fashions, and participation in the related sub-culture, is equally as important as the sound of the music itself in the use of the term.
Visual Kei emerged in the late 1980s, pioneered by bands such as X Japan, D'erlanger, Buck-Tick, and Color.
The word called Visual Kei was created with "PSYCHEDELIC VIOLENCE CRIME OF VISUAL SHOCK" that was a slogan of X Japan.
Color vocalist "Dynamite Tommy" formed his record company Free-Will in 1986, which has been a major contributor in spreading modern Visual Kei outside Japan.
In 1992, X Japan launched an attempt to enter the European and American markets, but it would take another 8 years until popularity and awareness of Visual Kei bands would extend worldwide.
In the mid 1990s, Visual Kei received an increase in popularity throughout Japan, when album sales from Visual Kei bands started to reach record numbers. The most notable bands to achieve success during this period included, X Japan, Glay, and Luna Sea, however a drastic change in their appearance accompanied their success.
During the same period, bands such as Kuroyume, Malice Mizer, and Penicillin, gained mainstream awareness, although they were not as commercially successful.
By 1999, mainstream popularity in Visual Kei was declining, X Japan had disbanded, and the death of lead guitarist Hideto Matsumoto in 1998 had denied fans a possible reunion. It was not long before Luna Sea decided to disband in the year 2000, and L'Arc-en-Ciel went on a hiatus the same year.
In 2007 the genre has been revitalized, as Luna Sea performed a one-off performance, and X Japan reunited for a new single and a world tour. With these developments, Visual Kei bands enjoyed a boost in public awareness, described by the media as "Neo-Visual Kei".
Visual Kei has enjoyed popularity among independent underground projects, as well as artists achieving mainstream success, with influences from Western phenomena, such as glam, goth and cybergoth. The music performed encompasses a large variety of genres, i.e. pop, punk, heavy metal and electronica. Magazines published regularly in Japan with Visual Kei coverage are Arena 37°C, Fool's Mate and Shoxx. Noted bands who at least at some point sported a Visual Kei theme include Dir en grey, Luna Sea and Malice Mizer.
Popularity and awareness of such groups outside of Japan has seen an increase in recent years. While the successful X Japanlaunched an attempt to enter the international market as early as 1992, it would still take another decade until live concerts and regular domestic releases by Visual Kei themed bands in Europe and North America came to pass.
Visual kei fashion is generally intended to shock, and generally inclues the following (or a variant thereof); Platform boots, black bondage pants or short-shorts, tight tops or alternativley vicorian-esque shirt and waistcoat coordinations, and fetishy stuff (such as chains or vinyl/other fabrics associated with BDSM). Colors used are mostly black, with some white or red. Hair is gelled into elaborate styles, and is typically black with colored streaks. Dark make-up is typically worn on both sexes. Note; visual-kei fashion tends to be at least slighly scaled down for school, work, and lazing around the house.
Visual kei has spawned many sub-genres, including Oshare kei, Angura kei, KoteKote, Koteosa kei, and Nagoya kei.
Image made on a dressup game on deviantart, most info from wikipedia, but the last two paragraphs were by me.