If you have been paying any attention whatsoever to the fashion trends of women or children over the past couple of decades, there is one particularly Japanese icon that will likely stand out like a beacon of cute in the memory of most who have witnessed its adorable design. By “it”, we actually mean “her” and by “her” we are referring to the one and only, superstar of Japanese cute that is known as “Hello Kitty”. She is one of, if not the most globally recognizable faces in fashion today and is so purrrr-fectly expressive of such a major aspect of modern Japanese culture that one would inevitably understate it in words alone.
This cute character now so globally known actually had rather humble beginnings, her first product being a small plastic coin purse in 1975. She slowly, but surely, won the hearts of Japanese females and her adorable image began gracing more and more products year after year. In the 1980’s her popularity began to truly soar as the economic boom in Japan coincided with a boom in Japanese cute culture. The 1980’s brought a flood of new adorable trends, including new styles of handwriting to Japanese schoolgirls which were appropriately cute and round like Hello Kitty herself, and also similar to a “Bubble”, which is the term commonly used in Japan for the economic boom of that era. A strong survivor into the 90’s and beyond, Hello Kitty has grown as a franchise to around half a billion US dollars in her parent company, Sanrio’s, annual sales and licensing contracts.
Understanding this adorably iconic character’s subliminal role in shaping modern Japanese society is rather important in order to truly understand certain archetypal behaviors and tastes of Japanese females and also how those, in turn, shape the behavior and tastes of Japanese males. The evolution of the iconic Hello Kitty is a relatively positive cultural feedback loop in which the female population of Japan has shaped Hello Kitty and her adorably polite cuteness has also apparently influenced the modern Japanese feminine persona. Her personal details, such as her supposed birth in London, were influenced by the popular interests of her fans and their own dreams. In Japan she is like a national best friend and is often sweetly referred to as “Kitty-chan”, in which the “-chan” suffix used is generally reserved for close female friends and children.
Hello Kitty is nearly ubiquitous in Japanese society as her adorable face graces everything from toothbrushes to underwear, luggage to waffle irons, and sometimes even more intimate items. Her face is on passenger jets and cars, and she even has a full scale amusement park bearing her name. According to her parent company, as long as it isn’t a sharp or pointy object, hard liquor, or a firearm, licensing for the production of Hello Kitty goods is fairly open. She is even kind enough to appear on public service advertising for organizations such as the fire department. This is one truly versatile cat.
Her versatility continues to expand in the global market and she has kept up with modern trends by teaming up with popular designers such as Paul Frank and Toki Doki. Both of which likely developed much of their personally recognizable styles based largely off of Hello Kitty in the first place.
Enjoy the cuddly goodness of Hello Kitty and her Japanese way of making you smile.