレス” (Genderless) in Japanese on Google, Instagram, or Twitter.