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Why are Fruits so fruity?

Two years ago I came across a wonderful book.  It was a book of photographs of  Japanese teenagers dressed up as… it is actually impossible to say exactly but a typical – although there’s no such thing as ”typical” with Fruits really – outfit could involve platform boots with teeth and fur, pink thighs, ruffled skirt with another ruffled skirt underneath it, a shirt with Victorian-period collar, hair in braids, a Victorian-period maid hat complete with a bow, a teddy bear as an accessory and a boyfriend in a skirt with a cowboy hat.  It would be wrong to compare too too-closely this particular street fashion, to what club kids used to do more than a decade ago in New York, but there are some similarities as both styles were/ are simply out of this world. Fruits are dressed much more carefully than club kids with everything matching – even if particular items seem as if they should never be matched – often wearing vintage, design as well as their own creations. 

The inspirations for the Fruit outfits are many.  The idea behind this street fashion it is that through clothes you get to become someone else or be a parody someone that you are definitely not.  This somebody else could be an Oxford school boy, a carefully adorned and painted imitation of a punk rocker, a cowboy-Buddist monk or a weirdly sexual school girl-gothic-French maid that itself is such a popular style within Fruits style that it has gained a separate title: Gothic Lolita. 

Many people say that anyone who visits Tokyo should walk around Harajuku that has become an unofficial center of Japanese teenage fashion scene.  The place is buzzing with self-expression and Fruits are ruling the place.  These kids are very happy to pose for tourist’s pictures and they do pose beautifully with most of them pigeon-toeing their feet, opening their eyes wide and displaying their unique look in all its glory.  Often they pose with a friend or a partner who is, always,  another outrageously dressed Fruit.  They are frequently dressed according to the same concept so you’ll get a girl Squaw and a boy cowboy or two girls in mary-janes, sucking on lollipops dressed in high fashion Gothic Lolita outfits (each wears a different version of it, of course).    These kids are immeasurably beautiful and it makes one happy to see so much thought put into an outfit that balances on the line that divides fashion and art.

Fruits is not a new phenomenon and it’s been around long enough to actually develop into different forms, such as Cosplay where the kids (okay, you do get an occasional thirty-something year old, but rarely) dress in superhero outfits or create outfits that make them look like superheros complete with colorful wigs (blue, pink, orange, yello…), wings, fake elf ears, tails, etc.  Fruits seems to be more playful than Cosplay which in some instances has evolved into a kink and has inspired a creation of adult communities that indulge in Cosplay as more of a  fetish and not necessarily a fashion statement. 

A friend who lived in Japan told me once that the kids that visit Harajuku center usually don’t walk around anywhere else dressed in the Fruits fashion.  They are very often typical Japanese teenagers with lots of homework, long school hours and chores that would make an American teenager throw a temper tantrum on dr.Phil.  But like the American teenagers that do end up on dr.Phil, because they dress provocatively, sneak out mini skirts, make-up, piercings and high heels in their school bags and change into their ”real” persona once leaving home, the Japanese Fruits seem to have identical reason for their dress-up.   They too fight for so-called freedom of expression and they too get a little relief from not being what their parents and the society expects them to be all the time.