New Vintage – New History? The Sukajan (Souvenir Jacket) and Its Fashionable Reproduction

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Abstract

This article traces the sukajan’s journey from military souvenir to fashion statement. Originally embroidered by the Japanese for American soldiers in Occupied Japan, the sukajan, or souvenir jacket, went on to commemorate further tours of duty, including the Vietnam War. In the second half of the twentieth century, it was worn as an act of defiance by members of subcultures both inside and outside Japan, developing connotations of rebellion. Its visibility in media culture further popularized this garment. The sukajan’s historic associations with military conflict and subculture style, as well as identification with Japanese craftsmanship, made it ideally suited for new vintage production, a growing trend in the fashion industry. The design, branding and marketing of new vintage sukajan drew on these associations to add gravitas to this mass-manufactured garment. Despite its ubiquity, it has received little critical investigation. This article brings the history of this neglected garment to light, and also contributes to debates around the commodification of youth subculture style and military chic. Through an examination of the materiality of the sukajan as it moves between cultures, through time and across space, it further demonstrates how such a study can disrupt the Eurocentrism that continues to plague fashion studies and can contribute to an enriched discussion of imitation, transformation and identity in moving between the global and local. Finally, this article asks: what are the implications of co-opting a garment originating in the brutal militaristic struggles between nations and cultures, sanitizing this history and selling it as fashion?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-47
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Fashion Studies
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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