Onii-kei combines the styles known in Japanese as Ame-kaji ("American casual") and Ita-kaji ("Italian casual") with rocker touches to create a glamorous, sexy look. Onii-kei men are designer label fanatics who complete their outfits with belts, waist pouches, watches, sunglasses, and other accessories from world-famous brands. Also essential to the onii-kei look is the teased shag haircut known as "wolf hair," fastidiously groomed and complemented by scented products.
A Burgeoning Market
A growing number of shops are cashing in on this trend by catering to onii-kei sensibilities. In March, the Shibuya 109-2 fashion complex (the younger brother of the famous Shibuya 109 building) remodeled an entire floor to entice the onii-kei crowd with dimmed lighting, club music, and a lineup of Japanese brand boutiques and "select shops" (boutiques carrying an array of brand items reflecting the proprietor's tastes). The new floor is constantly packed with onii-kei trendsetters, often accompanied by their girlfriends. Items on offer range from logo-emblazoned tank tops affordably priced at ¥3,000 (about $27 at ¥110 to the dollar) to jeans that fetch upwards of ¥10,000 ($91). Even the Laforet Harajuku fashion complex, which has always been strictly a women's fashion hub, has begun catering to the onii-kei crowd. Since last year, select shops targeting men have been creating a buzz by setting up business in the complex.
In the past, most fashion trends have been led by women. But now that the sleekly styled "elder brother" has arrived on the scene, it looks as though men might be taking more initiative in the fashion realm from now on.
Before onii-kei came onee-kei, or "elder sister style." The story of this look begins in around 1996, when a sexy, casual style known as "gal" fashion sprouted on the streets of Shibuya and was adopted by large numbers of teenage girls. By around 2000, the "gals" had grown up and began donning body-hugging dresses for a more adult look. This look became known as onee-kei. The newly emerged "elder brother style" is the male counterpart to this "elder sister style." Onii-kei, which differs from rougher casual styles such as the military look and Ame-kaji, is finding favor among the growing ranks of young men who find themselves ready to graduate to a more adult look.