Seifuku: The Quintessential Uniform for Japanese Idol Groups
There are many aspects of a Japanese idol that appeal to fans, from their singing voice to their cute looks to their speaking skills. Yet one thing shouldn’t be forgotten—costumes. The costumes that idols wear in music videos, in concerts and in promotional events are just as important in capturing the fans’ attention.
One of the most popular archetypes of idol costumes is the school uniform design. School uniforms are associated with student life, which in turn brings feelings and memories of carefree youth—something that always stays fresh in idols.
There will always be idol groups in Japan who dress in the uniform style, and most of the times they give their own creative version of the classic design.
AKB48 is arguably a frontrunner in uniform-style outfits. Since the beginning they have been performing in variations of school uniforms, debuting in pink ties and pink plaid skirts to their first single “Sakura no Hanabiratachi”.
Since then, they’ve created more than 1000 different costume designs over a decade; all of them were memorialized in one thick pictorial book—titled “After School Closet”—released in March 2017. The collection details everything from each outfit’s design concept down to the material used, showing just how much meticulous detail goes into the making of one costume.
Other idol groups have a school concept, and proudly flaunt their sailor uniforms and blazers. Sakura Gakuin, whose name translates to “Sakura Academy” are rarely out of their uniforms. They honor the tradition of the blazer uniform, at the same time routinely varying their styles and colors to show off their group’s fresh personality. This summer too, they’ve brought out the summer uniforms to cool off while raising the heat on their performances for the audience.
Some groups like Hajirai Rescue even go back in time to pay homage to the classic uniforms. In the music video for their latest single “Hajiresu Namennayo!” they don the fierce sukeban uniforms with long skirts and rolled up sleeves, reminiscent of the schoolgirl delinquents of the 70s and 80s. They challenge the typical trends of sugary cute school uniforms, standing out with their tough girl image and packing a punch (literally) with their weapons. Even so, despite the daring departure from the norm, it proves the diversity of the seifuku in idol costumes and shows that sailor uniforms will never stop being attractive.
From the past to the present, the school uniform fashion continues to evolve. Keyakizaka46 takes the trends further and makes their own distinctive style, wearing more cool, military-esque uniforms that forge a sharp and strong image. As the younger sister group of Nogizaka46, they take a bold step in distinguishing themselves as a powerful force among idols.
The charm of uniforms is everlasting; many idol groups want to achieve that timeless appeal by wearing seifuku whether they’re the quintessential blouse and ribbon, or a full-blown spectacle of lace and sequins. Watching them perform in school uniforms fills the fans with the energy and cheer of a young student—in the end, everyone just wants to have fun!
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