You know how in the Star Wars universe, entire planets are defined by a single characteristic, like the ice planet Hoth, or the desert world of Tattooine? When you aren’t in a galaxy far, far away though, it’s generally a good rule to not treat places like they’re Star Wars planets. There are, after all, a great deal more nuances and complexities than things like “forests” and “ewoks” to navigate when you’re dealing with real life people and places.
That being said, you could almost be forgiven for imagining that the nation of Japan is exclusively made up of well-dressed, clean-cut, progressive fashion designers who all work in the selvedge denim and handcrafted leather industries, with infinite vending machines and the most futuristic toilet technology in the world for background scenery.
It’s just that the entire contemporary streetwear fashion culture contains such an outsized Japanese influence, from famous labels and revered designers to construction techniques and fetishized materials, that this Cliff’s Notes vision of the country can take root in the imagination, even if, in reality, it represents a specific subset of a wider culture.
Wacko Maria have made a name for themselves by representing an entirely different aspect of Japanese subculture to a wider, fashion audience.
One of the first things that you’ll come across in any introductory blurb about Wacko Maria is that two former professional soccer players from Japan’s J-League, Nobuhiro Mori and Keshi Ishikuza, founded the brand. Unless you happen to be the world’s foremost, non-native Japanese, Verdy Kawasaki fanatic, that probably doesn’t mean much, but the establishment of the J-League in 1993 represented something new.
The immediate point of comparison for J-League soccer was professional baseball, the undisputed king of the Japanese sports landscape, which by and large was representative of a mainstream, corporate establishment. While exceptions existed, the public facing image of baseball was the imperial Yomiuri Giants, and the rigid structure around them. The J-League presented a youthful, colorful, spectacle, which was above all, different.
Wacko Maria taps into this spirit by applying some familiar aspects of Japanese fashion, to some different sources of inspiration. Taking visual cues from sources like American GIs, street fighting delinquents, rockabilly music, and Latin pop culture, Wacko Maria introduces confrontational graphics, off-color language, and an overall edgier sense of style into the Japanese streetwear scene, with all the reckless abandon and subtlety of a brick through a storefront window. If you know anything about Wacko Maria’s influences, you’ll know that’s a compliment.