My journey in Tokyo began with a sales clerk from Beams’ Marunouchi Building telling me my size simply doesn’t exist in their store. To enthusiastic gaijin (foreigners) who make the pilgrimage to see the Japanese Trad/Ivy scene, this may come as an unfortunate dose of reality if you are of a stature and build outside the norm for Japanese men.
Hoping to score an item, I was about to leave the store feeling defeated. As I reached the door, the clerk stopped me and explained that Beams’ clothes have a very slim, tailored fit, which matches the often slim build of the average Japanese male. However, their partner brand Beams+ carries a variety clothes with an emphasis on looser fits, and specifically, American Trad. My pilgrimage was not in vain, simply rerouted a 10-minute walk south to their Yurakucho store. Walking in the store slightly larger than J.Press by Grand Central, I was greeted by bearded clerks with neatly parted hair, wearing tweed jackets and flannel pants. From here I was introduced to the world of what Beams+ consists of.
The store was decked in antique wood, invoking a Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, J. Press like atmosphere. The clerks enthusiastically discussed with me the history and direction of the brand, as well as their love of American football (which they held much more knowledge than myself). Taking inspiration from pillars of American Trad/Ivy, Beams+ built its empire. Think relaxed fits (for Japanese standards), natural shoulder jackets, regimental ties, and a lot of tweed and flannel. The lengths of the jackets may not meet the needs for taller than average men, however for non-Japanese, the choices are plenty. Their collection for fall/winter is entitled “All You Need is Ivy.” The inspiration behind this season’s looks are modern takes on the Ivy lifestyle, Brooks’ Sack Suits, and Hollywood in the ’50s and ’60s.
The first look consists of a monochromatic look of grey tweed double-breasted jacket, cashmere turtleneck, and wool wide-leg trousers. The modern interpretation lying in the length of the jacket and high-water trousers. A flare of color from the pocket square is added for a vibrant effect:
The classic second look is quintessentially Ivy: blue blazer, regimental tie, white oxford shirt, and grey, wool, wide-leg trousers. True inspiration from the Ivy leaguers of the heyday, an homage to the forefathers.
The third look is a cross between Hollywood cool and beatnik. A shaggy stripe v-neck sweater and pleated wool (albeit high-water) slacks. Paired with the sunglasses further emphasizes the West Coast cool; you can almost hear Stan Getz or Chet Baker playing in the background:
Pilgrims who make the journey to Japan to find the Trad/Ivy epicenter may rest assured as Beams Plus will be able to cater to their needs. Preppy, Ivy, and Trad are thriving in Japan, may we all take note. — PETER E. LAVELLE
Thank you for this post. The American influence on Japanese style/tastes (and vice versa) is part of a much longer story.
I would be pleased if, here at Ivy-Style.com, a lot more attention was paid to the Japanese take on Ivy. The story of the post War (second World) Japan-U.S.A. diplomatic alliance is one of the best ever. It’s amazing that, after all that brutality and the dropping of two bombs, it happened at all. Opinions about MacArthur will vary, but thank God the social, economic, and political reforms worked. If it can be considered an occupation, I agree with historians who argue it was not only benign but positive–for Japanese citizens. Japan remains an important and valued ally, and traditionalists here in America likely have more in common with traditionalists there than many of our fellow citizens.
Not entirely unrelated aside: I love the story about how the old Jeep influenced the creation/production of the Toyota Land Cruiser. See Toyota Jeep BJ.
More off topic but since it was alluded to – it’s very interesting that after the browbeating that Roxor has been subjected to from FCA, (because their little Jeep looks too much like a big Jeep) they have opted to change their grille design to echo that of the Toyota FJ40. Looks great in my opinion.
Okay back to clothing. I’m sure that the quality is exceptional on the above showcased outfits, but I can’t abide the flood pants…
“Not entirely unrelated aside: I love the story about how the old Jeep influenced the creation/production of the Toyota Land Cruiser. See Toyota Jeep BJ.”
And the Land Rover, Nissan Patrol, etc.
We could learn a great deal from the Japanese, who, in my experience, are a highly interesting people and culture with much to offer the rest of the world over and above their particular understanding/iteration of ivy style.
