A recent book purchase has proved to be a valuable source of inspiration and food for thought to me. The book in question is “My Rugged 211” by Minoru Onozato, editor in chief of the Japanese magazine Free & Easy. Free & Easy is one of several Japanese magazines covering the retro and heritage clothes culture in Japan. Quite popular in the West as well, although all text is in Japanese.
It strikes me that this is very reminiscent of the CosPlay phenomena, where people dress up as cartoon characters and suchlike, but in this case it’s tweed, workwear and Ivy League preppiness. And of course, what is cool in Japan loops back to the West and becomes cool there.
I’ll be doing a separate review of the book, but the under-title, “Unfashionable fashion” was surprisingly inspiring. What does he mean by “”Unfashionable fashion”? Minoru describes his personal style as “rugged”, which to summarize quite briefly, consists of either authentic vintage garments or reproduced heritage inspired garments. I’ll cover this in more detail when I review the book (tomorrow), but for now I just wanted to set the scene.
Zooming out a little, maybe the idea though is more universal, a fashion consisting of clothing that isn’t actually fashionable. Think vintage, think quality, think garments that look excellent regardless of being framed by what is currently deemed to be fashionable. A certain timelessness.
There are a few obvious types of garment that come to mind when thinking about clothes that are never quite fashion, yet never really unfashionable either. Blue jeans? Always there, though never really cutting edge. Every year new variations, yet without causing last years to suddenly be be totally unwearable.
Barbour jackets? Who can even tell if your green waxed jacket is this years model or one from 20 years back? The boxy outdoorsy jacket is more an indicator of a lifestyle, either one you are living or one you dream of living.
Quality men’s shoes are another case, this years brogues are almost indistinguishable from any other. There is a tradition so strong that even changing the colour of the sole is considered innovative and rebellious. This does mean that your dad’s old shoes can appear as bang up to date as the ones in the shop right now. All you need to do is get busy with a rag and some polish, right?
Of course, you might have picked up on a word in the previous paragraph. “Dad”. Should we be worried about turning into our fathers? Mentally and physically there isn’t much you can do about it, and I keep catching myself emulating my father (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I do tend to go off on a rant occasionally). Style-wise though, does becoming your father work? Haven’t we always considered our fathers to be the epitome of uncool?
And yet we find ourself eyeing up our fathers proper leather shoes, his well made and comfortable corduroys and knitted vests, which are worn in all seriousness. We might possibly try to say we like it in an ironic way, kind of like the hipster wish his obviously awful facial hair, but if we’re honest we know we like it because it’s good, quality stuff. Made to last, traditionally styled, always lurking just on the outside of being fashionable, never quite on the inside. Rugged, our dads were rugged before the Japanese made it into another way to play dress-up.
Anti-fashion, the new fashion, by your father.
Yet not all old styles are considered timeless and still relevant. Look back 200 years and most of what was considered proper gentleman’s attire then would only result in resounding mockery if worn today. Hanging tough in tights, with a bouffant wig? Not likely. Nor have the more outré modern styles such as flares fared well. The examples are manifold, but we can quickly conclude that not all that is old is gold, much of it is terrible tat as well.
What does this tell us? Is it a case of not deviating too much from the straight and narrow? Keeping it on the conservative side? Quite likely this is so. For us 40+ guys, the traditional bespoke Saville Row mindset is more relevant than the punk stylings of Malcolm MacLaren, even though at their height in the 1980’s they were literally a stones through apart in London.
In one way, this is all very comforting, we can just look to our fathers for sartorial guidance and settle in with a mug of tea and the newspaper. On the other hand, doesn’t that mean giving up on our quest to be unique, to have our own personal style, to stand apart from the madding crowd? That seems like material for a follow-up post.
Resistance is futile, you will become your father. Embrace his #DadStyle now.