Growing up in certain countries, you get used to the fashion trends that are there. Where I was in the States, the only hats people wore were baseball caps. If you wore shorts, basically anything was good as long it didn't fall into the "Jort" (jean shorts) or "capri" categories. Man bags were a no-no--just stuff your pockets and wallet as full as they would go. If you needed more space, go with cargo pants or shorts. For my wife, growing up in Australia meant that the go-to footwear was flip flops (or "thongs," as she and the rest of Oz calls them--but Sisqo ruined any chance of me accepting that name for them), and shorts and singlets were the norm.
Coming to Japan opened the door to many new fashion norms that show that Japan is ahead of the power curve compared to western countries in men's fashion. Here are the top 5 fashion norms for men that I think should be adopted back home (and in which male travelers should indulge while they're here):
When I was growing up, there was only one man allowed to wear 3/4 shorts: Rafael Nadal. Not quite shorts, not quite pants, these are near impossible to find in anything but designer stores in the states. Perfect for when it's too hot to be formal but you want to show people that you're giving an effort not to wear shorts. My favorite place to get these in Japan is Uniqlo (see an example below), which carries a wide selection of styles and colors of 3/4 shorts.Photo courtesy of Uniqlo.com
For those who want a throwback, remember how much ridicule Joey from Friends received when he adopted the man bag? Well, the man bag was since ruined for men in the states as something that was too much like a purse. Well, not so in Japan, which offers thousands of different styles ranging from athletic to formal in either shoulder or waistbag varieties. These bags serve your needs when you just need to carry a few things on-the-go and don't want to be encumbered by a big backpack or suitcase. My favorite place to find these bags is Sac's Bar Accessory Store (located in most malls).
Like I said earlier, I grew up in a place where baseball caps were the only acceptable headgear unless you were on the TV or big screen. I know other places in the world like Europe invite flat caps into daily wear, but Japan expands that even further. Fedoras, straw hats, flat caps, baseball caps, and even berets are all fair game here. Keeping your head covered in the hot sun is important, and Japan gives you a fantastic range of options. There are many upscale hatters in Japan, but Paris Juliet is a good place to find a reasonably priced variety.Hat selection at a Paris Juliet store. Photo courtesy of fashion-headline.com
Before I came to Japan, I owned three colors of socks: black, white, and beige. My shoes came in similarly plain colors. Well, Japan throws caution to the wind with footwear and you should, too. Like many countries, Japan has entire stores dedicated to shoes, but it is as almost as easy to find entire stores dedicated solely to socks. The Japanese step up the footwear game with everything from casual to formal, from normal to quirky, and everything in between. While there are a lot of expensive options out there, you can step up your footwear game without breaking the bank, especially if you head to one of Japan's many shopping streets or malls.Photo courtesy of shop-list.com
and last but not least...
Jinbei are traditional summertime outfits that have been updated for the modern man. The combination is simple: a crossover top that you tie and a pair of shorts in matching fabric that usually uses traditional Japanese fashion aesthetics. Why are these so great? First and foremost, they are cool. Already lightweight, they usually have vents in the shoulders and underarms, making them comfortable to wear in the summer. Second, you can mix and match. Wear the top with a nice pair of shorts or match the shorts to a comfy t-shirt. You won't be alone in doing so in Japan!
So there you have it...
...five fashion norms in Japan that men everywhere should adopt. If you're in journeying through Japan, I say zehi, give these options a shot--you won't regret it!
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