Japanese Fashionology Vol. 02

Why is‘90s Fashion Making a Comeback?

3373
Asuka Watanabe
Asuka Watanabe

Doctor of Sociology and associate professor

Dr. Watanabe is an associate Professor at Kyoritsu Women's Junior College Department of the Science of Living. She graduated Kyoritsu Women's University with a master’s degree in Home Economics, later graduating from the Tokyo Metropolitan University Graduate School of Humanities with a doctorate in Sociology. She researches contemporary fashion based on street fashion with an emphasis on locations, people and backgrounds. Street Fashion Logic (『ストリートファッション論』,SANNO Institute of Management Publication Dept.), Fashion of Japan (『日本のファッション』,SEIGENSHA Art Publishing, Inc.)

Sports Style is in Fashion

 

One of the fashion trends in vogue recently among the young Japanese is the sports style. Stylish individuals are pairing knit or baseball caps with down jackets, MA-1 flight jackets, or letter jackets. Inside this they wear a sweatshirt or a hoodie. Sweatpants or skinny jeans cover their lower halves, accented by Nike or New Balance sneakers. A backpack completes the ensemble. Functional clothing such as light, yet warm down jackets, comfortably unrestrictive jerseys, and absorbent sweatshirts are finding great favor with the young. Also, uniform apparel such as lettered or Tilden sweaters seem to be popular. Looking at the young generation, you can say that most of them are wearing this sporty fashion, whether it’s complete from head to toe, or just a few items taken from this trend.

 

Sports style seen in street fashion in the 2010s./Shibuya(2014) by Asuka Watanabe

Sports style seen in street fashion in the 2010s./Shibuya(2014) by Asuka Watanabe

Sports style seen in street fashion in the 2010s./Harajyuku(2014) by Mariko Yahata

Sports style seen in street fashion in the 2010s./Harajyuku(2014) by Mariko Yahata

 

 

Sports Meets Fashion, Fashion Meets Sports

 

This sporty style trend is drawing the fashion industry and sports industry together, and many designers are collaborating with sports brands on new items. For example, the French fashion designer Jeremy Scot partnered with the sports brand Adidas and launched unique products such as sneakers adorned with stuffed teddy bears, pandas, and poodles. Similarly, Japanese fashion brand Sacai teamed with the sports brand Nike to launch a women’s sportswear brand called NikeLab x sacai, receiving great deal of attention at the time. Fashion brands successfully captured the functionality and energy of the sports brands in their designs, and the sports brands incorporated the trendiness and sophistication of the fashion labels into their designs. It has been a win-win situation for both of them. The brand image for both industries has improved.

 

Sneakers by Jeremy Scot x Adidas

Sneakers by Jeremy Scot x Adidas

 

Collaboration by NikeLab x sacai

 

 

Sports Style was Also “In” In the 1990s

 

The sports style was actually also very popular in the 1990s. Back, new communication tools such as pagers and mobile phones had just became widely used in Japan, and this changed the way fashion spread among the young generation. Fashion wasn’t something imposed by designers or brands anymore. But fashion was born in the city’s young generation. A truly unique street fashion emerged and spread during this time. In Shibuya, Gyaru (ギャル, a Japanese transliteration of the English word gal) fashion of heavily bleached or dyed hair, loose socks, and platform shoes dominated the city. In Harajuku, the sports fashion visible today was also fashionable back then. Boys and girls were seen in sporty clothing from American labels such as X-girl, MILKFED., and STUSSY. Brands such as Nike, and Adidas also came under the spotlight, and street style was more popular than ever.

 

Sports style seen in street fashion in 1990s./ Shibuya(1992) by Asuka Watanabe

Sports style seen in street fashion in 1990s./ Shibuya(1992) by Asuka Watanabe

 

Sports style seen in street fashion in 1990s./ Harajyuku (1999) by Asuka Watanabe

Sports style seen in street fashion in 1990s./ Harajyuku (1999) by Asuka Watanabe

 

 

The Background of the Sports Style Trend

 

One of the reasons why the sports style is popular once again in the 2010s is the impact from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that began on March 11th 2011. This incident has impacted fashion deeply in Japan. Girls used to dress in sweet and feminine fashion such as flower prints and pastel colors, but after the earthquake, the girlish fashion was no longer seen, and clothing was more about functionality. The city of Tokyo had the risk of aftershocks, so people refrained from wearing high heels and fancy clothing. Temporarily, tourism from abroad decreased dramatically, so some foreign brands and fast fashion shops closed down for a while. On the other hand, sports were actually becoming more popular due to the announcement of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and the professional tennis player Kei Nishikori’s achievements. Other than these incidental events, there’s actually a bigger reason why the sports style is so trendy in the 2010s.
The city after the earthquake in March 2011.

 

1: H&M Shibuya closed. by Asuka Watanabe

1: H&M Shibuya closed. by Asuka Watanabe

2: An announcement that states all shops in Kanto region are to be closed. by Asuka Watanabe

2: An announcement that states all shops in Kanto region are to be closed. by Asuka Watanabe

3: The streets of Omotesando, usually full of people, emptied, and the fashion was focused more on functionality. by Asuka Watanabe

3: The streets of Omotesando, usually full of people, emptied, and the fashion was focused more on functionality. by Asuka Watanabe

 

 

The Theory of the “20 Year Trend Cycle” in Fashion

 

There is a saying that “history repeats itself,” but it is also said that “Fashion repeats itself,” too. When looking back at 70 years of fashion in Japan, from the days when everyday clothing was a Kimono, to the switch to Western-style clothing after World War II, there is a 20 year trend cycle. The first 10 years is casual, sporty and functional. The next 10 years is formal, traditional, and structured.
This comeback is very interesting because fashion trends consisting of the length of the clothing, the silhouette, and the color and patterns, swing like a pendulum. They become fashionable one day then fade the next. But I would like to mention that this fashion trend cycle is not just a simple cycle since the comeback can depend on natural phenomenon, socioeconomic situations, changes in generation, and innovations in technology for material and design.

 

 

Where Is the Fashion Comeback Going?

 

How long is this fashion comeback going to go on? Nowadays fashion spread through SNS. Even if you have not experienced that fashion era, you can access the fashion archives via the internet easily and look it up. Before the internet was commonplace, fashion used to be like a zombie: Let it rest in peace, forget about it, then it can make its comeback as something new. A fashion comeback was something nostalgic for people who lived through that era, and something new for the people that have never seen it. But with the internet, everything seems unoriginal. Because of this, it is difficult to find something that has new value. Fashion is fashion because it is new, but from now on, fashion will have to battle with the impression of “already seen this on the internet.”

 

 

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