They dressed like the nonchalant well-groomed elite of Ivy League students. But they were seen as delinquents.
Such was the state of men’s fashion in 1964, when the international community descended on Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
The photos in this post of men in the fashion of the times is from a magazine called Men’s Club, published in July, 1964. They were members of the Miyuki-zoku, a group of fashion-conscience young men who would see and sometimes buy the latest jackets and slacks at relevant stores on the Ginza, particularly on Miyuki Street.
Tokyo in the mid-1960s was undergoing rapid change, and magazines like Men’s Club were filling a void in the life of young men. Men in their 40s and older, in other words, the parents of the Miyuki-zoku, came of age in the war years, and lived through post-war poverty and significant socio-political change. Their tastes in fashion were uniform and conservative. They looked down on women who wore colorful and stylish dresses and accessories, as the early adopters in Japan were the pan pan girls who tended to seek out American military companionship. And they looked down on men who took on American airs, wore their hair slicked back and listened to rock and roll.
As described in this fantastic article by W. David Marx called The Climb of Ivy: The styles of the American Ivy League transform the fashions of 1960s Japan, “The basic male wardrobe went to extremes of conformity: a single charcoal-gray or navy-blue suit, dark tie, white shirt, and dark shoes. White shirts outsold colored ones more than twenty to one. A striped shirt was enough to get a worker in trouble. And ready-to-wear clothing was not an option. Men dismissed non-tailored garments as tsurushi or tsurushinbo, meaning ‘something hung up,’ with the sting of a racial slur.”
Into the void stepped Kensuke Ishizu, who was the leading voice on Japan’s first men’s fashion magazine, “Otoko no Fukushoku”, and creator of the fashion brand, Van. He took a trip to the United States to see American fashion firsthand, and more specifically, how the these people called “Ivy Leaguers” dressed. He visited Princeton University and took loads of pictures of men around campus. Wrote Marx,
These elite, athletic students demonstrated how dapper a young man could look in ready-to-wear clothing. The clothes looked neat and fit closely to the body. Ishizu especially liked that the style relied on natural materials such as cotton and wool, which could be worn for a long time and easily cleaned. Japanese students in the late 1950s had little pocket money, but Ivy clothing would be a good investment—durable, functional, and based on static, traditional styles.
As explained in Marx’s article, Ishizu was inspired by a whole line of Ivy fashion that young men could buy off the rack. He started by copying the design of a Brooks Brothers suit as the first in a long line of fashion statements in his Van line of clothes. Eventually, groups of young men would gather and discuss the proper or authentic way to dress Ivy style. One particular group called themselves the Traditional Ivy Leaguers Club, who read Otoko no Fukushoku religiously, and obsessed over the rules of proper dress as well as minute details of stitching or material that set the Ivy look apart from all others. They were so influential, Ishizu featured this club in a story in his magazine, newly rebranded as “Men’s Club”.
The key to the magazine and the industry’s success was the articulation of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Ivy fashion. Young men wanted to be different, but in order to be cool, they felt they needed to do it exactly right. Ishizu and members of the Traditional Ivy Leaguers Club, particularly co-founder Toshiyuki Kurosu, became the arbiters of Ivy fashion. Again, Marx explains:
In the pages of Men’s Club, Kurosu became the unofficial headmaster of the Ivy school. He ran an Ivy Q&A column in the back of the magazine. He told readers, for example, not to wear ties with their sports shirts and to avoid tie tacks and cufflinks with blazers, while also advocating for the mentality of Ivy: an easy East Coast nonchalance. Kurosu warned a reader threatening to wear a button-down collar with the buttons undone, “It has to feel natural. It’s the absolute worst if other people think you’ve left them intentionally unbuttoned.” Kurosu, a twenty-something who had never lived in the United States, was playing referee with confidence that came from years of research—but also a good measure of bluffing.
Perhaps one of the most influential books in the history of men’s fashion in Japan is called “Take Ivy“, a series of photos of young men on Ivy League campuses in the US. With photos by Teruyoshi Hayashida, the writers included Ishizu and Kurosu. Original copies of this book have been sought after by people around the world, its scanned photos on the internet building such a fan base that the book was eventually translated and re-published in 2010.
I like the simplicity of the original cover though (and the fact that my alma mater is the first crest on the cover).