Introduction to Subcultural Anthropology: Kogal

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 12, 2015 10:37am | Post a Comment
Even disregarding the sense having to do with bacteria, there are many definitions of "subculture." The longest that I've found is that of the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition:

A group within a society that has its own shared set of customs, attitudes, and values, often accompanied by jargon or slang. A subculture can be organized around a common activity, occupation, age, status, ethnic background, race, religion, or any other unifying social condition, but the term is often used to describe deviant groups, such as thieves and drug users. ( See counterculture.)

No one will ever be able to document every subculture, or even agree upon what they are. With this series I will examine subcultures primarily organized around two things, music and clothing. That way I can largely avoid the can of worms which are gangs. For gangs, both music and clothing are of considerable importance but the engagement in of criminal activity is assumed to be their raison d'être. Also, I don't want to provoke a bunch of angry, misspelled comments written in all caps. 

This week's subculture: Kogal


The kogal (コギャル) subculture arose in Japan in the 1980s and became widely known in the Japanese mainstream after the airing of a 1993 television special, ザ・. コギャル NIGHT ("the Kogal night"). The subculture were further featured in the fictional 1997 film バウンス ko GALS ("bounce Kogal") (1997) depicted Kogals turning to prostitution to fund their insatiable materialism. In reality, many Kogals were apparently engaged in "paid dating" although for the vast majority that means involves little more than accompanying a man to karaoke in exchange for money and drinks. 

Kogals remained an exclusively Japanese phenomenon although they are apparently featured in Quentin Tarantino's film Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). By the time of its release the Kogal had largely been supplanted by two offshoot subcultures, ガングロ (Ganguro) and ヤマンバ (Yamaba or "mountain hag").
"Kogal" in English, is derived from an Anglicized spelling of a contraction of kōkōsei gyaru meaning "high school gal." Most Kogals simply referred to themselves as gyaru (ギャル), meaning "gal." The word entered Japanese in 1972, with the launch of a brand of women's flared jeans of that name. The basis of the kogal costume is not bellbottoms, however, but the Japanese school uniform.

The Kogal's skirt was generally pinned up to shorten its length and the socks were worn loosely, often with platform boots. The kogal's hair was artificially lightened and the skin artificially darkened. A common flourish was a
Burberry scarf -- then as now a popular emblem of conspicuous consumption. 

Kogals didn't just have a look but a unique slang, known as "kogyarugo" (コギャル語), a jargon peppered heavily with words borrowed from English and acronyms like "MM" and "MK5" (the latter meaning that the speaker is on the verge of losing it).  The poster girl of Kogal style was singer 安室奈美恵 (Namie Amuro). The Kogal's natural range was the Harajuku and Shibuya shopping wards of Tokyo, in particular, the latter district's fashionable department store, 109. Their motto, if they had one, was  biba jibun "ビバ自分" or, "Viva the self!" 

Kogal style was promoted by the magazines ポップティーン (Popteen, launched in 1980), Street JamHappieエッグ (Egg, launched in 1995), and ランズキ (Ranzuki, launched in 1998). From 1992-2002 the manga ギャルズ! (Gals!) chronicled the exploits of a character whose claim was to be, "the greatest gal in Shibuya." As late as 2006, the drama ギャルサー (Gal Circle) revolved around a cast of Kogal characters.

(Source: Tokyo Fashion)


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Vive les minets - French Dandyism in the 1960s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2014 08:00pm | Post a Comment
As a fan of fashion, youth subculture, and the 1960s, at some point I was bound to be made aware of the French minet subculture. Obviously, since I'm writing about it, that momentous occasion has arrived at some point in my past. I can't remember when or where it occurred (the internet is a safe bet) but in the intervening years I've found very little about this stylish group. Compounding my frustration is the fact that what little that I have uncovered about minets is almost always written or recorded in French -- a language of which a month of skipping class at College les pins Castries did little to improve my command. The French Wikipedia (Wikipédia) is humorously blunt in its entry: un jeune homme vêtu à la mode, équivalent masculin de la minette. Last and least -- most of what has been written about minets in English is by writers discussing within the larger context of mod subculture -- a style tribe about which far too much is artlessly written and rehashed.

