Book Review: Style Deficit Disorder


Tiffany Godoy. Style Deficit Disorder: Harajuku Street Fashion Tokyo. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2007. ISBN 9780811857963.

Common perceptions about Japanese street fashion are too often limited to the most recent derivations and those brands that fit into American and, largely, Western definitions of streetwear. Hiroshi Fujiwara, Visvim, Bounty Hunter, and of course, BAPE ring out immediately for the hoards of youth populating internet communities. As forward thinking and exciting as these figures and labels are, they represent just one faction of a multi-layered and vibrant scene. 

Tiffany Godoy’s new book, Style Deficit Disorder, broadens the scope and contextualizes the breadth of our basic understanding of Japanese fashion. Focusing on Harajuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo that has fostered the growth of the nations fashion industry since the ‘60s, Godoy details the leading figures, stores, bands and publications that have made the area the epicenter of Japanese youth culture for decades.

Familiar names are present through the entire book, from Comme des Garcons to Hysteric Glamour to the Ura-Hara brands that are so present in the daily blog rolls. Brief portraits of the brands and their leading personalities serve to neatly tie in influences from across the globe, while beginning to express their uniquely Japanese approaches. Not only is it obvious that each generation of Harajuku has its own leading star (as far as brand), but also that the neighborhood has an unbelievable capacity to reinvent old ideas and foster new ones.

The strength of Godoy’s effort comes in the clarity of definition for each subgroup in Harajuku’s history. She is clear in her assertion that Japanese street culture is purely fashion driven, a point that comes most clearly in the proliferation of periodicals setting out to document the latest movements… not so much for archival purposes, but almost exclusively to track trends. For those readers unfamiliar with the Japanese fashion rags, the photo spreads in Style Deficit Disorder act as wonderful introductions to the general idea.

Godoy’s account of Harajuku no doubt raises some questions. For example, I am left wondering how the subgroups interact. Do the leaders of each style connect? In the end, these are of little consequence in the overall effect of Style Deficit Disorder. As an introduction to both the neighborhood (and Godoy does a great job framing its growth and setting the geographic scene) and the inhabitants, the book becomes a perfect starting point for people just getting interested in Japanese fashion, and a fantastic quick resource for those who are long time fans of Harajuku’s offerings.

Style Deficit Disorder releases next week.

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