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.
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.