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Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style

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Denimhunters is a knowledge portal for denim enthusiasts and newcomers. Launched in 2011 as a pioneering denim blog, we’re a trustworthy source of denim knowledge and advice.

A fascinating cultural history” ( People) of how Japan adopted and ultimately revived traditional American fashion In the late 1980s, Hiroshi Fujiwara, now deemed designer, musician, influencer, and termed the “Godfather of streetwear”, was the coolest kid in town; some may even say in all of Japan. After moving to Tokyo and being elected “best dressed” at an underground party London Nite, he was sent on a free trip to London, in turn meeting two of his idols, Vivienne Westwood and her partner, Malcolm McLaren. It was McLaren who turned Fujiwara onto the new musical genre coming from the streets of New York--hip-hop. Fujiwara got extensively into the DJ side, returning to Tokyo with his first crate of hip-hop records; the first crate to ever grace the Japanese streets. He began showing the club scene how to scratch and cut records with two turntables and even eventually formed his own hip-hop unit, Tinnie Panx, which became an integral part of the early Japanese rap scene. These cleanup efforts proceeded steadily until August, when the switchboards at Tsukiji Police Station began lighting up with frantic phone calls. Ginza shop owners reported an infestation on the main promenade, Miyuki-dori, requiring immediate assistance from law enforcement: There were hundreds of Japanese teenagers hanging around in strange clothing !

The disparity between the Americans and Japanese in post-WWII Japan during its occupation by American forces “gave a veneer of prestige to anything American” – a concept that makes a lot of sense and which I think still endures till this day. In general, I think the reason why American culture is still dominant is because it’s seen as “better” somehow, like how Singaporean-Chinese try to signal higher status by reducing markers of “Chinese-ness” and taking on habits/speech patterns closer to what they think is present in Western culture. This book was recommended by one of my favorite YouTubers, Bliss Foster. Here's a link to the video if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao-sM... Throughout the years of Restoration, the Japanese government influenced and initiated radical transformations within the society, most drastically altering the male wardrobe from traditional to twentieth century. By exchanging high-class uniforms from long haired top knots and swords for three-piece suits and Napoleonic military uniforms, imported clothing steadily became a source of prestige and wealth.

I would definitely say so, and I would also say that these Japanese magazines have done way less about moving online. A lot of the best GQ content today can be found both online and in the magazine. And there’s a lot of content that’s just online and not in the magazine. But in Japan, print is really the culture that matters. The book leads with a detailed review of the story of Levi Strauss (the man) and everything that lead up to the rivet patent. What really makes the book, though, are the stories of how challengers such as the Greenbaum Brothers, Neustadter Brothers and A. B. Elfelt & Co. invented alternative strengthening methods in the 1870s and ‘80s before the patent ran out. Jenny Balfour-Paul’s epic book, Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans, was originally published in 1998. (You can still get the original print here!)

It was fascinating! I have to admit that I was a bit confused when I saw the photos of the clothes because it just looks like a regular outfit but I guess that’s the beauty of Ametora – it’s become so prevalent it’s practically the default style for many people. Plus, the book basically ends at Uniqlo, which is the default outfit for most guys in Singapore so I shouldn’t be surprised that even the older outfits look familiar to me. It started in the mid-1960s just as the Baby Boomer generation hit college age and it’s continued from there. Tokyo has always been the centre of Japanese pop culture and it was the streets of Ginza in 1964 with the Miyuki Tribe when the first true youth consumer sub-culture appeared. Based on firsthand research, Jeans of the Old West uncovers a chapter of denim’s history that previously had been sort of left in the dark; the years when Levi’s was the only jeans maker who could use rivets in ‘the old west.’

