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Teens rebel by adopting eclectic Japanese style

Update: July, 13/2007 - 00:00

Teens rebel by adopting eclectic Japanese style


"We don’t care what other people think about us as long as we feel confident about ourselves."

Dressed to kill: Hoang Viet Nga in her Japanese-styled outfit. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

You just don’t know what it’s like being me" – the familiar war cry of most emerging teens. And youngsters in Viet Nam today are no exception, pursuing a means of self expression that will define themselves against those who came before.

In a predictable reaction against yesterday’s fashions, those born in the 1980s or 90s (dubbed 8X or 9X in Vietnamese) are throwing askance glances at their elder siblings Spice Girl wedge-heels and hip hop baggy pants.

Now the kids are eyeing up a different source for inspiration – Japan – where a new style called Harajuku is all the rage.

Harajuku is all about colour but it doesn’t really matter which colour. In fact, the more contrasting the better, as the key to Harajuku is ‘clash’, according to one university student.

"Colour co-ordinated outfits are a thing of the past" Minh Thu, 18, from Ha Noi Economics College enthuses. "It’s not unusual to dye your hair pink and blue, it’s new and cool".

But Harajuku isn’t just about dress sense, it’s an identity. Harajuku pubs and clubs and shops are mushrooming across Viet Nam’s major cities, with pockets of Harajuku guys and girls hanging out and showing off their styles, catered for by shops like Ha Noi’s Harajuku, Shark, Boo, Nute and Death.

No fashion would be complete without an icon and for Viet Nam’s 8x, 9x generations into Harajuku, it’s teen pop singer TP.

Often spotted HCM City’s Yoko bar, TP is famous for her barrel skirts over studded baggy trousers and armfuls of colourful wrist bands.

"I like singers who have a style of their own. TP is one of them", says one fan, Pham Diem, 17 from HCM City.

"We don’t care what other people think about us as long as we feel confident about ourselves", Diem says, adding "then we want to impress others".

But for those who really want to make a statement about how the young see the world today, followers of Cosplay seek to emanate favourite manga characters. And it’s not just about the clothes, as Cosplay fans also mimic the behaviour of their role models.

"We read a lot of Japanese manga cartoons when we were younger and we still obsess over them, especially characters such as Conan, Sailor Moon and Songoku", Cosplay fan Kim Linh, 17, from Ha Noi says.

But according to Linh, not just anyone can be a Cosplay fan. "If you don’t like Japanese cartoon characters, then you won’t be able to act like one and it’ll be a disaster", the teen warns.

One equally rebellious course the 8/9x generation have taken concerns brand names. Unlike older generations who’ll often wear a shirt more for the name than the cut, Linh and her friends are not bothered who produces their clothes.

"Clothes can be made in Viet Nam or China, as long as they fit well and look good we don’t care", Viet Nga, 25 from Ha Noi said.

Saying it like it is

But for youngsters today, finding a voice isn’t just about wearing new styles.

"Impressive outfits are not enough. If you aren’t in with on-line chatting language, you’re just a sucker", Linh Tu, 19 said.

For example, 8/9x kids are using "ngui iu" instead of "nguoi yeu" (boyfriend/girlfriend) or "bun cui" instead of "buon cuoi" (funny).

Despite complaints by teachers and parents about the careless use of the Vietnamese language by youngsters, nothing can stop the new ‘cool’ vocabulary from sweeping into their everyday conversion.

"It’s funny", Tu says, adding "but you know, we’re still serious in school. It’s just it’s our own style and it lets people know who we are". — VNS

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