With that in mind, however, kindly allow me briefly add to the conversational clutter concerning mod, as its evolution is tied closely to that of the minet. Although today mod is often characterized as a mid-60s, working class subculture fueled by the holy trinity of amphetamines, scooters and soul music, it first appeared in the late 1950s when a largely middle class group of mostly Jewish teenagers with families in the clothing business and for whom the chosen drug was apparently coffee. Modernists, as they then to themselves referred, championed modern jazz over trad jazz (which was championed by the Acker Bilk-listening, bowler-hatted, beer-swilling, baggy sweater-and-duffle coated trads). Sharing their love of modern jazz were the beatniks, but their beardy, black, cultivated scruffiness was rejected in favor of the natty continental style associated with untouchable icons of French cool like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon

The caffeinated coffee bar scene had sprung up in the London's Soho area and attracted skiffle fans, rock 'n' rollers, beatniks, trads, mods, and more. There were venues like Les Enfants Terrible, Le Macabre, Le Kilt, and La Poubelle which catered to a caffeinated clientele of French au pairs, expats, children of diplomats, students, tourists, and the Francophile Modernists, who adopted the custom of smoking Gauloises, the French cut hair style and Shetland wool cardigans paired with brushed or quilted bluejeans, white socks, and loafers (either tasseled or penny -- with a genuine American cent piece, of course). The English exposed the French, in turn, to a better class of pop music. 

The mod's French cousin first appeared in Paris around 1962, often lurking around Le Drugstore which despite its name, was more akin to a department store. It was supposedly the only place in France where one could keep up with the English music scene through editions of the now defunct weekly, Melody Maker. Perhaps more importantly, it was also open later than other businesses. 

Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the American Ivy League look which had so distinguished him from his buttoned-up predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, proliferated on the campus of The American University of Paris. Madras or seersucker jackets were paired with pastel sweaters, oxford shirts, blue jeans, and shoes from English manufacturers like Church's and John Lobb. Suits, when worn, were snug and made of Harris Tweed, herringbone cheviot, hound's-tooth, or mohair. That same year Maurice Renoma opened his shop, Renoma, which was likely the first French boutique with the English-and-American-influenced minet aesthetic.

Seize millions de jeunes' mod expose

The Ivy League look was also influential on the mods over in the UK. In 1965, Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française were curious enough about mods to send a production crew to London where they filmed an episode of the series Seize millions de jeune, which aired in May. In October, the same series turned its sites to the minets. 

Seize millions de jeunes' minet expose

For mods, obscurity was prized and finding soul records that no one else had was rewarded with cultural capital. Americanophilia and Angolophila had long been present in French youth subcultures -- going back at least to the zazous of the swing era up to the yé-yés of the late 1950s (who were of course detested by the minets) and snobbery (ironically, since snobbishness is one of the stereotypes most commonly attributed to the French by Anglos) seems to have been less important. Not only did minets embrace mod groups like The Small Faces and The Who, but well-known British Invaders like The Moody Blues, The Pretty ThingsThe Spencer Davis Group, and The Yardbirds.

As with mods, the minets also championed American rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, and soul acts like Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett -- who were heard in Europe via anti-authoritarian British pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London (both of which launched offshore in 1964) and the English language Radio Luxembourg. However, whereas most mods seemed only to appreciate mostly black American music and style icons, the minets were embraced the sunshine pop of The Association, the baroque pop of The Left Banke, and the garage rock of The Shadows of Knight. Approval was also granted to rebellious figures like James Dean and -- after he starred in 1966's The Wild Angels -- Peter Fonda

In May 1966, the American magazine, LIFE, ran a piece titled "Face It! -- Revolution in Male Clothes," the sartorially subversive subjects of which profiled men in the UK, the US, and France. Five months later, the first song which acknowledged the existence of the minets topped the French pop charts, Jacques Dutronc's "Les play boys." First Nino Ferrer, then Vignon (né Abdelghafour Mouhsine but sometimes referred to as "Le James Brown marocain"), and Michel Polnareff were among the few French pop singers rated by the minets before the dawn of Dutronc.

