Japanese Middle-Aged Men and Fashion?


This article claims that the Japanese fashion world is now targeting Japanese middle-aged corporate male workers. The writer starts his piece with the sexy “no-tie” look — failing to mention that the huge consumer story of the moment is the cool-biz (no tie, no jacket) movement trying to get employees to shun suits in the summer to save on air conditioning expenses. In the 1980s, older men started to buy Armani suits to keep up with rising tastes, but from what I’ve heard, as consumer budgets went down and the moms tightened the family’s purse-strings in the last five years, the first thing to go was men’s fashion.

So this article is confused: are companies starting to target oyaji now or is it that oyaji are suddenly interested in fashion? There is weak evidence for the latter, but does the former really constitute news if it hasn’t succeeded yet? The success and standarization of Uniqlo and the discount suit stores are the real story, but they’re not sensational enough to write home about. So much Western journalism about Japan gets worked up about “social changes” that are mere blips when viewed with proper historical perspective.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

7 Responses

  1. Momus Says:

    Japan Today’s Pop Vox section recently asked men on the street in Tokyo what they thought of the Cool-Biz directive. One man said “It is absolutely a bad idea… I will continue wearing a tie no matter what the government says”. Just thought you might like his defiance of a new government “conspiracy”. Then again, his mini-revolution is a gesture for formality, against change. Perhaps you’d prefer it if businessmen were throwing off the shackles of their ties spontaneously, and the government trying to stop them?

  2. marxy Says:

    I support the government effort to curb wasteful airconditioning use in the summer. There is a point in which formality and ritual override common sense, and making your employees all go to work in dark wool suits in the blazing heat could not be good for anybody. The “cool-biz” idea does not seem to be a marketing plot, because it requires you to essentially wear less, not buy more. Call me crazy but it does seem to be an honest attempt at environmentalism. Or am I missing something?

  3. j. Says:

    Here’s another angle on the phenomenon:


    It seems certain “oyaji,” aware of the negative stereotype and badly in need of a makeover, are turning to magazines such as Leon simply to get tips on how to pull younger chicks and get laid.

    It’s not so much that the Japanese fashion world is turning to middle-aged corporate warriors, more that some publishers have identified a niche group of well-paid, philandering oyaji who, while having money to burn, have no clue how to spend it on their younger, presumably more fashionable, paramours.

    Tellingly, the magazine’s sister title, Nikita, is aimed at women looking for a sugar daddy.

    Judging by the comments from the editor of Leon in the Japan Times article, such magazines serve as nothing more than guidebooks to help busy, aging lotharios spoil their much younger “bit on the side.”

    Leon’s target readership is men making in excess of 15 million yen a year.

    The garden-variety oyaji is still confined to his cheap polyester suit during the week, and no doubt slips into a cheap polyester Uniqlo tracksuit on weekends.

    Garden-variety oyaji will continue eating lunch at Yoshinoya, drinking to excess in Shimbashi and vomiting his late-night ramen binge on the train platform as he makes his way home.

    He’ll also continue wearing that same Disney-pattern tie from the ’80s because, well, that’s what he’s always worn (and a fawning OL told him it was “kawaii.”) He will say as much when stopped on the street by roving reporters from Japan Today’s Vox Pop section.

    Poor old garden-variety oyaji will blow his spare change on pachinko, hostesses and the odd bout of “enjo kosai,” while the elite Leon-variety oyaji will be courting flashy Nikita-variety OLs.

    If Leon says the role-model Italian oyaji are not wearing ties this summer, then Leon-variety oyaji will similarly go without a tie, and his girlfriend, having read the same in Nikita, will suggest as much if he strays too far from this summer’s ideal.

    The garden-variety oyaji speaking to Japan Today is following the status quo — he won’t remove his tie until everyone else does. Leon-variety oyaji is meanwhile following his dick.

  4. nate Says:

    Magazines like Leon have been around for a long time, marketing to the GQ crowd of Japan. I haven’t noticed any increase in that kind of stuff at all.

    Though the media omnipresence of ishida junichro, an older single man on the prowl, has helped to bring the self centered 40 something male to prominence, I think. If there’s a poster boy/man for mid life men’s fashion, he’s the one.

  5. marxy Says:

    I don’t think there’s any “news” to that story at all.

    But thank god there are magazines to tell us all how to meet members of the opposite sex! How did one ever manage to do anything without media guidance!?

  6. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: have you ever seen a relatively new chain store called “Suit 21” (IIRC)? Its like Uniqlo for suits. Their suits are slightly better than the crap most office workers wear at lower prices.

    Personally I miss Moe Ginsberg in NYC. They were a great place to buy goos suits at reasonable prices. The salesmen were not high pressure and really knew their work. Basically they could take one look at a customer and suggest the right fit/color/style I dont even know if they are still there but I hope they are.

  7. Reality Bites Says:

    I am fond of calling Uniqlo, “UNICLONE”.