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The gauntlet was thrown.

“To the weak-livered denizens of Ginza – you who wear sun glasses, tight pants, and saunter down the street carrying a big paper bag as you chase the girls from the day-time – If you are men accept my challenge. I’m 56 years old but let’s see who will last the longer in the marathon…”

Apparently, those were fighting words, at least as translated by the Mainichi Daily New on September 16, 1964. The above notice was a challenge to race a marathon, for the senior Japanese to show his manly vigor in a competition of endurance. And yes, it got the attention of the teenagers, who were labeled the “Miyuki-zoku”, a mix of boys and girls who gathered on the fashionable street in the Ginza called Miyuki Street. (The suffix “zoku” means “tribe” or “club”.)

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Mainichi Daily News_September 17, 1964
So on the appointed time of Monday, September 14, 1964, the Mainichi Daily News reported that “hordes of onlookers, young and old, flocked to the place of challenge in front of the fountain in Hibiya Park.” Members of the Miyuki-zoku came out to meet the challenge of the 56-year old, but as it turned out, not only did the elderly challenger not appear, the police had already rushed to the scene to ensure an unauthorized marathon did not take place.

It was only a few months earlier when Heibon Punch, a new magazine focusing on fashion, started a revolution by launching the so-called “Ivy Look”. Other magazines like “Men’s Club” followed quickly, going into detail on cool Ivy. (See my previous post on this here.) When teenagers in Japan saw how young men were dressing in the United States, particularly at the Ivy League universities, with their perceived associations of class and style, they found an exciting replacement for their drab, black school uniforms, and a way to rebel.

Yes, it took the preppie look for kids in Tokyo to flip parents and authorities the bird – which is astonishing, if you look at the pictures today.

But this is Japan. And the Japanese proverb most quoted to explain social behavior here is “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” In other words, it’s important to conform. Those who don’t, are informed in no uncertain terms that they need to do so.

And so in the 1960s, in a time of burgeoning prosperity, with a generation that grew up with faint memories of post-war rubble and hunger, there grew a hunger to express one’s individuality, and dare to be that nail that sticks out, even if just a tad.

But the authorities were concerned about even this whiff of rebellion. After all, the Olympics were coming to town and Tokyo had to be clean, friendly and most of all orderly. These “hordes” were unsightly, the boys in their (gulp) tight, high-cut slacks with oxford-cloth or madras plaid shirts, and the girls in tight long skirts with the hemline (gasp) several inches below the knee.

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According to this post in the blog “Ivy Style”, the older generation co-opted a leader of the Ivy fashion movement, Kensuke Ishizu. Ishizu “discovered” this look when he visited college campuses in the United States in the 1950s, and when he returned to Japan, he created a fashion brand called “VAN”, and published Japan’s first men’s fashion magazine, “Otoko no Fukushoku”.

Neighborhood leaders desperately wanted to eradicate the Miyuki-zoku before October, so they went to Ishizu of VAN and asked him to intervene. VAN organized a “Big Ivy Style Meet-up” at Yamaha Hall, and cops helped put 200 posters across Ginza to make sure the Miyuki-zoku showed up. Anyone who came to the event got a free VAN bag — which was the bag for storing your normal clothing during loitering hours. They expected 300 kids, but 2,000 showed up. Ishizu gave the keynote address, where he told everyone to knock it off with the lounging in Ginza. Most acquiesced, but not all.

So on September 19, 1964, a huge police force stormed Ginza and hauled off 200 kids in madras plaid and penny loafers. Eighty-five were processed at nearby Tsukiji jail. The kids got the message and never came back, and that was the end of the Miyuki-zoku.

Oh those raucous and rebellious sixties…

Men's Club Cover_July 1964
The cover of Men’s Club (July 1964), the men’s fashion magazine of choice in the 1960s in Japan

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.

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The Ivy Look, Men’s Club_July 1964

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.

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Bermuda shorts were all the rage in 1964_Men’s Club_July 1964

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,

Kensuke Ishizu
Kensuke Ishizu

 

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”.

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From Men’s Club_July 1964

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