ince when did style gain such an important position when we talk about fashion? It’s hard to recall even if I try but I vaguely remember it hadn’t yet happened around the beginning of the 90’s when I was still a teenager, at least. In a context of music or culture, we have used the word, style, as a term to describe a specific appearance of a certain tribe-like group. But during those times we never heard style included in a normal conversation about fashion such as, “this style is in this season” or “this style came from my lifestyle”.
When I was young, I discovered new fashion from fashion magazines and learnt style from somewhere else. It was, for example, from music and MTV or from films and photography books. From looking at what my favourite musicians wore, I found out what fashion was being worn by those who played in a certain music genre, and desperately tried to get the same item. I think the beginning for me was in film; A black suits from Blues Brothers, a trench coat from Streets of Fire, a tank top with a leather arm belt from Rumble Fish, and a Mickey Mouse T-shirt with its arms cut off from Outsider. I also copied a lot of skater fashion; Christian Hosoi’s converse and Matt Hensley’s army pants that were cut off into shorts. Anybody dressing differently than others looked innovative and fascinating. Clothes that weren’t sold locally where I lived. So, I went to Ameyoko, a shopping street in Tokyo selling imported products, to look for what I wanted and customized it. That was the beginning of playing with clothes. Then I started to get influenced by music.
It was The Sex Pistols, which my cousin showed me, when I first encountered punk music. I wanted to know what Sid was wearing. Engineered boots and a single jacket from Lui’s, together with a Rabbit Padlock. I never knew at all the meaning why Sid was wearing them, but I believed naively that I would be acknowledged as a Punk if I had them on. Public Enemy’s urban camouflage army pants with Los Angeles Raiders’ cap. I didn’t understand at all why Raiders was good and other NFL teams were no good. It took me quite a long time until I found out that the Raiders’ coach was the first black head coach in the history of the NFL.
When the Grunge boom arose, I saw Kurt Cobain from Nirvana wearing a lot of T-shirts from different bands. Daniel Johnston and Wipers, just from looking at the clothes they wore I could know many things such as what kind of music they liked, what they were listening to, and many more. A simple pair of second hand Levi’s with cheap converse and a grampaesque cardigan. All had meaning and represented Kurt’s style as a person. It was not right just to wear the same thing. I felt like I shouldn’t dress the same unless I fully understood the reasons in the background. To understand Nirvana’s music, I thought I had to listen to all records of the bands that Kurt was wearing on his T-shirts. And unless I did so, I shouldn’t be wearing the same band T-shirt.
Looking back at that time, I found myself interested in the background where style was born rather than fashion itself. Looking at clothing, I could find a lot of interesting stories behind them. Many different people were wearing different styles of clothes from different walks of life.
The reason Picasso was wearing a stripe shirt from Saint James was because he was a Basque who lived in the South of France. The reason Schnabel was wearing his pyjamas was because he wanted to draw his idea straight out of bed. It was the most reasonable garment for him.
The reason why Mods wore M51 so called mods coat as uniform was because it was cheap since loads of deadstock flooded into the market and Mods could put it over their vaunted suits while protecting from being dirty as well as against the cold. The reason why Sailor Jerry, an American tattoo pioneer, wore only white shirts was because it was the best way he could show off his tattoos and the reason why Skins wore a New Balance sneaker was because the letter N was the same as the N of National Front.
The meaning of clothes, which was not born from trends, scattered around us as if some secret code. The reason why we were so passionate about fashion was because we went crazy about searching for those meanings. When they are just trendy clothes, you can buy them if you have the money. Anyway, while wearing something meaningful, I didn’t want to think it’s just clothes. When one can find own passion or opinion towards clothes and manages to wear them fashionably, it would finally become the person’s own style. Whether it is in or out of fashion, a garment that suits one’s best. To find it, one can spend a lot of time and money.
So, if you think you like style rather than fashion, you should consider what you really like and how you want to live. Then buy what you think will fit to your idea instead of buying something just because it’s exclusive or brand new. And you should keep it in your mind that even if you wear something expensive that won’t make you superior or greater. Clothing is just to satisfy your personal desire. You are judged only by the way you live. When the way of living and dressing come together nicely, it will finally become style of the person. What kind of style would that be? You might not find it until you die. At least, I am still waiting to find it myself. Wearing similar clothes over and over again, when some say I should go right I go left, when some say I should go left I go right and when some say new is in I’m gone to get the old stuff. If I continue this till I die, that may form something can be called style. Someday until we grab it, let’s wear whatever and however we enjoy, comrades.
born in Tokyo in 1973. Editor and a co-founder of an interior design group, Tripster. He does a radio personality at J-WAVE “Traveling without moving”. As a recent work, Nomura got involved in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs as a scriptwriter and casting.