Dutronc was employed as a songwriter and artistic director at Disques Vogue, whose previous efforts to exploit subcultures included records by Dylan-inspired hippie, Antoine, modish Les Mods, and beatnik Benjamin. Rising above all silly subcultures was the magnificent Françoise Hardy, who would years later marry Dutronc. Benjamin had recorded the satirical, "Et moi, et moi, et moi," a collaboration between Dutronc and Jacques Lanzmann -- an established novelist, ex-boyfriend of Simone de Beauvoir, and future director of the epic holocaust documentary, ShoahUnsatisfied with the Benjamin's version, Dutronc gave the song a shot and it almost topped the charts. 

Dutronc's second single, "Les play boys," was released in October 1966 and the lyrics humorously acknowledged the minets with the lines:

J'ai pas peur des petits minets
Qui mangent leur ronron au Drugstore
Ils travaill'nt tout comme les castors
Ni avec leurs mains, ni avec leurs pieds

"Les play boys" resided at the top of the charts for six weeks and sold more than half a million copies and Dutronc become one of the few French musicians adopted by the mods. The two subcultures continued to convergently evolve and around 1967 a psychedelic foppishness began to undermine the dignified dandyism of both. Furthermore, the original stylists of both were becoming a bit old for  adolescent scene-dependent soul searching and group-derived displays of non-conformity.

Even as the scene lost its style steam the void left by the departing originals was filled by growing numbers of new, peacockish recruits. Catering to them were new hangouts in and around Saint-Germain-des-Prés including Carette, Le Club Pierre Charron, Le Mimi Pinson, Le New Store, Pub Renault, Le Relais de Chaillot, and Scoss. If maturation and domesticity claimed most of the original minets, more were led away by the events of Mai 68, the cultural effect of which was far more resounding than even the tunes of their 45s. 

The final generation of minets continued to dance dance dance at then-new clubs like Le Roméo Club Paris. When Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson moved to the Le Marais area of Paris in 1971, Courson frequently crossed the Seine with her dope-dealing chum, Count Jean de Breteuil, to hang out with the last minets at places like Brasserie Lipp, Cafe de Flore, and Les Deux Magots. Whilst I wouldn't want to be the first person to suggest that Morrison was inspired by minets, Courson was certainly aware of them and Morrison did seem to trade in his leathers for a preppier look. 

Jim, Alain and Pamela - 28 June, 1971, St Leu d'Esseurent (image credit: Alain Ronay)

The impact of the minet subculture seems to have mostly faded in the 1970s although the Japanese cityboy (シティーボーイ) trend of the late 1970s (associated with the magazine Popeye) similarly embraced a preppy yet anti-authoritarian bohemianism -- as does Free & Easy, which promotes the what they call the "rugged ivy" aesthetic (although few would argue that either are fully-fledged subcultures). In 1998, Franco-Teutonic band Stereo Total released a song "Les Minets" on their album, Juke-Box AlarmThe current preppie-but-not-peppy uniform of the Hipsterjugend - though uninspired in its execution -- is perhaps nevertheless in part inspired by the minets -- although that shouldn't be held against them (and one of their betters should tell those knaves to starch and tuck in their shirts). More clearly aspiring to minet revivalism are so-called Paris Mod Allnighters, with a flyer from one such event pictured here.

The little that I have found about minets which I can share is this short documentary, Les Minets du Champs, which is really just a short interview with former minet Bernard Bacos, who's one of the scene's only chroniclers of which I'm aware (check out his website, Paris 70). There is at least one written work, Christian Eudeline's Anti-yé-yé: Une autre histoire des sixties which I haven't read but has a nicely provocative title. 

Probably the highest profile look back at minet movement was La bande du drugstore, the debut film of writer/director François Armanet which I also haven't seen and has so far only been released on a PAL 2 DVD with French audio and no subtitles. That film also resulted in the release of a soundtrack available on CD, a format for which there are thankfully no region codes and which includes many of the aforementioned bands as well as the Autralian band The Easybeats, Sam & Dave, Cream, Little Esther Phillips, Sonny & Cher, Christophe, The Troggs, and The Full Spirits.


