Street Style: A Look Into Japan’s Streetwear

Since the welcoming of western influence in the time of the Meiji Era, Japan has been consistently changing and developing. The Japanese have been openly embracing and adapting all that they have gained from the world outside of their country from government, technology, fashion, entertainment, and business to name a few. The greatest and most recognizable change would arguably be the ever changing fashion that Japanese people embrace every season.

A Quick Look at the History of Japanese Street Fashion

The beginning of the 17th century saw the seclusion of the island nation of Japan to the outside world. This brought about the strengthening of Japanese culture and in effect bringing in the traditional clothing that the world knows of Japan today. After 200 years of this, the isolation of Japan was under massive pressure both by outside nations and internal politics.

By 1854, the United States of America forced the hand of the Tokugawa Shogunate to open its ports to US trade. This brought about a time where the Japanese people enthusiastically adopted and adapted the Western culture, including the clothing. The fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate ushered in a new era, called the Meiji Era.This new period in Japan allowed the little nation of Japan to look to the future and everyone, from the government to the everyday person walking the streets, accepted the drastic changes that were brought about by their newfound exposure to Western influences.

The Meiji Era, along with the various influences from the Western world, pushed for the encouragement of using the clothing that was used by the Westerners. The ordinary people saw the use of the new fashion as a symbol of Japan’s growth and modernization. Within 30 years, the acceptance of the western styles had been widespread among the men and women of Japan.

By the end of the 19th century, it was commonplace to see men wear suits. The women, however, would only wear Western clothing if they belonged to the upper echelons of society. Kimonos were still used as the norm for the normal woman, but the use of Western accessories had become commonplace. The first time Japanese sensibilities was mixed with Western fashions could be seen at this point in time. Examples of this would be when men wore western-style hats with a Traditional Japanese attire such as a Kimono worn with a haori, the traditional Japanese waistcoat, and a Hakama, the traditional Japanese trousers.

After World War II, the significant sway from the United States made the Japanese methods for dressing experience a noteworthy move, and individuals started to all the more promptly take after the patterns from the West. Japanese ladies were beginning to supplant the baggy pants called monpe, required wear for war-related work, with Western-style skirts.

By the mid-2000s, the kimono had for all intents and purposes vanished from regular day to day existence in Japan. Kimonos were worn just by some elderly ladies, servers in certain customary Japanese eateries, and the individuals who instruct conventional Japanese arts like traditional Japanese dance, traditional Japanese theater, or women who host tea functions. Moreover, exceptional occasions at which ladies wear kimonos included hatsumode, which is the new year's visit to altars or sanctuaries; seijinshiki, which is a ceremony for the youth once they reach the age of 20 (it is like their Sweet 16 or debut); college graduation functions; weddings; and other noted festivals and formal gatherings.

By the late 20th century, Japan’s economy had experienced it’s biggest growth in centuries. This allowed different industries, including the fashion and retail industries to grow at exponential rates. More and more Japanese people had adopted the fashion-conscious mindset seen around the world, which greatly improved profits for those industries. This allowed many different Japanese fashion designers to flourish on the world stage. Notable designers would have to be Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawabuko. These designers have always put on the traditional looks and fashion senses of the Japanese into their designs which many enjoy to this day. Through their efforts in paving the way for Japanese designs, many have followed suit.

The 1990’s saw another big wave in Japanese fashion that was unlike any other. From the small streets of Harajuku in Tokyo, grew a community of designers which took everyday clothing, such as shirts, pants, and workwear, to an elevated form of design. Brands such as A Bathing Ape, WTAPS, and NEIGHBORHOOD, took various subcultures and given them a fresh new look.  Though the inspiration and designs of these brands might vary, they all come together to form the culture of fashion known today as streetwear.

Japanese Designer Brands and Stores that Showcase Unique Types of Fashion


Uniqlo should be a household name by now with its aggressive expansion throughout the world. This brand has brought Japanese style into everyday clothing. From the most basic of shirts to the heaviest arctic wear, Uniqlo has been bringing quality Japanese clothing to the world for many years now. Aside from the basic wear, Uniqlo frequently collaborates with established designers to bring in fashionable designs at a more affordable cost.

Bounty Hunter

This store is the best way to showcase how diverse and unique the Japanese fashion world has become. By taking different cultures and aspects of American living and applying their very specific and interesting fashion sense, the Japanese brands have made something totally different loved throughout the industry. The Bounty Hunter store started its humble beginnings as a toy store in 1995. By filling in the niche of designer toys, Bounty Hunter was able to see what the youth of Japan were looking for. Hikaru Iwanaga, the founder, and lead designer, then took advantage of this by expanding the designs to basic clothing such as t-shirts and sweaters. Drawing inspiration from western punk, rock and roll, and motorcycle culture, Hikaru Iwanaga has brought in a new type of fashion that exudes fun and rebellion.

Engineered Garments

Of all the world renowned Nepenthes brands, Engineered Garments can be said to be the most popular. Founded in 1999 by fashion designer Daiki Suzuki, Engineered Garments, much like its name, uses patterns and prints that were meticulously created to form clothing that is unique and fun. Using details from various influences, such as sporting wear and military clothing, and applying the fun, colorful, and original patterns, this brand has made various clothing that many calls quirky and eccentric. The clothes put out by this brand may be too loud for many people but it has allowed the brand to stand on its own and make every piece unique. By not following trends, both in the world and in their own designs, Engineered Garments has forced itself to not adhere to any one style. Many people buy clothes from this brand to showcase their unique fashion sense and talents in styling. One will never blend in the crowd when wearing these clothes.