Of course, Fruits magazine fashion is not really an example of Ametora, which is the book's focus. In that regard, it does a great job of emphasizing the enduring relevance of Ivy fashion (in particular), as well as other trends. This book is very focused, which is great--and perhaps this is better than any of the philosophical routes that this book could have taken. In particular, I would have been interested in how America's past and current fascination with Japanese clothing is related to Asiaticism (as opposed to the more past-directed Orientalism), which also manifested in art in movies such as Blade Runner, which warned of a Asian-dominated dystopic future, and the successful globalization of anime. Just over a year ago, we received a book by mail from the press bureau of the American publisher Basic Books (who published G. Bruce Boyer's "Real Style") entitled AMETORA : How Japan Saved American Style, by author W. David Mark. Yet, it was only until last week that we took the time to absorb the book's contents. In the Summer of 1964, Tokyo prepared to host thousands of foreign guests for the Olympic Games. Planners hoped to reveal a futuristic city reborn from the ashes of World War II, complete with sprawling highways, modernist stadium complexes, and elegant Western restaurants. As old-fashioned trolley cars disappeared from the streets, a sleek monorail debuted to whisk tourists into the city from Haneda Airport. I mean excuse me? Takuya Kimura is an icon in Japan and probably out of Japan too. The “questionable talent” bit sounds vaguely insulting, especially since he’s trying to explain Japanese fashion and Japanese culture to an American audience – it just sounds like after all the trouble he took to take various subcultures in Japan seriously, he could not bother to do the same for pop culture.Doing skate right isn’t about being first outside Palace any more. For one, all those logos are starting to feel a bit inauthentic. Instead, look to older heads, like Brendon Babenzien, who left his gig as creative director of Supreme to found Noah, which features loose tailoring alongside its logo hoodies and Aprix, which does smart-ish skate shoes. Fellow New York brand Aimé Leon Dore also does a neat spin on grown-up streetwear – think rugby shirts and cable-knit cardigans – while Awake NY has you covered for legal-drinking-age takes on graphic prints. The book also seems to reframe the relationship between American and Japanese style less as a one-way influence, but more as a dialogue. Is that right? I think a common perception is that Japanese men, post–World War II, simply wanted to dress like Americans they saw, but your book says it’s not that clear-cut. Thomas founded Denimhunters in 2011 and built it into a voice for the denim industry and community.

Anyway, apart from that, I really enjoyed learning about the history of various subcultures and thought that the following two points were interesting: When I first read this book, I was troubled by its seeming abundance of blind spots: although it did devote a section of the book to the vintage craze of Harajuku, I was surprised that it didn't mention the Fruits magazine at all. Of course, Harajuku fashion is much more trendy right now during our current Y2k resurgence, but still--I sometimes felt that this book focused too much on individuals who changed the fashion industry, instead of the large swathes of nameless teens from the lower and middle classes who created entirely new styles during the aftermath of Japan's lost decade.The term zoku means 'tribe" in Japanese, but the postwar usage connoted 'delinquent subculture...As the summer of 1964 progressed and school let out for vacation, high schoolers swelled the Miyuki Tribe's ranks, ballooning to two thousand members each weekend" p.43 And we’re not talking about Uniqlo. The cult of Japanese menswear centres more on a nerdy, expensive strain of men’s fashion. It’s stuff for the purists: painstakingly made clothes that have been in style since at least the 1950s, more often than not classic American designs reimagined and often bettered. They call it Ametora. Japan at first drawn to American fashion due to amazement of how wealthy American Middle class was at first Look closely at any typically "American" article of clothing these days, and you may be surprised to see a Japanese label inside. From high-end denim to oxford button-downs, Japanese designers have taken the classic American look—known as ametora, or "American traditional"—and turned it into a huge business for companies like Uniqlo, Kamakura Shirts, Evisu, and Kapital. This phenomenon is part of a long dialogue between Japanese and American fashion; in fact, many of the basic items and traditions of the modern American wardrobe are alive and well today thanks to the stewardship of Japanese consumers and fashion cognoscenti, who ritualized and preserved these American styles during periods when they were out of vogue in their native land.

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