If you've got more information on minets, please let me know in the comments and... 

We cannot walk the floor at night in peace -- a look back at Perry Boys

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 29, 2013 04:56pm | Post a Comment

18 May was the 104th birthday of Fred Perry. As someone who'd generally rather poorly play any sport than watch others, no matter how good, this occasion in and of itself didn't mean much to me. Fred Perry was, I've read, a great tennis player but I reckon his name conjures up images of tennis shirts rather than tennis players. And for anyone remotely aware of youth subcultures, Fred Perry shirts have been part of many style tribes' uniforms. In fact, Fred Perry was so popular with a Mancunian tribe that arose in the late 1970s that they came to be known as "Perry Boys."


Lacoste (left) and Perry (right) in their creations (image source: Modern Gentleman Magazine)

The tennis shirt was invented in 1929 by French tennis star Jean René Lacoste but Fred Perry introduced several innovations to the article of clothing. As with Lacoste, Fred Perry shirts only came in white when they were introduced in 1952. The now signature twin-tipping was reportedly introduced to placate the demands of West Ham United football fans. When members of the Mod subculture adopted the shirt, more colors were added to cater to their tastes. (Fred Perry also invented the modern wrist sweatband although there's no excuse for wearing those off the court). 


In the latter half of the 20th century, changing attitudes toward casualwear turned men’s formal codes upside down. Fifty years earlier, the sight of a man in his shirtsleeves had been seen as borderline pornographic (see Partie de campagne) and vests were worn to hide the sight of suspenders -- since they're properly worn as undergarments. Then, after World War II, wearing blue jeans and an undershirt in public became accessible. In the 1950s, Casual Fridays regrettably became a thing where bosses attempted to create a false sense of freedom amongst their wage slaves. The period also saw an explosion of youth subcultures.

Whereas middle class subcultures like Beatniks, and Trads often seemed to dress down, working class subcultures have almost always dressed up. The smart Fred Perry shirt was thus favored by working class subcultures like Skinheads (and Suedeheads) in the 1960s; (Northern) Soul Boys, Punks and Rude Boys in the 1970s; Casuals in the 1980s; Britpoppers in the 1990s; and Chavs in the 2000s. The brand’s importance to various British youth subcultures was highlighted in filmmaker Don Letts’s documentary series, Subculture (2012).


As aforementioned, there was also the Perry Boy subculture. With roots in the Soul Boy subculture, Perry Boys emerged as something distinct around 1977 and '78. This is probably sacrilegious to say for some Mancunians but Perry Boys were seemingly almost certainly influenced by their peers and rival subculture -- the Scallies of Liverpool. For most of the 1970s, Liverpool FC placed at or near the top of the First Division. Scallies followed their team to the continent and would graft and shoplift so that they could wear expensive and exclusive labels. Meanwhile, back in the North, Manchester United, spent most of the decade trying not to get relegated. Though Perry Boys came to be primarily associated with football hooliganism, when they first appeared it was naturally away from the terrace in nightclubs such as Manchester's legendary Pips.

As with all the best youth subcultures, music played a central role for Perries. The Perry soundtrack included Disco, Soul, Roxy Music, David Bowie and neo-psychedelic post-punk bands. Favored American neo-psychedelic bands included Athens's R.E.M., Milwaukee's Plasticland, Rhode Island's Plan 9, St. Paul's Hüsker Dü and Los Angeles's Paisley Underground (The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, Rain Parade, and The Three O'Clock) as well as Liverpool's Echo & the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes. Local post-Punk bands with Perry Boy elements in their audience included Joy Division, The Chameleons, Crispy Ambulance, Magazine and Vibrant Thigh. And they liked The Cramps. Tellingly, few if any bands from London made the grade. 


Relatively few Perry Boys seem to have made stabs at making music although nearly all that did so formed around 1980 and in several cases included members who went on to achieve considerable success later on in other bands. One of the few bands to be sometimes actually be described as made up of Perry Boys (and a Perry Girl) was Stockholm Monsters, who formed in Burnage in 1980. 


