I’m going to preface this article with a personal note.
Before all the exotic fans nonchalantly click the back button, I highly encourage you to see this through and learn about something that, from my experience, is one of the most miscommunicated divisions in the automotive enthusiast culture.
The movement of stance.
Now that we’ve gotten the snide chuckles and rolling of eyes out of the way, you should realize that stance is much more than just a fad or style cue. Its roots are much deeper and more interesting than the average enthusiast may know, and its influence has extended into nearly every other division of the car world.
But let’s start at the beginning. (Side note: I’m posting my sources at the bottom of this articles in case you’re interested in digging a little deeper)
Japan. 1970’s. Bōsōzoku. This is the term used to define the motorcycle youth subculture. It literally means “violent speed tribe” or “violent running tribe.” How awesome is that?
(Photo Credit: STOP IT RIGHT NOW)
These were kids that were pissed off. Poor and oppressed, they banded together to take a stand against what they felt was wrong in the Japanese society.
Being a kid in Japan in the post-WWII time period was not a fun place. The education system had control over how you dressed, talked, acted, styled your hair, and even what you did outside of academia. The bōsōzoku lifestyle was to take their rules and shove them down their throats.
As I was discovering all of this, I couldn’t help but relate it to the hardcore punk movement going on in the United States at about the same time. These were low income kids that had something to say. Makes sense, right? Being a wild punk myself, I was eager to read more.
They would ride their bikes in packs, stay out late, style their hair differently, dress reminiscent of the yakuza ( AKA: the “Japanese Mafia”) and were often found in juvenile detention for traffic related incidents as well as drug use. Ideologically is where they differ from the U.S. punks. Bōsōzoku were generally right-wing extremists who, if they had it their way, would revert Japan back into an empire. They also fought with and viewed other subcultures going on at the same time, including the punks, as inferior. Boso-punk team up ruined.
Following the right-wing belief, they had structured leadership and focused heavily on an honor system. Members would only fight with opponents they found to be honorable and would refuse quarreling with a member of a lesser group.
So how does this transfer into cars? And who would have thought stance originated from a right-wing extremist group of rebels? Curve ball!
Well, when bōsōzoku members would turn the age of 18, they would “graduate” from driving a motorcycle into driving a modified car, regardless of possessing a license or not. Once they hit 20, however, continued membership of the culture was viewed as ichiburu, or “kid’s stuff.”
(Photo Credit: Brunno)
Their cars were seriously over the top… and AWESOME.
During drives, members were often spotted hanging out the windows of the cars, swinging bats and swerving all over the road. They also sported surgical masks or other types of facial concealers to hide their faces from police or any video recording device.
Masked dudes in modded cars, sticking it to the man. What more could you ask for? Sounds an awful lot like a group of guys I know…
I got jokes.
One of the most common mods was lowering the vehicle. Vehicles that were slammed were called shakotan meaning “low car.” This style of car modification became very popular and caused many other styles to spring up, all stemming from the original bōsōzoku style.
When I say popular, I don’t mean punk rock superstar popular. I mean this stuff was making reaches into pop culture. There were mangas written and animes produced, one of which being Shakotan Boogie, which saw a great amount of success and stretched over the span of 32 volumes. The manga actually was the inspiration behind another style of car modification called yanky style.
This lands us close to the present in our timeline.
Of course the kids eventually grow up, and the boso style is now a staple in the rich auto enthusiast history of japan, but I wouldn’t call it dead by any means.
Anyone involved with exotic cars is familiar with Liberty Walk. Their builds have been the subject of great praise for the better part of the last decade.
Kato-san, the fearless leader of Liberty Walk, has been quoted drawing his inspiration from shakotan and boso styles. Now, when you look at one of his builds and see the fenders and the lowness… It all starts making sense.
Another company that has boso roots is RWB (RAUH-Welt Begriff). Famous for their exceptionally wide, and sexy, Porsche builds.
Their founder, Nakai san, also draws inspiration from the boso movement. He was actually involved in the creation of the “Boso Lambo” by Kato san and Liberty Walk.
So now perhaps when you see a slammed car with some over the top mods, I hope instead of thinking “ricer”–which is ultimately an insult–you think bōsōzoku, shakotan, yanky style, or something of that sort. The most important takeaway from this article is knowing that the youth participating in this movement have a voice, and they are using that voice through the expression of their vehicle–which, to me, is a VERY important lesson that we could all learn from.
Do what you love. Don’t let someone, something, anything hold you down. You have a voice; use it.