So Visual-kei as it was once known, a mind-f+ck of color and big hair and badass attitude a la Hide from X-Japan in the 1980s/90s… is alive! In China! Whodathunk?! But with some edits of course…. meet the tribe known as “SHAMATE”
I am not surprised at “Shamate`s” outlandish fashion or hairstyles, we’ve seen all of this before… I am just surprised to see it in China, where underground street style seemed to be non-existent . I went on a few research trips over the past few years to see what’s going on, but I was looking for used clothing shops (there really aren’t any…Chinese people want new things, not old things, I was told) or at “dirty” clubs like the Shelter in Shanghai which are still too hip for the Shamate, since they are considered outcasts.
According to this article on Buzzfeed, the Shamate are school dropouts and often don’t live with their own families, instead running to the cities to become “families” with each other. There’s a heirarchy, with leaders, PR people, and workers all having a role to play. It reminds me a lot of the gyaru tribes in Shibuya back in the day, all moving together in groups. They too, were considered outcasts by society and gawked at like zoo animals.
The Chinese seem to be a bit more harsh in their criticism than Japan was toward the gyaru, and similarly the V-kei kids or gothic lolitas. I asked a Chinese friend to tell me more about it and she was quite disgusted.. “You think this is interesting?? It’s not cool at all. I don’t like it.” Well, we’re not talking about beauty contests here.
The name “SHAMATE” seems to translate to “Smart”, but apparently they dig themselves a hole in their surroundings by being reclusive, defensive and unruly instead of rolling with the punches..maybe not so smart. In any case, they have NO direct relation to Visual-kei other than the fashion style, and tend to prefer more hardcore EDM music instead. They also seem to have a mother “queen” who is leader of them all, who looks like a ghost/vampire hybrid (which I think is some awesome makeup skill, tbh).
What do you think about SHAMATE? I hope to see some evolution of more Chinese street style into something really unique and all their own.
Asst editor Lisa Ishiwata