That same year Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets both formed and their members and fans were drawn from the tribe. Also in 1980 future members of the Stone Roses formed The Patrol --  although Ian Brown has made clear that he and John Squire were, properly speaking, Scooter Boys and not really Perries.

Happy Mondays - 1983

In 1981, The Patrol's Si Wolstencraft joined pre-Smiths Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr in Freak Party, who made one demo, "Crak Therapy." It's generally agreed upon that Oldham-based The Hungry Sox's singer, Dave "Kaiser" Cartey, was a Perry Boy. Further tangling the web -- Hungry Sox's bassist, Gary "Mani" Mounfield (also a Perry Boy) had played with Inspiral Carpets' Clint Boon in The Mill and later went on to join The Stone Roses and Cartey went on to sing in John Squire's short-lived pre-Stone Roses band, The Waterfront


The aforementioned Pips was a multi-story nightclub with different floors catering to different scenes including, at some points, Roxy Music fans, Bowie Boys, Gays, and at one point and on one floor, Perry Boys. They came from neighborhoods like Collyhurst, Failsworth, Moston, Prestwich, and Salford.

"Dress - casual but smart" -- Pips coupon from 1979

There was considerable overlap between post-Mod Perry Boys, Scooter Boys, and Soul Boys. Some Perries viewed themselves as the true inheritors of Modernism rather than the self-proclaimed Mods who -- contrary to the entire ethos of original Mods -- were in the slavish fetishists of the past rather than the modern. And as with the original Mods (but not so much the revivalists) they also shared an interest in modern (and Classic), black American music.

In 1986, another legendary local club, The Haçienda, launched a night called Nude. DJs Mike Pickering (of Quando Quango and M People), Martin "Little Martin" Pendergast (and later Graeme Park) introduced much of Manchester (including Perry Boys) to Chicago House music which in 1987 finally helped the club become profitable.


As with any healthy subculture, Perry style evolved over the years. In addition to Fred Perry, the Town Boys (as they were also sometimes known) also favored (preferably burgundy-colored) Peter Werth shirts, Fila Borgs, raglan sleeve shirts, Harrington jackets, Sergio Tacchini and later replica football kits. Preferred trousers included Levi’s 501s or Sta-Prest, Lee corduroys, and Lois jeans. Popular shoes included Adidas Stan Smith, docksiders, Kios, and Kickers. Other approved labels included Aitch, French Connection, FU, and Second Image. The most popular hair style was the wedge – preferably with one eye covered. 

By 1982, some like-minded Londoners, known as Chaps, began to show similar traits to Perries and Scallies. Eventually the three subcultures blurred into less-locality-specific Casuals.


There was a dark side to Perry Boys too -- hooliganism. In the US, youth style tribes (with the notable exception of street gangs) rarely violently clash except in films like The Warriors and S.E. Hinton novels. In England on the other hand, it sounds like they're all raring to battle and go out of their way to do so.

Perries with hands against the wall

The Fall seemed to bait them with their song, "City Hobgoblins." The Chameleons' Mark Burgess blamed Perries for some of the violence at Joy Division gigs. In a 1986 interview with Melody Maker, Morrissey recounted being terrorized by them, calling them "the most vicious people." (In an earlier interview with Record Mirror, on the other hand, his Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr sang their praises, claiming "...the Perry Boys in Manchester have got so much more class than anybody else in the world. I stole all my fashion ideas from them.”


In the late 1980s, some Perries and Casuals adopted flares as part of the changing wardrobe. One of the first was Stephen "Cressa" Cresser, an associate of The Stone Roses, The High, and Happy Mondays. He, Al Smith and Little Martin began jokingly referring to themselves as The Baldricks and, promoted by the Roses' manager Howard Jones, The Baldricks were taken seriously enough by the London media mentioned in an '87 edition of i-D and then profiled the subsequent year in the same publication. Around the same time Acid House and the drug ecstasy made their way to the UK resulted in the birth of the so-called Madchester scene.

