Sep 27, 2011

The Grammar of Fashion

A fun part about a journey is watching people walking on streets.

When I made a trip to New York this summer with my wife, we ate breakfast at Dean and Deluca and saw people walking to their offices. We found fashion in New York were far more various than in Tokyo. The varieties of colors of their hair, skins and eyes, their height and weight, and their cultural background make their fashion so various. On the other hand we, people living in Tokyo, wear all kinds of uniform. I wear "salary man" outfit and young girls playing at Shibuya wear young girl outfits playing at Shibuya.

New Yorkers' fashion was quite various and well-ordered at the same time. I had a dinner at Union Square Café in New York, which wasn't an expensive restaurant but a cozy restraint where we saw an old couple celebrate the anniversary of their marriage. All customers there wore nice and cozy outfits, which were adequate for the atmosphere of Union Square Café. I thought that New Yorkers kept "the grammar of fashion," which defined the outfits to wear at particular places, times and occasions.

My wife said that university students in Japan are more fashionable (at least care about their fashion more) than students in the US, who always wear hoodies with the logo of their own university or GAP and backpacks, like Zuckerberg in the movie "Social Network" (it might be my stereotype for about them.)

On the other hand, students in Japan (of course including male students) always care about their own hairstyle (although in my school days, most male students didn't care about their fashion at all, so I'm not fashionable now.)

But Japanese people didn't import the grammar of Western fashion but the elements of Western clothing. Sometimes Japanese people wear inadequate outfits, because we don't know the grammar of fashion. For example, some university students bring Louis Vuitton's bags to their class.
(see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)

When I'm in Europe, I feel the presence of the class. The class, which they belong to, defines their fashion. Only the members of the particular class are implicitly entitled to have Louis Vuitton's bags. Of course there are rich people and poor people in Japan, but the difference between them is quantitative. In Europe the difference between classes is qualitative.

Some Western fashion designers give great attention to Japanese street fashion. As I mentioned, people on Japanese street coordinate their clothing without the grammar of Western fashion, so Western fashion designers see Japanese street fashion as new and fresh.

Inamoto, an old friend of mine, gave a comment to my weblog as follows.


People could try many different ways freely without "dregs" about the things which are imported from other cultures, such as Jazz in Japan, R&B, Rock and Hip Hop in Jamaica and Rock in the UK.

In the process of spreading cultural elements overseas they would be put in all new contexts and given new meanings.


  1. I was actually talking with one of my friends about college fashion and I think college style depends on the kind of school you attend. I got to a small liberal arts school and I find that while you do have the people who only wear hoodies and pyjamas, theres also a lot of different styles from people who dress really well (wearing pearls and heels to class for example), to people who wear unique patterns and other more funky styles.

  2. Thank you for your comment (which makes me write something new on this weblog)!

    As you said, I might simplified things too much.

    My wife, who is teaching Japanese language to foreign students in an university, said that recently she found students who dress well was increasing.

    And in the movie "Social Network" rich students wore "Brooks Brothers".

  3. I find this very interesting haha. I'm researching fashion in Japan for a powerpoint I'm making in Japanese class, and I ran across this blog! I agree with you that for the most part a lot of students in college wear "comfotable" clothes like hoodies and tights. For everyday clothes though, like at the mall, they love to dress up in skirts, sweaters, boots, etc. It just depends on the situtation. I liked your writing though it was very interesting, thank you!

    1. I'm really happy to hear you enjoyed my blog! Thank you!