1940s/1950s Japanese Suit

Vintage “western-style” Japanese vintage clothing is quite scarce, even inside Japan. Despite the long-standing practice of Japanese men to wear western clothing, particularly for business, the cultural cringe about old clothing is still particularly strong in Asian countries. So, while a spectacular number of very, very old kimonos are held onto by families in respect to the dead former owners, the suits etc. are tossed into the bin or go to the rag trade. A few things turn up in Europe and the US, and I’ll bet there’s lots in Chile, but not much at all.

I bought this suit from a Japanese dealer at Spitalsfield market the other day. It probably dates to the late 40s or early 50s, strongly resembling suits in Japanese film of that era. I’m thinking particularly of Kurosawa’s detective films, like Stray Dog, where the suits are cut very much like this one. It’s made of very rustic wool – almost a boucle effect in the very slubby tweed fabric. It’s just the kind of fabric I’d expect from Japan at the time (don’t know why), very homespun and rugged with lots of flaws in the weave and colour variation etc. I’d pin the style at a hybrid of mostly American features with some Euro influences. I love the fabric used to create the double curtains in the trousers. Very snazzy. Paint spplatters on the trousers, while also reducing the price nicely, probably explain why this has survived – being put into service as a “work” suit after its style or business-usefulness was on the wane.

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