Japanese Clothes: All Hail Tradition And Obi

Japanese Clothes All Hail Tradition And ObiIf you spend any time at all on the Tokyo subway (and surely you will), you will quickly conclude that the major difference between Japanese clothes and clothes in the United States or Europe is. . . well, that there is no difference. Except that cell phones tend to be accessories like belts rather than tools to communicate. But we digress.

Hyper-trendy Japanese women once viewed traditional clothing like kimonos with disdain. So much work, so old-fashioned, so sexist. Now the story goes more like: price is no object — I want my kimono and I want it now. Younger women are embracing the kimono (or yukata — we hear the magazines are already showing the best accessories for today’s yukata wearer ) with a renewed fervor. And the industry is responding with the high-end merchandise today’s discerning shopper needs:

A brand-new kimono, and the long list of accessories that goes with it, is still prohibitively expensive, costing thousands, even tens of thousands, of pounds. But a thriving market in antique cast-offs, available for as little as a few pounds, is now serving students and younger working women. Buyers mix and match their kimonos with obi belts, shoes and split-toe socks.

Let us all pause for a moment to savor the notion of scrounging through thrift stores for classic kimonos.

And where the women go, the men must follow. Though Japanese clothes weren’t always gender-specific (we recall the period before 300 AD), kimonos and their relatives are tailored for men, women, and children. We imagine it’s only a matter of time before trendy young male kimono-otaku embrace this trend. We hope they’ll expand beyond the traditional dark, plain colors into new shades.

It should be noted that the kimono started simple and, with the introduction of silk and dying techniques, evolved into a high art form during the Heian period (word is this the period favored by the Imperial family for their formal dress). Planet Tokyo prefers the simpler, all-purpose outfits that marked the Edo period (though there is a die-hard hakama — elaborately pleated pants worn over kimono — fan in the building). Fewer layers, better technology.

And, of course, for that one creature who has everything, we’ve found a place in Tokyo that sells cute little outfits for your cats. Who, we’re sure, will greet your generous gift with the same level of enthusiasm they greet a trip to the vet.