Most people are, in the general sense, aware of the interplay between Japanese and American culture and its influence on fashion. As is too often the case when a nuanced subject is distilled into bite-sized bits of information, a not entirely inaccurate, but ultimately incomplete picture is formed.
A quick detour through the game of baseball may help to fill in some of the pieces that have gone missing. Baseball was, of course, an American import, but the game took root in Japan so exceptionally that the American and Japanese conceptions of the game can, at times, be completely alien to each other. (Robert Whiting’s You Gotta Have Wa is an essential book on the topic.) One particularly famous anecdote is about former pitcher, Choji Murata, who attempted to “pitch through the pain,” adhering to the strict Japanese training ethos, of what turned out to be a severed tendon, which required Tommy John surgery.
The Japanese and American takes on fashion may not reach that level of complication, but there is a lot more to it than the oversimplification of “Japan is infatuated with American culture, Japan copies American styles and sells those styles back.”
It wasn’t just ‘American” fashion that found a second home in Japan during the transitional, post-war years, it was, specifically, the preppy casual style readily associated with Ivy League campuses. This was no mere rote Xeroxing of “American clothing” either; the youthful, preppy style won favor in Japan because it seemed timeless and expansive enough to avoid specific cultural attachments, which also made it readily adaptable to various interpretations over the years.
There are those who say that what Bedwin and the Heartbreakers and Deluxe are doing, is the preservation of Americana by Japanese fashion, but the attention to fine detail and the meticulous approach to construction and material choice constitutes distinct innovation, independent of the traditional roots, and it is what makes the Japanese concept of elevated basics stand apart.
Words: Dan Alvarez
Styling: Clynton Cox
Model: Moses Besong