Photo of "The Baldricks'" flares

Happy Mondays in 1987

By 1988, the London media could no longer ignore the buzz emanating from the north and Madchester and Rave became national phenomena -- culminating in the UK's so-called "Summer of Love." London, which had spent most of the '80s focused on itself and its homegrown New Romantic, New Pop, and Sophisti-pop movements was now enthralled with the north and soon London bands like Blur and Flowered Up appeared owning considerable stylistic debts to Manchester. Not sure what to make of the northerners, they wrote of "Acid Casuals," "Psychedelic Scallies," "Cosmic Scallies," "Psychedelic Scoundrels," and "Baggies." Though Liverpool had its share of psychedelic-leaning bands (e.g. The Boo Radleys, The La's, The Farm, The Lightning Seeds, Rain, The Real People, Shack, The Wizards of Twiddly), most of the media attention was shifting to Manchester and soon "Madchester" would be applied to bands regardless of their sometimes non-Mancunian origins.

The Fred Perry-favoring Quangos

Fred Perry the tennis star passed away 2 February, 1995 – not forgotten as a tennis player but definitely better recognized for the iconic clothing label named after him. By then, so-called Lad culture was the latest echo of Perry Boy's most trad elements. More recently ripples of Perry Boy culture can be seen in bands like Manchester’s The Quangos but for the most part, Perry Boys remain fairly obscure. Unlike many UK subcultures, I've never heard of any American Anglophiles adopting (and invariably cartoonizing) this particular culture. 


Even in the UK Perry Boys seem fairly obscure. Whereas Scallies had fanzines like The End and What's the Score? and have been the subjects of books like Kevin Sampson’s Awaydays (1998), Andy Nicholls’s Scally: Confessions of a Category C Football Hooligan (2002), and Dave Hewitson’s The Liverpool Boys are Back in Town (2008); the Perry Boy legend is almost entirely kept aflame by Ian Hough who wrote Perry Boys: The Casual Gangs of Manchester and Salford (2007), Perry Boys Abroad (2009), and maintains

In the US, Fred Perry's exposure has been much more limited although Bill Murray wore it in Broken Flowers, Don Cheadle wore it in Iron Man 3, and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) can be seen wearing it in a video about his and Mannie Fresh's OMFGOD project.


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Sparare un paninazzo nel gargarozzo - a look back at Paninari

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2012 04:10pm | Post a Comment
Pet Shop Boys "Suburbia"

On this day (22 September), 1986, the Pet Shop Boys released the single "Suburbia" b/w "Paninaro," which introduced an Italian subculture to the wider world. It was certainly my introduction. 


Paninari - che è il gran gallo?

Paninari (the plural of Paninaro) were an Italian youth subculture in the 1980s. Their name came from the word "panino," Italian for "bread." La Stampa branded them that due to the fact that their original, preferred hang-out was the Al Panino, a sandwich joint in in Milan's Via Agnello, where they first congregated in 1983.  

In 1985 the now defunct Burghy, an Italian chain specializing in American fast food, opened a location on Piazza San Babila, that became their home base.

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Famous Grey Raincoat - Or, Silly Goth, Vampires Are for Kids!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 6, 2010 04:45pm | Post a Comment

In honor of this lovely weather we're having here in Los Angeles, I'm going to blog about the so-called Raincoat scene. Before Goth -- for that matter, before New Grave, Dark Wave, Cold Wave or any of those other overly specific scenes (that I will dutifully write about in time), the British music press took to lumping together a bunch of bands and their fans and calling them "raincoats." Why? Because since their invention in the 1850s, nothing has silently and eloquently conveyed, "I'm dark, brooding and Romantic" like slouching in a trench coat. OK, it could also convey, "I'm stealing porn and not wearing clothes underneath." That's a different sort of Raincoat Brigade.

The earliest usage of "raincoat" in this sense that I've found is in an edition of NME. "1982 was also a year of recession in the U.K. A broken economy, you could argue, enabled both genres to flourish: sleek synth-pop helped people transcend national gloom, glowering raincoat-rock authorised them to wallow in it." 

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