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.
Not surprisingly, one of the most interesting things I saw in Tokyo was an old pair of jeans from Levi’s at Pueblo. I’ve seen similar jeans like this before, but not specifically anything co-labeled like these 501s were. Judging from the detailing seen here, these jeans were made specifically for Brooks Brothers anywhere from 1937 to 1942. Pueblo’s owner and resident vintage hunter, Eiji Asakawa told me that before he found these specific jeans he has never seen another pair like them. I’m not a Levi’s vintage expert (though, full disclosure, we do work with Levi’s on several projects) I too have never seen or heard of jeans like these, which is pretty amazing thing to happen in San Francisco or Tokyo.
So much of Tokyo is tucked away in a small alleyways or hidden upstairs in a plain-looking office buildings that if you aren’t actively looking for things you probably won’t find the really good stuff. Part of this is because Tokyo rents are amazingly expensive, and part of it seems to be based on the thrill of the hunt. Such is the case for the vintage shop Pueblo. The owner Eiji Asakawa keeps a sign out front, but unless you know what you are looking for or are an adventurous sort you are probably going to miss the place. There are so many randomly named places in Harajuku that if you were to check everything out you would probably just spend most of your day discovering hair salons. The Japanese obsession with hair is something I can’t even begin to understand. The Japanese obsession with vintage Americana, that I have a better idea about.
A note of housekeeping. The last few weeks have had me all over the place — I’ve been to England, Seattle, Portland, New York and will be in Japan for the next week or so. Along the way I have gathered up a bunch of good stuff to share with you from the journey, so expect updates soon. In the mean time here are some pictures from yesterday. Obviously, no trip to Tokyo is complete without sushi shaped donuts. Anything else (new) that I should see? Shout me out in the comments.
Accordingly, the site will be on light duty and posting may be sporadic. Your patience is appreciated. Keep an eye on the ACL Twitter feed and the Instagram updates (same user name, @acontinuouslean) if you want to follow the action live. There should be ample drunkenness.
There’s a shoe repair place called Brass in Tokyo like no other I have ever been to. The guys from Red Wing Japan took me there last time I was in country. Often it’s those moments — like when I was first introduced to Brass in person — that make me realize the Japanese can still do ‘Americana’ better than Americans. I could easily see a place like Brass in Portland or Brooklyn or L.A., but I doubt it would have the customer base to actually survive. Maybe I’m wrong though.
Guys come from all parts of Tokyo to have Brass resole their Goodyear welted shoes. In the shop I saw footwear from Alden, Edward Green, Wesco and of course Red Wing; it wasn’t just fine leather bottom shoes it was a mix of brands and styles. That is something that impressed me about Brass. Normally in New York you go to a repair shop and they can redo a pair of Aldens (and know their stuff), but I’ve seen a lot of boots come out of those shops that just look ridiculous. I take my shoes to Mouded Shoe on 39th Street or to VIP on 55th, but never my boots — those get sent back to the OEM. Red Wing has a pretty amazing shoe repair facility in Minnesota (which I have seen a few different times) and Allen Edmonds also has a great repair service which I have also toured. But if I lived anywhere near Brass I would definitely have to try out their service.
While in Tokyo last week with the folks from Red Wing (who is a client, full disclosure and all that good stuff) we fell upon what turned out to be the most amazing cache of deadstock Red Wings that I have ever seen all together in one place. Everything was unworn and for sale — only in Japan my friends. More here.
As is the custom in Japan, my best friend Rob and I took our shoes off when we entered Tokihito Yoshida’s studio in the beautiful Daikanyama section of Tokyo. It was a little disarming for me to be meeting with someone in my socks, a feeling that certainly wasn’t the intention of Tokihito. He is soft spoken, courteous and welcoming. There was a language barrier at play as well. He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Japanese, luckily we had a translator. Oh, and we can talk through the clothing he designs.
Tokihito is probably best known (though I think he still flies largely under the radar) for his wildly successful (and completely badass) Barbour Beacon collection. Outside of that, Tokihito and his own line TO KI TO don’t have much of a presence outside of Japan, something that needs to change. Tokihito has some serious design skills and is deserving of all of the good words that can be sent his way. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t be afraid to say he is one of the best designers in the world. I’ve never seen a better straight-up outwear designer. Bold statements be damned, the man is good. The details and shapes are equal parts logical and totally unexpected.