I’ve always liked the Japanese kimono, or its casual equivalent, the yukata, as an alternative to house clothes. You see, I was quite rotund (360 lbs) for a time and wearing boxers and tees became too constricting. It also allowed the crown jewels a break from the jeans and other trousers I wore to work. Fast forward to today and you have #pitti dudes like @nickwooster who have brought this Japanese garb into daily motion—introducing kimono style dressing to daily wear for men. Is the kimono style jacket a trend? Is it here to stay? Does it pass muster for necessary style? Lets give it a read.
In the 80s when the Japanese became big news in fashion, we were first introduced to its icons like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Kenzo. Their look characterized the Nippon school— putting the traditional Japanese aesthetic into the textiles, clothes and accessories that they make. They embraced contemporary visual culture but found the notion of “fashion” at least slightly ludicrous. Next came the avant garde, exemplified by the unconventional silhouettes of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Her clothes were not for the gentle dandy, but for the more radical gender fluid guy. The introduction of the modern kimono/yukata jacket is the result of years of assimilating Asian style on the world’s fashion runways.
Today, some of streetwear’s most loved outerwear silhouettes draw inspiration from historical clothing styles like the kimono. The formal robe first appeared in Japan as early as the 5th century AD, and was—in its original form—influenced by Han Chinese clothing. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603–1867 AD) that the sleeves became longer in length and the obi (belt) became wider; since this incarnation, the basic shape of both men’s and women’s kimonos has stayed virtually the same.
More than just a piece of clothing, kimonos are often regarded as works of art, especially those that are crafted from fine materials or by any number of the renowned artisans preserving its centuries-old construction techniques. In its more contemporary forms, kimono style garments offer wearers an ornate yet wearable alternative to a blazer, jacket or overcoat.
The reason the modern kimono jacket is suddenly big, and has been made part of a younger man’s wardrobe is because it marries into our current moods and values. It’s an easy piece, done in traditional tones of grey or blue, or very contemporary prints. Worn over a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, you’ve just upped your style game without looking sloppy. For the beach fiends, it’s a perfect top with swim shorts, or drawstring pants. It will even go well with tailored “joggers”—those trousers that mimic classic tailoring, with an elastic band and drawstring.
The draped style is at the crux of elegance and sophistication. It offers minimal restriction and can give you a cool look. Another popular kimono interpretation is the oversized cardigans that are popular for spring. I saw a few at H&M and Zara last year, together with the “mankets” – those oversized shawls, or blankets, that are becoming a staple among the fashion forward. These pieces are the perfect travel coveralls, and a snuggler for the cold Rockwell cinemas. Some designers have even amped the look of these kimonos by doing them in satins and silks, giving off an elegant rocker vibe.
If you like comfort, the kimono might just be your new thing. Do you worry it’s not masculine enough? I don’t think so; the Samurais have been wearing kimonos for centuries, and they remain one of the key figures in world culture as warriors. Remember Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai? I rest my case.