Your are quite right about the brutality of the U.S. dropping two bombs on Japan.
For a brief rundown on Japanese brutality see:
How happy for both countries that we are now allies.
Beams Plus 20th anniversary film:
Many thanks for your comment. After the collapse of Singapore, my grandfather was imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese in World war 2. He was initially held in the notorious Changi prison before being transferred to a POW camp in Japan. Due to long periods of starvation and appalling food, my grandfather returned home in an appalling emaciated condition. His body bore the marks of his torture for the rest of his life.
Don’t believe the modern hype and rhetoric which SE has clearly bought. Even now, Japan retains it culture of humiliation and torture, especially on its television shows. It has a cultural obsession with pornography, especially child pornography and a long history of incest. They are common themes in anime and video games. Misogyny is another feature. Japanese women are treated a s second class citizens and around a third subjected to sexual harassment at work.
That is the unacceptable reality of Japanese “traditionalism”.
Whoa. I’m tempted to retract my comment. I confess my ignorance, Kenny. Perhaps I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing.
Given the Japanese eye for detail, how is it that Japanese ownership of J. Press turned out to be such a disaster ?
Well, I recently acquired something very cool from Beams+ and that’s enough for me.
I think the picture of the shop looks very nice, as do the clothes, although the short pants don’t work for me. However, I am not their target customer. I’m just glad that they are helping to keep Ivy alive in a contemporary interpretation. Those of us who really want the authentic heyday look (definitely count me in) can still find it here and there, but I think that something closer to the current Stockton or Ben silver updated traditional is probably more in keeping with the general market these days, and the market for tailored clothing in general is shrinking dramatically. Locally, I believe that Eljo’s sells more 2-button undarted coats with double vents than it does 3/2 sacks, although they can put together a beautifully authentic heyday outfit if that is what one wants. Like J. Press, they use Southwick and Empire for a lot of their tailored clothing, much of which is MTM.
As for the Japanese ownership of J. Press mentioned by S.E., I am pretty pleased over all with the direction it has taken over the past couple of years, especially when compared to what has happened at Brooks under Italian ownership. Is the shoulder perfect? Maybe not quite the same as I see on my 30-year-old Brooks tweeds, but so much better than what I see on most men.
Still off the subject of clothing, I have recently read that the present government of Japan states it will only need six months to be at full nuclear war capacity once they get the approval of the US. China does not like this at all, of course. At least they (Japan)should be on our side this time.
Nice piece. Not sure I have heard of Beams before.
Not to pick nits or anything, but the word “gaijin” doesn’t mean “foreigner”—at least not the way you might think it does.
The word for “foreigner” is “gaikokujin,” which means “outside country person.” In contrast, “gaijin” is used only for whites, and some people think it’s so derogatory that it can’t be broadcast on Japanese TV.
Other than that, great article.
I’m recalling what happened a few years ago, when that other Canadian manufacturer was used.
What a perfect aquisition Brooks Brothers would be!
I live in Tokyo, but do not often see Japanese men wearing U.S.-style traditional attire on weekdays, perhaps because of unspoken (which is often more important than what is spoken or documented) office dress codes and long train commutes. Interestingly though, these do not seem to be serious impediments to the ways in which women clothe or coif themselves, and I am delighted to report that the trad look is more prevalent in that half of the population.
S.E. – Completely agree with you regarding the broad, squarish “Canadian shoulder” look of a few years back. I am glad to see that our beloved J. Squeeze seems to have turned a corner on that issue.
Glad to hear this, Charlottesville.
Great read. It seams Beams+ is gaining popularity, a small part of their collection was also available at Mr Porter last season.
I lived in Japan for almost 20 years and don’t recall ever purchasing a single piece of clothing that ever truly fit the way I like it to other than a necktie. I am 6′ and slim, not in any way a huge person, but my wide shoulders were always the problem (Once I got an MRI in that country and the machine couldn’t take a proper image because my shoulders were too wide). One will see many tall young Japanese men today but they are lacking in the chest & shoulders department – a walking pencil really.