From traditional to trendy

In Japan, much like in Italy, how one looks and dresses is of utmost importance. Tedious perfectionism can be seen in the daily dress of many Japanese. Osakans may not always be as sharply dressed as Venetians or Parisians, but the Japanese sense of style is intriguing throughout the whole country.

Traditionally, the Japanese have always favored earth-tones and today, as in the past, they truly favor dark, subdued colors when considering everyday dress. Not everyone favors this style and, of course, kimono prints are a drastic contrast to the earth-tone color spectrum.

As for colors, there is not as big an emphasis on matching in Japan, Osaka in particular, as there is in America. Americans certainly have their own polka-dot and plaid warriors, but in Japan there seems to be no fashion police to stop the color crime spree.

The differences between Japanese and American styles stem from Japan’s position on the other side of the globe. Fashion in Japan takes its cues from every nation, including America. Mix the trends of the entire world with a race that excels at fitting any fashion mold, and you have something incredible: thousands of diverse styles in a country notorious for its conformity.

All fashions follow trends, but there are some staples to mention. Stripes seem to have become a standard in Japan. There is a typical horizontal dark-blue and beige-striped shirt that is sold at a chain store called Uniqlo. There must be at least one of these shirts in every Japanese home.

For teens to twenty-somethings, camouflage has become hip. In no way does this mean that people are on the street corner in a full set of fatigues. The trend is a subtle one, in which everyone has one item with the camouflage pattern, like a cap, pair of Converse or headphones. For a country so opposed to lending their troops to Iraq, I am surprised at the timing of this trend.

Every type of hairstyle, for both men and women, can be seen in Japan. It is very common for people to change their hairstyle every two weeks, making salons a huge industry throughout the country.

The most fashionable people in Japan are undoubtedly the women. Japanese women certainly take pride in their appearance. No one in Japan ever goes to the store, or anywhere for that matter, in their scrubs or pajamas. This time of year, it’s too cold here for that type of dress, but it seems that it is never too cold for skirts in Japan. The majority of women under the age of 40 wear skirts even during winter. In order to avoid dying for fashion, skirts are always accompanied by boots or leg warmers. If you can imagine it, 50 percent of the women in Japan are wearing a skirt, sky-high boots and a puffy jacket. The other 50 percent are wearing clothing as diverse as thumb prints.

With so many men in Japan tied down by work, and because dressing up is more common than dressing down, suits are the way to go. Although worldwide suits look pretty similar, the men not wearing them have styles all their own. Osaka has tons of thrift stores full of imported, used American clothing. The average street-wise Osakan guy has the ability to mix and match just about anything from these stores to make a trendy ensemble for himself. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the overly fashion-conscious, male-model wanna-be metrosexuals (often carrying purses), and in the middle of the spectrum are guys who have an average-guy style with Japanese flavor.

Host bars, where lonely women pay money to chat with young fashionable men in suits (hosts), have their regular customers. Since it is the job of these hosts to stand outside of train stations and solicit customers, they are always around and they are quite a site to see. First, picture a group of young Japanese guys in identical black suits. They are orange from too much time in a tanning booth. Next, add auburn-colored mullets and dangly earrings. Now you have a host.

I’ve never seen much necessity in obsessing over clothes. Being in a country where clothes really make the man, fashion, for me, is slowly growing in importance and becoming something to consider. Until I fully surrender to the Japanese tide of trends, I can only be amused by getting a taste of the soup du jour from Japan’s melting pot of world fashion. I guess I’ll take it one sip at a time.

Daniel Shimek was the former Oracle graphics manager.