[Ads-l] X kei = X style

Benjamin Barrett mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 28 17:07:06 UTC 2016

My nephew was in pink pastel colors yesterday, having come from Sakura-Con. When I inquired if it was a certain fashion, he told me it’s pastel kei. 

It seems clear that kei is from the Japanese 系 (kei), meaning system, style or type. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_kei <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_kei> for confirmation.) This morpheme is a really convenient way to differentiate a specific style of clothing and accessories in English whereas saying “visual style” might be taken to mean something else (such as a genre of music as that Wiki article explains).

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_street_fashion <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_street_fashion>) lists six different styles explicitly with kei: visual kei, oshare kei, angura kei, cult party kei, dolly kei and fairy kei. It seems that most or all of the other styles listed can also take the kei morpheme: ganguro kei, decora kei, mori kei, etc. Pastel is listed in that Wiki article, though not as a separate kei, but the internet provides lots of pastel kei examples.

I haven’t confirmed it yet, but probably at least pastel, visual and decora are reimports as words that went from English to Japanese and are now being used in this fashion sense. The Japanese street fashion Wiki article says that magazine _Fruits_ catalogs a lot of this Harajuku fashion.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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