Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
The Cutely Stateless Hippy Look
From Zipper Magazine, Tokyo, January 1999
[With added observations by Momus]

Osaka Secondhand Clothes Are Cutely Hippy!

Make the best of winter by wearing multi-layered secondhand clothes. In Osaka fashion district America-Mura, the trendiest furugikko [from furugi= secondhand clothes, ko=kid] retro kids are wearing many layers of mukokuseki stateless hippy chic.

[Mukokuseki is a very interesting word. It means 'no nationality', stateless, bastardised, mixed, global. This is a relatively new term in Japanese. Before the Edo era there were no words for the 'national' or the 'non-national' because Japan was closed. Only when the ports were re-opened in 1864 was the existence of other cultures given official recognition with a word of its own. The word for 'multinational', takokuseki, didn't enter the Japanese language until the Gulf War of 1990, with its 'multinational task force'.]

[Zipper continues...]

A patchwork, Asian-style skirt will be your first step to this look; patchwork plus hippy is very simple but cute. Hair extensions made with yarns are very popular.

If you wear many layers, taking care to control the colour, you will look sukkiri [pleasingly simple] and co-ordinated. But the look shouldn't be allowed to get too thick... that's NG [teen slang: Not Good]! So try to wear lovely secondhand clothes in many layers and be cutely hippy!

[Zipper warns that the danger of this style is getting 'too thick'. You must layer with thin garments, otherwise you will start to bulge. Yumi (see below) is just the right side of 'too thick', for example. I wonder if 'thick' could be compared to the graffitti concept of phat? Actually, it's probably not a useful comparison. You can't be too phat.]

(Right) "This skirt, which looks like an Indian one, is secondhand. This scarf was made by my mother, it didn't cost anything, and this jersey I found at HYS. I'm also wearing hemp."
Mayumi Takadaya, 18, high school student

[I made this skirt from
A groovy curtain
Somebody ripped out of a pretty bungalow
And in my knickers
There is a flower my mother sewed...
What Are You Wearing?]

(Left) "This secondhand skirt's fabric is like Indian cotton textiles. So I can wear it throughout the year and also it goes well with dark coloured jerseys, making simple clothes look exotic."
Yumie Kubo, 17, Student

[Osaka has a more Latin feel than Tokyo. It also considers itself a lot more humourous, funky and ethnic than the capital. In Tokyo there are no immigrant quarters, but in Osaka there's a big Korean community, the closest thing Japan has to an ethnic minority. The police around the Korean Town have to speak Korean.]

[Yumie's foot position is classic here. Japanese girls are brought up to sit with their toes pointing inwards, it's meant to be more feminine, cute, and childish. Boys sit with their toes pointing outward, which is of course bold and extravert where the girls' pose is shy and demure.]

(Right) "My friend gave me this skirt. It releases power, an aura. I bought these shoes to wear with the skirt, they cost me $60."
Noriko Sugimoto, 19, studying to be a hairdresser.

[Forthcoming Analog Baroque artist Kazmi comes from Osaka, and wears exactly this style of furugikko mukokuseki.]

[If you know my work, it'll be no surprise to you that I adore Japanese girls and pay particular attention to the way they dress. I find it both sexy and extremely creative. Secretly, I really want to be a Japanese girl, which makes me a femio, the name given to straight Japanese males who dress up as girls... like the singer Izam from the mega-platinum pop band Shazna. To be femio is not to be gay. Izam is the boyfriend of Japan's most famous model, Hinano. In a society dominated by the insecurely macho salaryman, nothing could be more reassuring to a girl than exchanging make-up tips with a boyfriend who's man enough to be her girlfriend too.]

(Right) [In December, on the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, where I was playing a show in the America-Mura district, I met Emi Necozawa, a new recording artist on my Japanese label Nippon Columbia. Emi fuses historical and ethnic references in her images and music, and her trademark corkscrew hair -- in slang you call it chilli chilli -- can be seen copied on this page by Zipper girl Ryoko. I was thrilled when I first saw the cover of Emi's 1998 album Broken Sewing Machine. Made up to resemble an 18th century tailor's dummy, (a cross between Jobriath and Mylene Farmer), she's seen sitting half naked at a harpsichord. I instantly made the connection with my Analog Baroque ideas and the historical references and Westwoodisms of the Decora-Chan trend. I didn't get excited about her music until I heard Konishi's remix of her song Robot, in which she sings 'Watashi-wa roboto!, I am called Robot' over an alienated, Pizzicated disco thump. Emi Necozawa is both decorative and informatique: a living piece of Info Deco.]

(Left) "This skirt is like a tablecloth in vivid pink colour, I found it secondhand, it cost about $60. I love secondhand clothes because I can find some very rare things. My favourite shop is El Camino."
Kana Wakae, 23, odd jobber.

[One reason these hippy styles are popular is that in the post-crash economy, they're cheap. You can wear clothes your parents give you for free, rather than asking them to tap into their savings -- some of which have disappeared with the banks which held them -- to buy you the expensive designer labels of the pre-bubble Japanese economy. I should say relatively cheap, because for secondhand they're pretty expensive. The secondhand clothes dealers who populate the narrow streets of America-Mura know what's hot and mark the trendy stuff up. Their smart and sussed young customers are willing to pay for their curatorial skills.]

(Right) "I found this skirt which is a patchwork of some Buddhist-like textiles at Pango Pango, about $50. This jumper I borrowed from my friend Ken-Chan, it's a bit too big."
Ryoko Matsuda, 19

[Often, in times of economic trouble, Japan loses its self-confidence and western models start to appear in its fashion magazines again. Although rival teen zines Cutie and Olive are featuring more western models than they were last year, I think Zipper has its finger on something new, important and lasting which is starting in Japanese youth culture: a real interest in Asia. A few examples: the huge popularity of Wong Kar Wai amongst Japanese kids, Keigo Oyamada's trips to China to produce Cantonese pop artists like Cath Pan, the vogue for using Korean script on record sleeves (Fantasma and Happy End Of The World) and now the trend for Asian ethnic clothes. To the credit of Cutie, which is an excellent magazine of street fashion resembling i-D in its early days, they recently ran an exquisite feature on the recontextualisation of kimonos, worn by trendy girls clutching this season's accessory of choice, goofy pandas.]

(Left) "My hair is short now, but I am trying to extend it with yarns and artificial hair to look like an exotic hairstyle. I am wearing a kimono-style skirt and also a jacket I bought a very long time ago. With this scarf I got thick, and with these socks even thicker. I found the shoes at Round Up, and they cost about $150."
Yumi Okahisa, 19, Trainee hairdresser

[This may seem obvious, but I think it's very important to point out the difference between Japanese teenage fashion magazines like Zipper, Cutie, Kerouac, Fruits and most western fashion magazines. Perhaps because freedom and individuality are extremely precious commodities in an otherwise conformist culture, Japteen fashion magazines tend to follow the lead set by the kids, providing documentary reportage which simply tells other kids what the trends are. The emphasis is on the creativity of individuals on the street, not the dictates of designers and 'fashion experts'. It's grassroots up, and it's about finding a personal style. For me, therefore, it's a fantastic symbol of creativity, liberty and democracy, mixed in with a very Japanese poignancy: the knowledge that this freedom will soon fade, like blossom on a cherry bough.]

[Thanks to Riho Aihara for translations and cultural explanations].

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