Since last year, a hairstyle known as the hime cut (姫カット hime katto in Japanese) has been trending internationally. Whether it's the models at Prada's Fall/Winter show, Haim at the Grammys or K-pop stars like Lisa from BlackPink, Momo from Twice and Haruna from Billie, the hairstyle featuring straight, usually cheek-length sidelocks, a frontal fringe and long straight hair in its original form, is trending both online (TikTok particularly) and in real life. Another factor contributing to its popularity outside of Japan is the fact that some characters from anime also have this hairstyle.

Hime means princess in Japanese, since the hime cut was inspired by the way young women wore their hair in the Imperial court during the Heian period (794–1185 CE). In a coming-of-age ceremony at 16 years of age, girls in noble families would have their sidelocks cut (known as 鬢削ぎ binosogi), along with their forelocks, while they let their hair grow straight and long at the back.

Although popstar 麻丘めぐみ Megumi Asaoka popularized the hime cut in the 1970s, it fell out of fashion in the 80s only to make a reappearance in the 2000s within Japanese subculture, branching off into different variations along the way.

To find out more, we reached out to 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness), a Japanese illustrator known for her gorgeous depictions of bishōjo (pretty girls) whose illustration featuring six different types of hime cut hairstyles became a hot topic on Twitter a few years ago.

According to Hosokawa, at first, the hime cut was considered to be a geeky look only known within Gothic lolita circles but it gained recognition in 2004 with the release of the film 下妻物語 shimotsuma monogatari ("Kamikaze Girls" in Engish, available on Netflix), starring popular actresses Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya.

It had been looked down upon by the mainstream but then, in the 2010s, after being adopted by artists like singer and rapper Daoko, edgy dance unit Ayabambi and singer Yoko Hamasaki from Urbangarde, it gained more acceptance as a way for girls to identify themselves as a little bit "subculture," a little bit "dark" and having unique personality quirks. Nowadays, in Japan, the Hime cut is often used by underground idols, such as Himeno Shirayuki.

Six hime cut varieties according to Narumi Hosokawa

Let's take a look at six different varieties of hime cut, along with the Japanese artists that wore (or still wear) them, thanks to Hosokawa's excellent illustration:

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Which hime cut do you like?"

Standard Hime Cut

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"The most standard type. Goes well if you have a baby face. Hard to hide your face's outline."

Hosokawa mentions media personality, singer and actress 中川翔子 Shoko Nakagawa as an example in this illustration. She was influenced by her look from around 2012, but more recently, Shoko Nakagawa was rocking a similar hime cut in 2019:

Shoko Nakagawa's original hime cut, according to Hosokawa, was in keeping with her image "as an outgoing, cheerful otaku who could be accepted by everyone, rather than trying to convey a Gothic lolita look."

Hime Cut with thick sidelocks

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Longer, heavier, more voluminous side locks. Conveys a cool (chill) impression. Traditional Japanese beauty. Easy to hide your face's outline."

Hosokawa mentions singer Daoko as an example in this illustration but she also told us that nowadays, a better representative might be underground idol 白雪姫乃 Himeno Shirayuki, from idol unit twinpale (at left, below):

Hime cut with subtle sidelocks

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Side locks are more subtle with thinner ends for a natural look. Even if you wear it with a ponytail, you won't look like a samurai, and it remains cute. Goes well with natural makeup."

Hosokawa mentions actress, singer, novelist and YouTuber 松井玲奈 Rena Matsui and 相沢梨紗 Risa Aizawa the leader of idol group and vocalist for LAVILITH, as examples. The illustration was inspired by Matsui from her days as an idol in HT48 when she wore a ponytail, but according to Hosokawa, "she's not really on the subculture side of things anymore. She no longer has a hime cut now that she has shifted to a more mature direction." Here is Risa Aizawa, who is still sporting a hime cut, and sometimes in this style:

Hime Cut with curved sidelocks

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Sidelocks curving inwards. Works with fairy hair color. Cute even if you don't have a typical Japanese face!!"

Hosokawa mentions model AMO and actress and singer 神田沙也加 Sayaka Kanda (who tragically passed away in December 2021), as examples in this illustration. For example, here is Sayaka Kanda when she wore this type of hime cut with cassis red extensions peeking through for an autumn look:

Hime cut with thick and wide sidelocks

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Voluminous and wide sidelocks. Rather than the back hair, the sidelocks convey the hime cut look more prominently, especially when you look at this hairstyle from the front."

In this illustration, Hosokawa mentions Bambi, formerly in the dance duo AyaBambi, which was known for their unique twist on voguing. You can get a sense for the hairstyle in this photo from Ayabambi's Instagram account in 2016, although her back hair is short. Bambi is on the left:

Hime Cut with long sidelocks

Reproduced with permission from 細川成美 Narumi Hosokawa (@giRly_darkness)

"Side locks follow the entire countours of your face. This hime cut has the longest side locks, with the ends reaching below the chin. This suits the lolita style well and really conveys a hime (princess) look."

Hosokawa mentions nurse and model 青木美沙子 Aoki Misako, President of the Japan Lolita Association as an example. Here is the famous lolita fashion icon showing off this look back in 2013:

Of course, there are many more variations other than these six, and we'll probably be seeing even more as the hairstyle continues to enjoy its moment internationally.

Narumi Hosokawa's gorgeous bishōjo illustrations

If you have a chance, please take a look at Narumi Hosokawa's amazing illustrations.

This is how she describes her works in her artist statement on her official website:

Skin like white snow. Moist and beautiful black hair. Watery eyes. Girls with a supple and unclouded mind. In all my works, these are the girls whom I love with all my heart. They don't flatter anyone, sometimes appealing to you directly, and sometimes accepting you without saying a word. They are spontaneous and natural, special girls, each one of them with their own unique personality.

Narumi Hosokawa, official website

We'd like to introduce just a few of her works:

「梅姫」 (umehime Plum Princess) 2021⁡
⁡「蝶の飛ぶ方へ」⁡ (chō no tobu hō e, the way the butterflies fly) ⁡2020

「私を惹きつけて離さない何か」 (watashi wo hikitsukete hanasanai nani ka Something that attracts me and doesn't let go)

「所作の美」(shosa no bi beauty of gesture) 2021

「私の見る世界」(watashi no miru sekai The world I see) 2022

DVD jacket illustration for Urbangarde's LIVE AVANTDEMIC TOUR

Narumi Hosokawa links

To experience the world of Narumi Hosokawa, here are some useful links to follow:

By - Ben K.