Leather shoes are all about potential. The real appeal of a pair of leather soles lies not in how they look today, but how they’ll look tomorrow. “Character,” is that intangible factor that compels us to purchase a pair of shoes based at least partially on its ability to age along with us. Japanese footwear label Hender Scheme is driven by this notion, as their collection of raw leather shoes are distinguished by their promise of an incomparable patina. Unlike most leather sole labels though, Hender Scheme isn’t best known for dress shoes (although they have recently begun to enter into this market), instead they focus primarily on sneaker silhouettes. These shoes, much like paying a visit to your hometown as an adult, are at once both familiar and unknown.
A good friend of mine, upon being questioned about the lack of color within his wardrobe, replied that he “wears lots of colors, they just all happen to be blue.” His answer, aside from being a prime example of a good ol’ dad joke, could also be an unofficial mantra for men’s style in 2014.
From Carolina to cobalt to cerulean and every shade in between the men’s clothing spectrum has officially been (dip) dyed blue, and no brand is relishing in this indigo obsession quite like the aptly named Blue Blue Japan. Not all of BBJ’s broad collection is blue, but their most intriguing pieces feature at least one, if not many shades of the color.
At one point during my visit to her Garment District showroom, Chiharu Hayashi, the designer behind Bags in Progress, describes her bags as tool totes for everyday life. As she says this, Chiharu gleefully picks up one of her bags to show me how each interior has a specific purpose. One pocket is for an iPad, another is cut specifically fit a Moleskin, and one of the side slots is perfectly proportioned for a pair of sunglasses. A place for everything, and for everything a place.
The modern general store can’t be found in Brooklyn, or Portland, or any other quirked-out city where the general store label is now affixed to at least a quarter of all vintage stores. No, the true contemporary general store is actually located in Tokyo, or to be more specific right online at Muji.us. Few, if any, current stores are guided by the same catchall attitude of the classic general store, but Muji is a true one stop shop, peddling affordable housewares, kitchen tools, office supplies, furniture, travel gear, healthcare products, various nicknacks, and even a complete clothing collection.
For many designers, somewhere along the way between concept and execution their vision gets lost in the shuffle, but not so for Jun Takahashi of Japanese label, Undercover. Takahashi is now approaching the fourth year of his Gyakusou collection, a collaborative effort with Nike that exists at the intersection between high fashion and performance running gear.
As anyone that has ever laced up a pair of sneaker can attest, running is as much an emotional pursuit as it is an athletic one. Takahashi has never been one to shy away from emotion in his work. His Undercover collections are often rife with quotes from shoegaze songs, dark tones, and lush textures. As for Gyakusou, which roughly translates into “running in reverse,” as a reference to the fact that Takahashi and his friends run the “wrong way” through Tokyo, the collection has always been a meditation on how runners interact with their environment.
In 1909, Mighty Mac was founded in “America’s Oldest Seaport,” Gloucester, Massachusetts. Exactly one century later, the classic sea-ready sportswear brand was revived by 35Summers, an umbrella company based out of Tokyo. During that hundred year span, Mighty Mac followed what has now become a familiar trajectory for many American “heritage” brands – a steady rise throughout the mid-century, a sharp decline in the waning decades of twentieth century, and a resurrection led by a reverent Japanese audience. Even after the brand shuttered around 1990, the Japanese had come to idolize Mighty Mac of Gloucester for the same reasons that New Englanders were drawn to the brand during the early 1900’s.
American companies publish men’s style magazines. Japanese companies publish sacred texts of the religion that is men’s clothing.
What separates Japanese publications from their American counterparts is obsession. While American writers cover clothing and the lifestyle that surrounds it, Japanese writers identify every possible minute detail, study them to death, and then publish these beautifully designed tomes of men’s style. Japanese magazines, are bound by one thing (well, aside from the language that is), density.
There’s now more publications then ever before, and each one seems to set a new pedantic high point. Flip through any of these imported publications and you’ll see page after page of these masterfully arranged stories that scrutinize and celebrate men’s clothing in a manner that hasn’t been seen since Gentry Magazine back in the fifties. While all of these titles do fall into the general category of “clothing,” each has their own quirks and characteristics that set them apart, so to help you navigate this sea of Kanji and street style photos, we give you a timely breakdown of eight of ACL’s favorite Japanese magazines.