Kogals (コギャル kogyaru,
lit. "small/child girl") are a subculture of girls and young women in urban
Japan, one of several types of so-called gals. They are characterized by
conspicuously displaying their disposable incomes through unique tastes in
fashion, music, and social activity. In general, the kogal "look" roughly
approximates a sun-tanned California Valley girl, and indeed, the
similarities between the two extend to the linguistic, for both subcultures
have derived entire sets of slang terms (コギャル語 "ko-gyaru-go"). Kogals are
not to be confused with the ganguro subculture, although they are similar.
(Picture - Two young Japanese ladies reading photographers
contracts they were just offered in the street outside
Kogals are known for wearing platform boots, a miniskirt, copious amounts of
makeup, hair coloring (usually blond), artificial suntans, and designer
accessories. If in school uniform, the look typically includes skirts pinned
very high and loose socks (large baggy socks that go up to the knee). Kogals'
busy social lives and desire for new material goods leads them to be among
the first consumers of Japanese cell phone technology, and their taste in
clothes tends toward names such as Burberry scarves and Louis Vuitton
handbags. Kogals spend much of their free time (and their father's income)
shopping, and their culture centers around the
Shibuya district of Tokyo, in
particular the 109 building, although any major Japanese city is sure to
have at least a small population. During the summer, kogals may sometimes be
seen at the beach. They are generally not seen in high-end department
Critics of the Kogal subculture decry its 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 "freeter"
or "parasite single" existence that grates against traditional principles of
duty and industry. A small minority appear in pornography to finance their
habits. More may engage in the practice of "compensated dating", or enjo
kōsai, which may at times border on quasi-legal prostitution. Internet-based
usage of this term has led some Western observers to the mistake of
believing that "kogal" means "prostitute".
The kogal phenomenon emerged in the mid-1990s and its effects can still be
seen today in its numerous off-shoots of sub-categories, although
conservative tastes in dress and hair color seem to be on the upswing.
Interestingly enough, the Gothic Lolita aesthetic has been described as a
reaction to the kogal look.
The term's etymology is disputed: the most common theory is that it was
derived from the Japanese word for "high school", kōkō (高校), although others
claim that it comes from ko (子), the Japanese word for "girl" or "child".
The "gal" originates from English.
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