Thoughts on Classic Tokyo Men's Wear

Image via FourWheelDrift

Tokyo style is easily misunderstood. The most common lens for viewing Tokyo fashion is Fruits or Tune magazine. If you have ever been to Tokyo, or more specifically the corner of Omotesondo and Meiji in Harajuku, you have seen dozens of street photographers sitting on the curb scouting "street style". Every time I walked past that corner I hesitated to get excited, the style walking past seemed just as positioned as the cameras waiting to capture them.

The popularity and successful exportation of Harajuku style puts classic Japanese fashion on a distant back burner. Who wants to see a perfectly tailored suit, handmade shoes, and an antique Rolex on a middle manager hopping off the subway when they can see a Care Bear with a authentic raccoon tail weaved into the hair of a 17 year-old who has decided to skip school today in hopes of getting her "look" in the pages of Fruits magazine?

The men's suit in Tokyo is ubiquitous. It's easy to overlook because every weekday 5 million men are neatly dressed for work. Not only do suits in Tokyo fit well, but the same pride that goes into making the finest cotton shirting, denim and canvas in the industry also goes in the process of getting dressed every morning.

I worked in central Tokyo for several years in a position not requiring a suit and tie, but chose to dress in what equates to work wear. I had long haphazardly pulled back hair and an unruly beard. The looks I received on the subway every morning were very similar to the looks I get now wearing a tailored suit walking home through the Mission in San Francisco.

What we in the United States think of as every day attire, is the suit and tie in Tokyo. The ultimate irony being that Japanese men started wearing suits to model the success and progression of Western culture. Now here we are 100 years later wearing jeans and tee shirts to meetings while a telemarketer in Shibuya is heading to work adjusting his necktie.