A hoodie or sweatshirt with weird manga and erotic anime faces called Ahegao is a recent hype in the fashion world. Beyond being whimsy, it has become iconic for people who like to stand out and disdain social conventions by teasing with a hint. Yet, these are only faces; they can’t be censored. Let’s see why these prints are so popular, what they mean and where to buy them if you decide to follow the trend.
What Is Ahegao?
Fans of hentai aka Japanese erotic animation probably do not need an explanation. For those unfamiliar with the material, “Ahegao” is sometimes translated as “weird face.” It is believed to derive from the sound of pleasure panting or moaning (“ahe,” etc) and “kao,” which means face.
Hallmark traits of the Ahegao, also known as O-Face, are rolled back eyes or a delirious look, a drooling mouth with an extended tongue hanging out, flushed cheeks and tears of overwhelming pleasure. Besides, the face is often drawn deformed. The depiction is exaggerated in order to achieve a comic or surreal effect. The hyperbolic ecstatic face is one of the staples, a specific trope of Japanese adult animation, which symbolizes a loss of control.
In 2019, the Ahegao face expression seems to be all over the internet, thanks to its viral combination of hot and funny. Its covered Instagram, brought to life tons of websites with user-generated content, and spawned numerous memes. Numerous Ahegao subreddits have over hundreds of thousands of followers combined. There are even Ahegao celebrities with millions of subscribers. Moreover, Google searches for “Ahegao” have increased by 50 percent during the last year.
Even though Ahegao looks like a bandwagon today, it is not a novelty. This facial expression has been present in hentai animation since the 1960s. But it only started to grab the attention of Western people over the last ten years, due to the growing popularity of the Japanese lifestyle, including erotic drawings. Having become mainstream, the Ahegao face depiction received a lot of other, non-erotic applications, in cosplay and selfie culture for example. It has become a symbol of overwhelming pleasure, an emoji that is easy to use for any purpose. For example, people put an Ahegao face on the meal photo in Instagram to show their followers that it was very delicious. It does not need any words; the expression is widely understood.
Source: @belle.delphine at Instagram
Manga expert and researcher Khursten Santos explains that “extreme female pleasure” is a common human attraction. This explains the phenomenal appeal to some extent. For many people, the Ahegao face is an expression of female sexuality. It allows to express and explore sexuality without being nude or explicit, with the face only. However, there are enough people saying this trend is gross and sexist.
The Origin of the Ahegao Hoodie
From the world of Japanese erotic art, lust-filled faces have managed to turn into clothes and have made their way into the fashion world. The most popular item is a hoodie with a collage of multiple Ahegao faces from various hentai anime placed together. This piece of clothing has the fame of a shocking apparel. Moreover, this design and the hoodie itself are often used for memes about weeaboo culture.
The image of many anime characters with the O-face by hentai artist Hirune has been circulating the internet since 2015. The earliest known picture of a t-shirt based on that design was posted at a South Korean forum on March 16, 2016, along with pictures of phone cases, pillows and bags of the same design. That year, custom-printed shirts, hoodies, baseball hats and other items appeared on sites like Paom and Redbubble.
On June 15th, 2016, the topic popped up on Reddit. A user asked for a source of the image used for the t-shirts like the one above. However, he did not get a proper answer.
The image slowly seeped into Western fashion. In May 2017, another redditor posted a currently deleted photo of a person wearing an Ahegao shirt. That was the first image of the now iconic design. Commentators provided a link to Ebay. Redditors also managed to identify the central face; it was an image from Danke Dankei Revolution hentai by Japanese artist Asanagi.
Since that time, the Reddit community has seen a lot of photos of people wearing hoodies and t-shirts with this design, even to school. Comments were controversial. Some suggested this could attract extremely negative reactions when worn in public; others, that these design do not show anything explicit and people are just fearlessly showing their love of anime and Japanese culture. Anyway, the design has gained some notoriety as a fetish.
Animated erotica infiltrated the world of high fashion as well. It was in 2015 when the brand Supreme cooperated with famous Japanese artist Toshio Maeda. The godfather of hentai created an NSFW capsule collection, consisting of several T-shirts, a jacket, a sweatshirt and a pillow with his original artwork. These pieces can still be found on Grailed.
Should You Buy a Hentai Hoodie?
Ahegao or hentai clothes create a loud fashion statement. On one side, wearing an anime sweatshirt or hoodie is just a way of telling the world about the interest and identifying yourself. It is just the same as hanging around in your favorite sports team’s colors. On the other, saying that you are a fan of erotic art can draw too much attention. A large part of this attention can be negative, the same as with a sports team.
Here are some points that can help you decide if you want an Ahegao hoodie:
- It may be embarrassing to wear. However, a human can get used to anything if he or she wants.
- It may get you into trouble with other people. Although Ahegao clothes only use faces in design, some people see it as inappropriate for public and choose to tell you about it in an aggressive or rude manner.
- You may get too much attention, but, some people like that.
- A hoodie with Ahegao faces design is a good tool for fighting social anxiety and embarrassment.
- It can be an icebreaker and a conversation starter at parties or other informal events.
- Last but not least, clothes are means of expression. With an Ahegao print, you can show yourself as a playful, funny and brave person, as a fan of Japanese animation, including erotic art.
As you can see, the decision can be tough. Whether or not to wear an Ahegao hoodie depends on your sensitivity to other people’s opinion and your desire to shout out your position.
Where to Buy an Ahegao Hoodie
Until now, not so many people ventured to show their love of animated erotica with the help of clothes. Supposedly, one of the reasons why was a lack of buying options. That is not an issue anymore. The popularity of Ahegao has encouraged numerous retailers and manufacturers to start delivering pieces featuring the silly faces. The range of Ahegao apparel allows people to show their propensities without breaking taboos (since it’s only faces, nothing more).
Hentai fans from all around the world buy hoodies and t-shirts, sweatshirts and trousers, skirts and even stockings with their beloved characters making the Ahegao face expression. The most trendy design is the layover of various faces all printed on one and the same piece. Although the black and white one is the most famous, there are also other colors available.
Obviously, one can find tons of Ahegao clothes on the Chinese retail platform AliExpress. Price varies from seller to seller. On average, an Ahegao hoodie costs between 10 and 20 dollars. On Amazon, prices are a bit higher (up to 30 dollars, probably because these are the same Chinese clothes plus shipping to US). You can also buy them on eBay or Etsy, whatever you prefer.
The Official Versions of the Ahegao Hoodie
In April 2018, one of the top hentai artists Asanagi tweeted that he wanted to join the Ahegao craze bringing in more quality images: “Ahegao hoodies, which are sold freely overseas, look like they are made with scanned images and the picture quality is not good... I want to sell high-quality items with original data.” Later that year, US hentai publisher FAKKU announced that with Asanagi’s permission they started to sell official Ahegao clothes. However, it was much higher prices, such as 40 dollars for a t-shirt.
Whether these clothes count as not safe for work or even not safe for wearing in public is up to you. But the viral trend is hardly going to stop.