If you’ve never heard of Ring Jacket before we can’t blame you (although if you were paying attention to our post on The Armoury, you would’ve spotted their name.) While Ring Jacket was founded in 1954, the Japanese brand only officially arrived in the U.S. recently, as the aforementioned New York location of The Armoury began to offer a refined assortment of sport coats, knits, and overcoats from RJ’s astonishingly deep collections. Ring Jacket is best described as a proficient amalgam of Italian tailoring, American sportswear, and Japanese panache. Their wares range from bold soft shouldered sport coats, to inventive knit blousons, to slim pinstriped suits, pulling dribs and drabs of influence from the world over to create a cohesive range of formal and casual pieces.
There is no item more essential to stateside style than the good ol’ oxford cloth button-down. Affectionately known as the OCBD, this shirt has remained an icon of American style for over a century, which is why it only makes sense that arguably the best oxford on the market right now comes straight from Japan. Before any Ivy League pursuits out there try to burn me at the stake (in a sack suit of course) allow me to explain.
When John E. Brooks, the grandson of Brooks Brothers founder, developed the first OCBD based on a shirt he spotted on English polo players in 1896, he wasn’t merely designing another garment to add to his family’s repertoire, he was giving birth to a legend. All legends eventually fade though, and over the years measurements have been updated, fits have been tweaked, factories have changed. The Brooks oxford that you can purchase today might be related to its ancestor, but it’s far from a direct clone.
For most Americans these changes don’t even register, but to those that are interested (or pedantic) enough to care, they’re a deal breaker. Many companies have tried, to varying degrees of success, to recreate the original OCBD over the years, yet none have ever done it as well as Kamakura. The Kamakura story is one that has become curiously familiar over the past few years – a Japanese style aficionado, in this case Yoshio Sadasue, decides to convert his love for the “East Coast look” into faithful reproductions of archetypical Ivy League garments. This tale is unique though, because Sadasue was not merely raised on the Ivy look, he helped to shape this style in Japan through during his time at the legendary (and yet elusive) trad brand VAN Jacket in the sixties and seventies.
If there’s one arena that Japanese designers dominate it’s not obscure outerwear, or vintage inspired sweats, or ironic yet unironic footwear. It’s socks. No one has mastered the art of a great knit sock quite like our counterparts from the Land of the Rising Sun. The attention to detail, fit, quality and construction coming out of Japan is rivaled by few in the U.S., Italy or elsewhere. Fortunately for those of us in the States, there’s been a recent influx of these superior socks into the American market, and so we decided to round up the best Japanese socks available right now. As the temperatures turn and things get cold, your feet will thank us for this one.
After every visit to Daikanyama, I leave thinking it is the neighborhood I would most like to inhabit should I ever move to Tokyo. It is never really crowded, there’s an Eataly (which pre-dates and surpasses NYC’s consistently chaotic eye-talyon outpost), really delicious coffee, leafy streets and of course good shopping. It sort of reminds me of TriBeCa in a lot of ways. That’s to say it is probably very expensive to live there, which likely means I would not ever be able to call it home, but it’s fun to imagine. Anyway, back to the point at hand: the importance of quality menswear retail. Tokyo has it in spades, much more than any city anywhere in the world. Having been all over the place, I am comfortable saying this rather bold statement because it is undeniable. The consumer culture is borderline insane and that is what makes it so much fun to visit.
The intention is to visit the great NYC shop Extra more than once or twice a year. This shouldn’t be too difficult, considering the small store sits about 500 yards as the crow flies from my office, but I’m lucky if I can ever make it by. This Sunday I managed to do a bit better and stopped by Extra to chat with the shop’s owner / one man band Koji and see what was new.
In addition to all sorts of amazing vintage clothing, objects and art (much of which is priced NOT to sell because Koji doesn’t want to let it go), Extra carries a comprehensive selection of NYC-based Post Overalls. I ended up leaving with a black wool Chore coat from Post, a perfect jacket from fall. I also came away with some intrigue after browsing a few samples that Koji was selling off from Japanese brand Corona. I’ve seen a few things on blogs about Corona here and there, but I never realized that the line was designed by one of the Post Overalls guy who split off and moved back to Japan.
Since the beginning, Batten Sportswear has been a collection I have really bought into. Shinya Hasegawa, the man behind the clothes, has always inspired me with his dedication and commitment to go off on his own and put a stake in the ground. I’ve seen Batten grow from a one man operation with zero stores and the tiniest of offices on 37th Street to a slightly less tiny office with a production person, a showroom and dozens of stores in the matter of a few seasons. It’s been cool to see Batten develop and grow, it is especially great because every season I am impressed with the product. I like the fact that Batten refines and tweaks stuff I already love like 60/40 jackets, bags and anoraks. It isn’t trying to reinvent anything per se, Batten makes good things better by tweaking the fits and adding in little details that make the clothes special.
Just getting around to this, but it sort of is the perfect weekend for this type of thing. This past month the Japanese magazine Huge published an issue centered around all things American. The topic was approached in a uniquely Japanese way, which is to say it was comprehensive and something that seemed much closer in structure to a catalog than a magazine. Huge made in USA was very obviously based on the 1970s magazine Made in U.S.A. (pictured below), which was a watershed moment for many American brands in Japan. The copy below (Made in U.S.A-2) was a gift from a colleague in Tokyo who I work with on Red Wing. According to him, this magazine (which currently fetch about $250 per issue) is what really put the Red Wing Shoe Company on the map in Japan. Made in U.S.A.-2 is for me a prized possession and a constant source of inspiration.
Huge covers a lot of familiar ground by including folks like Wood&Faulk, Dehen, Stanley & Sons, Archival Clothing and a host of other American manufacturers. There are also some surprises and new finds along the way. If you live anywhere near a Kinokuniya you can still get your very own copy of Huge (June). If you are looking for a copy of Made in U.S.A.-2 best to search on Yahoo Japan auctions and hope the seller ships to the good old USA.