Visual Kei

Visual Kei (ヴィジュアル系; Vijuaru Kei)(meaning ‘visual style’, with the ‘kei’ pronounced ‘k’) is a Japanese music subculture and fashion trend that has been popular since the 1980's. The artists and fans of the look incorporate the use of makeup, elaborate hairstyles, flamboyant costumes, and usually (but not always) couple the look with androgynous aesthetics.

Context:
If you’ve read much about Japanese culture, then you’ve probably come across the saying "出る釘は打たれる" or, in Inglés, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” It’s hard to be different in a culture so steeped in tradition, and any deviance to the norm is met with resistance. So as you can well imagine, partaking in such wild acts of fashion resistance was an act of wild rebellion.

The Appeal:
Fans (particularly the female fans) are simply wild about a look that blurs the lines between genders through cross-dressing and androgyny because it expounds upon the appreciation of male beauty and youth. Quite often leaving one with the impression that these ethereal men are unattainable royalty or rock gods.

Origins:
The origins of the term "visual kei" is accredited to the band X JAPAN and was presumably adopted from their slogan: "PSYCHEDELIC VIOLENCE CRIME OF VISUAL SHOCK". The first time the term was officially used was in the press is in an article by Sheiichi Hoshiko for the SHOXX magazine in 1992. The word used was "bijuaru shokku kei" (visual shock style). Other terms often used at that time was "okeshou kei" (make-up style). But journalists, artists, and fans alike felt like something was missing in these other names, and so visual kei was coined.

Fun Fact:
The visual kei (fans naturally abbreviated it to 'V-kei') is Japan’s answer to glam rock and it owes some debt, according to Yoshiki of X Japan, to David Bowie.

Yoshiki is quoted as saying “When he was in Tokyo, I told him he was an enormous influence.”

X Japan

Yoshi with his hero David Bowie