Compared to Western fashion magazines, Japanese magazines often get very specific about how to achieve a certain look. Editors and stylists do not just play with themes, as with most fashion editorial, but painstakingly recreate the exact styling from definitive fashion guides and personages.
In its February 2010 issue, Japanese weekend wear magazine 2nd decided to go back to the bibles of Trad/Ivy/Preppy to build perfectly authentic outfits of American casual (see scans below). Stylist Hajime Suzuki showed readers how to replicate exact outfits from the works “Take Ivy,” “Ivy Illustrated” and “The Official Preppy Handbook” with new brands.
First up is “Take Ivy,” a photo book that was incredibly influential in Japanese Ivy circles for decades before recently being rediscovered in the West. Suzuki kicks things off with a suggestion of white oxford button-downs from Michael Tapia, Individualized Shirts or Gambert. 2nd, unfortunately, had to go to vintage pieces from Tokyo’s best clothing recycle shops to find the letter sweater famously worn by a Princeton undergrad in the book. Barns Outfitters, meanwhile, somehow has the identical faded Brown University sweatshirt from the book for a mere ¥13400 — likely more than what the Brown Co-Op wants for something more modern. Other key items include plaid flannel shirts, classic sneakers, varsity jackets, white pants, rugby shirts, chinos and anorak parkas. The overall feel is sporty, but these were students after all.
Suzuki then presents real-life recreations of the Kazuo Hozumi-illustrated work “Ivy Illustrated,” another bible of Ivy style amongst Japanese baby boomers. The book’s images come to life in comical and somewhat unrealistic ways, including goofy smiles and more than one bandana ascot. The general impact is very Tokyo weekend dad rather than New England during the Kennedy era.
Finally, 2nd recreates some looks from “The Official Preppy Handbook,” which had an official translated release in Japan back in the early ’80s. Suzuki outfits a dummy in perfect ski vest over thick sweater with a hint of 2010 magic (it’s all about the plaid bits on the green vest from Cresent Down Works). 2nd doesn’t go for the classic LL Bean Norwegian Sweater oddly, perhaps because LL Bean Japan failed to sell the sweater this year despite its revival in America. The second look in the series does, however, manage to replicate prep-school sloppiness in orderly Japanese fashion by using paint-flecked, art-damaged khakis from Waste(Twice).
The overall feature does a relatively good job of distinguishing the differences between Ivy (in its “authoritative” ’60s incarnation) and preppy (in its “authoritative” early ’80s, Birnbach-curated incarnation.) While most Japanese fashion culture is not particularly comfortable with wild extrapolation, stylist Suzuki does deserve credit for not making the outfits look like period costumes. Traditional clothing presumes a timeless elegance, but the breath of brand options here in Japan for these items gives the wearer a considerable amount of flexibility between playing the classics and playing around with the classics. — W. DAVID MARX
W. David Marx is a writer living in Tokyo whose work has appeared in GQ, Brutus, Nylon, and Best Music Writing 2009, among other publications. He is currently Tokyo City Editor of CNNGo and Chief Editor of web journal Néojaponisme.