How did Japan come to define American style? First by mimicking it, then by collecting it, and finally by perfecting it.
In Ametora—Japanese slang for “American traditional”—Tokyo-based author W. David Marx traces Japan’s menswear booms after World War II, from the Ivy League look through Harajuku streetwear and the Uniqlo empire. Particularly interesting is how Japan paid handily for vintage American jeans, reverse-engineered them, and then as decades passed, became the go-to source for premium denim.
It’s also a study on the rise of media-driven consumerism: The often-intertwined forces of Japan’s fashion magazines, which needed fresh looks to promote, and its apparel industry, which needed to produce to survive.
“Much of the Japanese ‘reverence’ for America came not just from book-ish obsessives […] preaching the look as part of an evangelist mission, but from the fashion industry’s functional needs to sell it,” Marx writes.
Case in point: it was VAN, a Japanese suit maker, that commissioned the US shoot for the now-cult-classic photo book Take Ivy. Fashion is a cultural force, an art form, but also a business.
Ametora is detailed without feeling stuffy, and is an excellent read if you’re planning a Tokyo visit or are interested in Japanese culture or the global fashion industry. You may even find the taxonomic name of your style subtype; mine is “Heavy Duty Ivy.” Its photos are mostly archival, so an e-book is good enough.
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