N. Hollywood was formed by Mister. Hollywood himself, Daisuke Obana. This designer started his fashion career as a curator of vintage clothing. He earned his nickname by frequently traveling to Los Angeles, California to buy vintage clothing, refurbish them, and resell them in Japan. This brand started in 2002 in a small shop in Tokyo, from which he had gained critical acclaim from the international fashion scene. Since then Obana has brought his brand across the globe and was consistently praised for his work. By using the nostalgia and now unique fashion of previous generations and re-engineering them to suit more modern applications, Daisuke Obana and his N. Hollywood team have brought the world a new way to appreciate the old fashions.

Who Says Fashion is Only for the Ladies: The Best New Japanese Male Streetwear

Wacko Maria

Born from the minds of Japanese football players, Nobuhiro Mori and Keiji Ishizuka, Wacko Maria has consistently been offering its male clients rockabilly designs and clothing reminiscent of the 1950’s. As stated by the two, they draw inspirations from old films, alcohol, and women.


Designer Daisuke Yokoyama had started this brand with a few simple shirts to compliment his graffiti art. This brand then grew to a full apparel line that successfully blends traditional Japanese attires with urban and modern sensibilities. The brand operates under the motto “Sense of Freshness. High-Performance Vandalism,” which perfectly captures the designs of his clothing. Examples of this would be the use of Kimonos patterns and apply them to the bomber and varsity jackets.

Japanese Sneakerheads: The Rise of the Shoe Industry in Japanese Street Fashion

With the rise of streetwear and western brands in Japan, many Japanese youths have used sneakers as part of their everyday fashion.  Sneaker culture has been on the rise since the early 2000’s and the love for these shoes was also brought into the Japanese market. There is a big difference though between the sneaker culture in the US, one of the biggest buyers of sneakers, and in Japan. The sneaker culture in the US revolves around buying what is new and what is considered to be rare by the community. People would line up for days just to get new releases of shoes and some would even kill for it.

The Japanese sneaker community is different in the sense that they would buy shoes for the sake of their own sense of fashion. They do not necessarily buy sneakers just because it is sought after or new. One of the biggest indicators of western sneaker culture in the Japanese street fashion scene would be the introduction of Japan only sneakers such as the Nike Airmax SP Japan. The sneaker culture in Japan revolves around the need for shoes to match the personal style of the person. The rise in the local sneaker market has brought about waves of new brands and the re-invigoration of old ones. The best examples of this would have to be Ato Matsumoto and Onitsuka Tiger.

  1. Ato Matsumoto
    Though this designer has his own line of high-fashion clothing and footwear, it’s his sneakers that got him on the map. In 2007, Kanye West brought in a new player in the sneaker market by using the sneakers of Ato Matsumoto in his music video, “Stronger.” These sneakers, though associated with the now-tacky shutter shades, were used as the symbol for futuristic designs and out of this world thinking. Many have even said that Ato Matsumoto’s designs played a heavy role in influencing Kanye West’s own design on the Air Yeezy.
  2. Onitsuka Tiger
    Though known worldwide as one of the best and fashionable casual shoes, Onitsuka Tiger started with a simple dream of getting shoes on children. It’s long history started with the dream of giving hope to the youth of Japan after the war. By giving them shoes that could be used for sports, company founder Kihachiro Onitsuka wanted to revitalize the youth of Japan during troubling times. The company introduced many shoe innovations, such as grip soles and interchangeable spikes, to the Japanese market. The shoe brand remained popular in the country, and eventually, it was worn by athletes from around the world. By 1977, the athletic shoe side of the company was renamed as ASICS. The popularity of the Onitsuka Tiger brand can be seen through the history of Nike. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, had based his first shoe design, the Cortez, on the Onitsuka Corsair.

The Best Magazines to Read up on the 2017 Japanese Street Fashion Trends

  1. Men’s Non-No & Non-no
    These are the two leading fashion publications in Japan for both men’s and women’s fashion. These magazines feature a variety of fashion styles and aspects, from makeup trends to streetwear designs. These publications are aimed at a broad market from young girls to fashionable businessmen. It’s amazing how wide the variety of fashions this magazine covers as it can cover the fashion sense of someone as quirky as kawaii model Peco and someone as dignified as the prime minister. It is arguably the best place to read up on everything fashion. As one of the longer running publications, Non-no and Men’s Non-no have been covering Japanese streetwear trends as early as the days of visual kei and kawaii fashions.
  2. Mono
    Though this magazine does not directly feature fashion clothing. This is a magazine that features a wide range of designer products from bags to gadgets that any fashionista would want to buy. As this publication is distributed every two weeks, the popularity of it is undisputable.
  3. Ollie
    The undisputed king of streetwear publications, Ollie has been reporting trends since 1996. With its focus on hip-hop and skate culture, Ollie remains true to the roots of the international streetwear community.

Japanese street fashion has long been a fascinating subject. The country is able to shift trends quickly yet offer timeless pieces that have evolved into its own fashion subculture. The everyday fashion scene in Japan is a welcome sight for any fashion enthusiast. It is amazing to see how many styles the everyday people have and their dedication to fashion. These people ensure everything, from their hair to their shoes, are a reflection of their fashion sense.

Social media definitely played a big role in showcasing Japanese street fashion across different countries. Instagram is one of the best mediums in keeping updated with the latest trend of Japanese street fashion.