In this lecture, W. David Marx, author of the book Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, will talk through the development of the apparel market for young men in the post-war period, from the Ivy League boom of the 1960s to the birth of Japanese denim to the export of high-end Japanese fashion to the rest of the world.
The lecture will look at four major moments in Japanese fashion history. First, the brand VAN Jacket and its intentional business decision to copy Ivy League fashion as a way to create a youth market. Second, the denim brands in the Okayama area who made the country’s first jeans to keep their businesses afloat and found success selling to the counterculture. Third, as a contrast to cosmopolitan consumer culture, yankii working class delinquents used American style for their own purposes and then discarded it once it no longer marked subcultural boundaries. Finally, the next generation of clothing brands in the 1990s, who grew up on imported American clothing, used Japanese manufacturing superiority to make their own versions of jeans, sweatshirts, and oxford-cloth button downs, much of which is now being exported to the rest of the globe.
The story of Ametora is therefore not just a case study of the specific material conditions (manufacturing, media, distribution) required for youth culture to flourish but a detailed case study on the exact process of how culture globalizes.
W. David Marx
W. David Marx is the author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style (Basic Books, 2015) and lives in Tokyo, Japan. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University (East Asian Studies) and a M.A. from Keio University (Consumer Behavior and Marketing). His work has appeared in GQ, The New Republic, and NewYorker.com.