More on Japanese fashion - an introduction to Shiro Nuri 白塗り

Recently, a certain subculture fashion-style has been gaining more and more attention. I refer, of course to 白塗り(Shiro-nuri).

A literal translation of 'shiro-nuri' is 'white paint'. The key point in this style is quite simply - the white face.

In Shiro-nuri fashion, any clothes may be worn, as long as the entire face is painted white. This is reminiscent of the traditional face make-up worn by Japanese geisha and maiko. This allows the wearers to put their own take on the fashion, as there are virtually no rules, it is very flexible.

One way to achieve the white-face look is to first apply a liquid base, followed by white paint or foundation, and then face powder. The liquid base used by maiko is kept in a solid form. After warming in the hands, it becomes an oily liquid that is applied evenly to the face (historical equivalent of primer?) This oil also blocks the pores of the skin, so you are less likely to sweat in those areas.

Another way would be to simply paint white foundation onto your face and neck. Other parts of the makeup, such as mascara, eyeliner, lip colour are up to individual interpretation. That makes it fun!


Such a striking style of makeup is not easy to wear day-to-day, but I find it to be an interesting style to explore in photo shoots.

One of the more e-famous shiro-nuri wearers today is Minori. On the streets of Harajuku, shiro-nuri can sometimes be seen in a more grotesque and gothic/punk fashion. Minori creates beautiful photo-pieces by merging the colours of nature with her shiro-nuri makeup.

However, she not only wears this makeup for photo shoots, but also on normal days. I felt like I could agree with her on some points. As an Asian wearing Lolita fashion, our natural yellow skin tone doesn't go well with the pastel colours that are common in Lolita. So shiro-nuri is something I plan on trying in the near future.

The clothes Minori wears seem to be based off vintage and mori-girl fashion, which tie in with her nature-inspired look.


Her interview and some very gorgeous photos can be viewed here.

Other wearers of shiro-nuri have their own takes and reasons on it. Some may refer to it as trying to look 'western', while some are inspired by the traditional geisha look, and others are fans of the angura-kei band movement. I'm quite obviously biased towards Minori's modern take on shiro-nuri, but the fashion movement is a pretty old concept, and hers is only one of the many ways you can wear shiro-nuri!

The above photograph is an example of angura-kei. The concept also involved painting the face white.


Another example of shiro-nuri is this Japanese student who was photographed on the streets of Harajuku.. As can be seen, his is a more classically bittersweet gothic style, as he has chosen to leave the lips painted white, and not coloured them over with another colour. I'm actually screaming inside because he's so pretty. *__*


And here is another picture of Minori, this time wearing what seems to be an outfit inspired by traditional Japanese clothes.

Gruesome & gross, or beautiful & ingenious? What's your take on shiro-nuri? (My vote's on gorgeous!).

P.S. check out more Japanese street-shots here!

P.P.S. Can't get enough of Minori? Check out her personal website here.

P.P.P.S. Want to see more underground fashion snaps? This photographer has been amassing photographs from underground parties for years!

- Hira