Friendly Rivals: GQ Interview With David Marx On Japanese Trad


When I was in college, I worked part-time tutoring foreign students in English. One Japanese guy became kind of a pal, and during a conversation one day he said, “The way it works is that America comes up with an idea and Japanese make it better.”

I was only 20 at the time and this was the pre-Internet stone age. I’d never had a conversation with someone from another country who dared question America’s supremacy at most things except men’s soccer. It stirred a certain patriotic knee reflex — not that I kicked him in the groin or anything. But I still remember it.

Somewhere around this time I would have seen on VHS the ’80s comedy about Japanese automakers in the US, I think it’s called “Gung Ho,” in which Michael Keaton tells his Japanese bosses that if by miracle they had an original idea, it’d be too deeply lodged in their uptight asses for them to ever get it out.

This is rambling preamble to an interview with David Marx that GQ posted a few days ago; they titled the piece “How Japan Beat America At Its Own Style Game.” Does that strike you as clickbait for denimheads and Ivy geeks, or is my knee just getting twitchy again? I’d say the Japanese are doing with J. Press just a tad better than the Italians are doing with Brooks Brothers.

The Marx interview is naturally pegged on his new book “Ametora.” Here’s a sample exchange:

In the book, you introduce [the book] Take Ivy as one of the first major influences on Japanese style.

Ivy started it. And you’re starting from scratch. At the time, Japan wasn’t getting much influence from America, because it was so closed off to the world. After [World War II], you couldn’t go overseas very easily for about 20 years, until around 1964. And even then, it was super expensive until the late ’80s. Take Ivy was one of the first books that brought American style to Japan. After that, the commercial world started picking up on hippie style and outdoor style, but Ivy is really where the system starts, and I think that’s why Ivy League style has become so venerated. It’s not just a certain style of the ’60s, but it was the start of the men’s style in Japan.

Head over here for the full interview, and let’s make American trad great again. — CC

Top image LIFE Magazine.

6 Comments on "Friendly Rivals: GQ Interview With David Marx On Japanese Trad"

  1. “Let’s make American trad great again.”

    Yes! CC for president!

    Is that slogan available embroidered on a cap? And puleeeeez not one of those wimpy golf-style caps that Trump wears.

  2. I “headed over there for the full interview” and the first thing that I noticed was a picture of a man standing in front of a former Atlantic Coast Line chair car (built by Pullman Standard in 1949) and now privately owned and named “Le Bonheur Cadillac Club”, and numbered (in the Amtrak Private Car 800000 series) 800059, which means that the picture was probably taken fairly recently somewhere in the United States.

  3. There’s this:

    “At the end of the book, I make the point that the whole menswear-blog scene of seven or eight years ago started because the whole culture of dressing up has sort of disappeared for American men.”

    This rings true, but there are pockets.

    I know plenty of lawyers, professors, doctors, bankers (including investment) and clergy who dress well. But then, these are the older, more established professions. So, no surprises. There was a time when the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker “dressed up,” but these days “dressed up” means khakis and a button-down shirt.

    Since the quants and computer geeks (I’ll include most engineers) are glorified, overpaid mechanics and most members of the managerial class are sub-par (in a variety of ways) in general, there’s no reason to expect them to dress for their vocation. Pardon the hyperbole, but I’m convinced.

    Visit a Southern law firm in a major city (let’s go with Atlanta or Charlotte or Nashville) and you’ll see the present-day interpretation of American traditional. With the exception of darts and more shoulder than necessary, all the familiar specs are there.

  4. Henry Contestwinner | January 11, 2016 at 2:07 pm |

    And in stark contrast to what S.E. wrote, there is the West Coast in general, and California in particular. “A funeral? Well, I guess I’ll wear a black bowling shirt and my dressy flip-flops.”

  5. Chesty Puller | January 22, 2016 at 1:40 am |

    Japan does to Ivy look what Dunlop did to the wheel – Alfred D put rubber around the wheel to make it a smoother ride!
    Tokyo took Ivy one step better and did the same thing!

  6. Neville Brand | January 22, 2016 at 2:15 am |

    John Dunlop invented the rubber tire not Alfred. Sorry for that !

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