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'Ametora': How American style changed Japanese fashion forever

By Jane Pipkin

Ametora should be considered one of the most prominent fashion subcultures as it has inspired Japanese designers, manufacturing practices and many generations.

Ametora, short for “American Traditional”, is best defined as being Japan’s own take on the fashion worn by American Ivy League College students and the British elite in the 1960s. It is a preppy style that incorporates casualwear like denim jackets and jeans as well as items worn at school like blazers and button-down shirts. Although the foundation of the style originates in America, the Japanese are often credited as the ones who further innovated it through their creativity and craftsmanship.

Some debate as to whether Ametora can truly be considered a subculture, given that the term is generally used to describe any Japanese style that intimates American ones. For example, within Ametora there are a few substyles such as AmekajiJapanese Preppy and Rockabilly. Regardless of its precise definition, the impact Ametora has had on Japanese designers and contemporary fashion shouldn’t be ignored.

The History and Cultural Significance of Ametora

Image: Wikimedia Commons: Tadahiko Hayashi

As mentioned, the creation of Ametora can be traced back to the 1960s—a period when America was becoming the world’s main cultural and consumerist superpower. American films, music and pop culture became all the rage, especially with the young baby boomer generation. Author of "Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style," W. David Marx quotes how “there was an entire industrial-media complex looking for the latest in Western trends and offering versions to young people, whether domestically made or imported”. Soon enough, Japanese teenagers wanted to ditch traditions and begin closely emulating American fashion trends and they did.

Image: iStock: aozora1

In the mid-60s, young men and women would begin to gather on the streets of Ginza, more precisely Miyuki Street, wearing their best Ivy League-inspired fits. This group quickly became known as the Miyuki Tribe, and would eventually be commemorated through the name of the British menswear brand MKI Miyuki Zoku. Although Ametora is more associated with men’s fashion and tailoring, women did create their own version of the preppy American style, referred to as Josei Daisei (College girl).

Made in Japan

Eventually, the Japanese would elevate the style and make it their own through manufacturing practices. Individuals like Kensuke Ishizu made it their mission to make Ivy League fashion mainstream. Instead of importing the clothes from the U.S., Ishizu made it more accessible by making the apparel in Japan. Not only did he make the Ivy Look more popular through his brand, but he set a new quality standard. Other brands that made Japan-quality American fashion started to pop up such as Okayama DenimKamakura Shirts and Beams. Publications like PopEye and Cancam, which are still around today, also came into existence in the late '70s and early '80s. Designed to showcase the most trendy aspects of the American lifestyle, these magazines helped further shape Ametora.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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And if an American wears a kimono or yukata, that gets called cultural appropriation.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

And if an American wears a kimono or yukata, that gets called cultural appropriation.

Not in Kyoto or Asakusa, where foreigners of any ethnicity are encouraged to wear kimono for a fully authentic experience.

I remember the “Yellowface” and “appropriation” protestors a few years ago when the Boston Museum of Fine Arts held “Kimono Wednesdays” to promote their limited Japan exhibition.

The Japanese kimono fitting staff thought that they were protesting against Japan because there were Chinese and Koreans in the protestors.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Sadly the nowadays fashion in Japan means wearing the most boring clothes, with the ugliest color patterns. Even in summer, you can see both women and men wearing dark, flat colored clothes, like they are coming from funerals or hard land work.

Go to any Japanese depato cloth shop, you only see one sad palette of "colors", if dark washed green, brown, grey and others, can be named colors.

If you want quality fashion, just go to countries like Italy, France or Romania. Especially during summer.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Beerdeliveryguy. You’re right that tourists are encouraged to wear kimonos and yukatas in those places, especially if money can be made off it. A quick look online though does suggest that some (almost always foreigners) don’t agree. I think people just want to make westerners feel bad and guilty in general.


-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I frequently wear traditional Japanese clothes. I like Samue and have several. Sometimes someone will comment, "You like Japanese clothes." I always reply, yes, and you like Western clothes. I have never had any negative comments.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

And if an American wears a kimono or yukata, that gets called cultural appropriation.

Only by morons in America. In Japan they love it when foreigners wear kimono or yukata.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Frequently, I wear a rikishi mawashi to picnics. Funny, no one says anything about it. I wear a cheongsam  sometimes, too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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