This is an origin story. Grimes, Brooke Candy, Azealia Banks, and Lady Gaga think they're embracing seapunk, a style that's 100% modern, now, and new to this decade, but they are wrong. They're actually dressed like Japanese anime characters from the 90s.
I first heard the term seapunk earlier this year, when I met Niki Takesh (above). Niki is a super cute, barely 20-something, who's the star of her own web series S**t Stoner Girls Say, and her Tumblr was the inspiration behind Jeremy Scott's SS 2013 collection. When we met she was sporting green dip dye, and raving about a trip she'd taken to Japan to shoot for Japanese NYLON. Someone mentioned seapunk in relation to Niki and I was like, "Oh, that's what it's called.” I'd just found a name for something I'd been aware of subliminally for months.
Loosely described, seapunk is a fashion meme making its way across the internet one Tumblr hashtag at a time. It first raised its colored head in early 2011, alongside a musical genre of the same name, which is pretty hard to define, unlike its visual counterpart. You’ll know seapunk via the trend for multicolored mermaid hair—left grungy as if coughed up on a beach after a storm—accompanied by a taste for spacey, new age graphics and inspirational postcards covered in dolphins. Seapunk kids are nostalgic for the recent past (00s/90s), and like cartoons, selfies, and video games. These people don't acknowledge a time before the internet. They're ultra-creative and emotional in a bedroom-y kind of way, because via the world wide web, they can reach the entire planet without leaving their house, and even when they're out IRL, they're cushioned by online affirmation.
Like any subculture that's having its moment, seapunk has an origin story, but it’s unique from its ancestors in that it was born in the age of the screengrab. So if you want to verify the claim of Brooklyn producer, Lil Internet, that he woke up on the morning of June 2011 and birthed the entire movement in a tweet, then all you have to do is wait… one second… here:
But then Lil Internet and his friends killed it. Sick of trying to lay claim to something that was being cited by artists like Rihanna and Azealia Banks, the original seapunks bowed out, right here, on the pages of Noisey. It's now arguable that seapunk no longer exists in a musical way. It never really made sense in that arena in the first place. Still, as a visual flavor it is unstoppable, like a torpedo through a dream.
If you're still not getting what seapunk is, try this:
This is #seapunk: Azealia Banks.
This is #seapunk: Brooke Candy.
Now we're all up to speed, I'm going to say something that's been on my mind since way before I met Niki, and I can't believe that I'm the only person to think this. Seapunk is basically a Y2K+10 version of a popular 90s anime series called Sailor Moon. I know this because I grew up in Hong Kong, where Sailor Moon—an animation universe about modern day Japanese schoolgirls who transform into intergalactic warriors—arrived at my school overnight and went on to dominate every playground game that mattered for the rest of the decade.
Here I am in 93. The 'Sailor Moon' influence has started to make itself known via my color choices. Also here's a pic of me at 11 (far right). Thanks for the haircut 1995.
During this period Sailor Moon also covered every schoolbag and pencil case owned by a child with eyes. It was what we breathed in the morning when we woke up; it was what we dreamt about at night. Personally, I was in a pretty tight Sailor Moon clique that lasted until I left for England. I went by the name Sailor Mercury. Cool.
I wasn't kidding about the pencil cases.
The reason we loved Sailor Moon is that it was the most colorful, imaginative cartoon series that we'd ever encountered. The stars of the TV and comic book series, were a group of girls from Japan who find out from a talking cat, that they're the reincarnated souls of super warriors, charged with protecting a Moon Princess. Sailor Moon was the leader of the group, and her friends were also sailors named after planets. Collectively, they were known as the Sailor Senshi, and they had brightly colored hair and big, glistening eyes. They were clumsy in their everyday guises, just like real kids, and yet they were able to travel to unbelievable new places in time and space, usually with some kind of adorable, galaxy themed weapon.
Grimes and friends. Now compare…
10 Reasons Seapunk is a Reboot of Sailor Moon
Just thought I'd throw in a shot of Olivia Munn. Why not.
1. They Are Sailors
Actually, as I said, they're schoolgirls with the immortal souls of an elite intergalactic protection unit. But they do wear sailor suits. #seapunk
2. Colored Hair
This one's a freebie. Sailor Moon characters were distinguishable by their different color hair, offset by the varying shades of their uniforms. Like seapunk, the tendency was towards pink, green, blue or bleach blonde. Check out Sailor Mercury's resemblance to original #seapunk musician Zombelle.
3. Sailor Neptune
There's currently a Facebook page called Sailor Neptune was Seapunk, that only has 19 likes. Can we get Avaaz on this? Sailor Neptune used to live on Neptune, in a castle called Triton. She is described as wearing a sea-colored gown. Oh, and her powers are based on the ocean. And she is known as the Sailor of the Deep Waters. #seapunk
4. Sailor Neptune is Gay
That's beside the point really, but check out what a great couple Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus make.
4. Sailor Moon Loves Cats
The Sailor Senshi were awoken by a cat called Luna. Sailor Moon loves cats. Seapunks love the internet. The internet loves cats. This is a cat. I actually don't like this cat.
5. Lady Gaga is a Sailor Moon Fan
In the New York Times article that marked the peak and death of grassroots #seapunk, Zombelle is quoted as saying, “There are friends in my circle who work with Lady Gaga.” In as many words, she was accusing Gaga of lifting her style. You know who else Lady Gaga's heavily lifted from?
Ever the innovator, our Lady of the Beefsteak Dress found her inspiration in the biggest villain to ever hit the Sailor Moon universe, Sailor Galaxia. Words cannot express my admiration. And the rips in the fishnets is just so #seapunk.
6. Britney Spears for POP
While neither directly #seapunk nor Sailor Moon, this jaw-droppingly wonderful, 2010 Britney shoot by Takashi Murakami, for POP magazine, illustrates the special relationship between fashion and Japanese pop culture. I'd actually like to see Britney take on a little #seapunk with her style.
7. Grimes' Genesis
Grimes does her own thing, but there's definitely themes of seapunk and manga in this video. If you're paying attention, you'll have already noticed Grimes' Sailor Moon outfit in a previous picture, but check this out as well.
8. Brooke Candy Looks Like Sailor Chibi Moon
And they both make it work so, so well.
Niki's like, “Whatever, I can get sushi at the beach!” #seapunk
9. Niki Takesh Likes Sushi
There is nothing in the Sailor Moon series about sushi, but I'm pretty sure the Sailor Moon girls like sushi too. Partly because they're Japanese, and partly because everyone likes sushi. I bet all the musicians on this page like sushi. If not, then they should.
10. They Look Amazing
Above everything the Sailor Senshi stuck together. That was the first thing about them. The second thing was that they looked incredible. All the time. Check out this space-goth wedding. And Sailor Pluto accessorizing with this cute clutch. Not to mention Sailor Chibi Moon's laid-back, on trend PJ look.
Here's Gwen Stefani channeling a little #seapunk before #seapunk. And Lil' Kim giving it 150%.
The simple fact is that I'm overjoyed to be back in a world where we all strive to be a little more like Sailor Moon and her Senshi friends. They are magical, weird, girly, swirly, and awesome, and I think #seapunk is too.
As well as being the cutest kid ever, EVER, Emma-Lee Moss also plays music as Emmy the Great. She is currently working on her third album while cultivating a ridiculous collection of anime inspired accessories. Dare her to wear them on Twitter - @emmy_the_great.
Style Stage is an ongoing partnership between Noisey & Garnier Fructis celebrating music, hair, and style.