How we long for a sense of history in our garments; the apocryphal anecdote, the dubious legend, the fabricated fable—we can’t get enough of those little stories that give meaning to the tiniest ingredient of our outfits, be it a buttonhole or a lapel, a turn-up or a stitch.
Among those fads, we cherish the idea that our clothes can manifest some dormant origin. And sometimes, it is actually true. But such lineage rarely follows a straight line and words are treacherous signs that indicate multiple directions.
Although the development of the suit as the global modern outfit is grounded in the courtier, military then urban apparel of Western Europe, it has experienced many local adaptations, probably none as subtly distinctive as the Japanese take on contemporary menswear.
You may have read the excellent Ametora, How Japan Saved American Style by W. David Marx. The book showed with detailed historical accuracy how Japan’s youth adopted the Ivy League style in the late 1950s as a rebellious stance and transformed it in their own way, ultimately developing an original approach to classic style and even changing the way we look at denim as not just a rough cloth but as a possibly refined one. One could say that Japan’s acute sense of aesthetics made them keen selectors of the best the West had to offer — incidentally, Japan is a leading market for jazz and has developed a thriving industry in special editions and reissues, showing their true understanding of cultural otherness.