Has Japan Run Out Of American Ideas?


Earlier this week, Derek at Put This On posted a lengthy Q&A with W. David Marx, Ivy Style contributor and author of the new book “Ametora” about Ivy, trad and Americana in Japan. It’s a smart conversation that Ivy omnivores will want to check out. Here’s a teaser:

It feels like Americana, prep, and denim have somewhat receded as trends in the US. Are they still important in Japan?

At this point, the Japanese fashion market is so big and diverse that it includes literally everything. Old guys buy replicas of VAN Jacket clothing from the 1960s, middle-age guys buy hardcore repro denim, young guys buy a single Thom Browne shirt and wear it untucked over shorts. A lot of American styles are just so buried into the fashion culture that they are equally common in Japan as they are in the U.S. But at the same time, the editors and stylists at Popeye are now trying to do something very different than just historical Americana or even copy current American trends.

In contrast to the above exchange, a day later the streetwear-focused website Hypebeast put up a piece critiquing Japan’s continued mining of American style, pointing out that the latest issue of Popeye is just yet another “Take Ivy’ remix. Writes Daniel Sandison:

Since 1976, [Popeye], this self-billed “Magazine For City Boys” has been informing Japan’s most fashion-forward on the trends and styles of the moment. Now monthly, the magazine has become a respected worldwide source and touchstone of Japanese fashion and culture. This month’s cover, their February Issue and annual Style Sample, mimics the cover of Teruyoshi Hayashida’s 1965 publication, down to using the very same archway on a New England campus. The coverline reads “Take Ivy 2016.”

Fashion is undeniably cyclical and this could simply be a changing of the guard, a passing of the baton from the streetwear icons to a new, more worldly and aware Japanese youth. It does, regardless, represent a cultural crossroads. If, thanks to globalisation and ease of access to culture online, the Japanese youth is no longer enamoured with the otherness of Americana, the country must begin to produce a distinguished style of its own. Doing American better than the Americans may have worked for 50 years, but this sudden halt in progress, this vacuum of ideas and inspiration, means that things are set to change. Japan, like Shōsuke Ishizu in 1965, must take matters into its own hands. But this time it must come from within. Half a century of disenfranchised Japanese youth later and the country’s creatives are finally being forced into creating something that is distinctly theirs. Unhindered by the influence of a far-off fashion superpower.

Will Japan continue mining Americana for another 50 years? But for Ivy fans specifically, do we need them to? Perhaps, like the global financial markets, the Ivy League Look is dependent on its foreign allies in Japan and England for survival, even on its home turf.

Head over here for the Put This On interview with David Marx, and here for Hypebeast’s “Retake Ivy: Has Japan Run out of American Trends to Be Inspired By?” — CC

10 Comments on "Has Japan Run Out Of American Ideas?"

  1. Best headline ever, CC.

    Re “Will Japan continue mining Americana for another 50 years?”: CC, are you unaware of Japanese demographic trends? In 50 years there may be no one left over there to wear Japanese style clothing much less American style.

    Maybe I need to turn the tables and dig out the geta (traditional wooden clogs) I bought in Japan 45 years ago to wear with khakis and an OCBD; Sort of an Samurai-Ivy fusion look, no?

  2. The fashion showed in the 2016 picture looks like it came straight from the Williamsburg or Logan Square enclaves. Good grief.

  3. Bags' Groove | January 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm |

    But you can’t wear your geta without your yukata. Still the most natural shouldered of garments, after all.

  4. @ Bags’ Groove

    I have yukata and obi but no geta. Would weejuns be an appropriate substitute?

  5. Henry Contestwinner | January 23, 2016 at 1:42 am |

    Zori (traditional sandals) are an acceptable alternative to geta; flip-flops (what we used to call “thongs”) are a distant third. Wearing Weejuns with your yukata would look about as good as wearing geta with your suit.

    Which reminds me: once, in Shibuya, I saw a Japanese guy walking down the street, dressed normally but with his hair up in a traditional Japanese topknot, including the shaved pate. That was bizarre.

  6. Bags' Groove | January 23, 2016 at 5:28 am |

    Of course not, as you well know, my boy.
    I often get the feeling that many on these pages just love writing words like Weejun and Oxford cloth button-down. Puts me in mind of Linus and his security blanket.

  7. Only 6 comments?
    A good indication of the fact that most Ivy Style readers aren’t really interested in Japanese Ivy?

  8. @bags’, @henry

    A little sartorial humor. Aside from occasional use as a robe, my yukata stays mostly packed away – a treasured souvenir of a long ago visit. The weejuns… similarly retired for better made shoes.

  9. Bags' Groove | January 24, 2016 at 2:07 am |

    Hardly “a good indication”. Subject matter is important in these things.
    If you look back you’ll find that other Japanese Ivy pieces have attracted a substantial number of comments.
    There are many who like to look at the big broad Ivy picture.

  10. @Henry

    I’ll wager that yours was the first mention of thongs on this blog. Viva la thong!



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