WHILE THE fashion bros of London and New York like to think they’re the best dressers in the menswear space, if you have traverse the streets of Tokyo or Shanghai you’ll likely realise the men there are better dressers. Fashion has infused street culture in the far east in a way it hasn’t elsewhere, meaning there are thousands of avenues to take inspiration from in the best-dressed nations of both countries.
Adept at both creating (and challenging) trends adopted from elsewhere, street fashion in China and Japan not only comes with its own unique identity but a willingness to embrace a huge array of global cultures—making for an incredibly exciting fashion scene. While there’s a few language and technological barriers sometimes making it hard to get into, it’s an aesthetic you can easily integrate into your own wardrobe.
What defines Japanese street fashion?
Japanese streetwear is a different beast in its own right, and one of the most globally influential street fashion landscapes, with a huge array of different aesthetics falling under its umbrella. Japanese streetwear is famously eclectic and home to a range of subcultures and subsets so vast there are countless blogs devoted to each one of them.
From the hip-hop-infused streetwear of brands like Mastermind and Neighborhood, to the avant-garde designs of Yohji Yamamoto and Comme Des Garçons, all the way through to hypercolour of BAPE, Japanese street fashion has proved an inspiration and a canvas for some of the world’s most influential designers and dressers.
Japanese street fashion also places an emphasis on local production and attention to detail. In addition to the meticulously crafted staple pieces of brands like Visvim and WTAPS, Japan is famed for its denim mills, with brands like Orslow, Blue Samurai and Iron Heart making selvedge jeans that cause a certain subset of enthusiasts weak at the knees.
There’s something here for everyone, then, and a brand that will appeal to you whatever your aesthetic, and the concepts put forward by these brands also bleed down into the lines of more accessible, affordable stores (think Muji and Uniqlo). You only need to look at the list of brands that have cued up to collaborate with Japanese designers over the last decade to get an inkling of how influential it is, with designers like Yamamoto, Nigo, and Hiroshi Fujiwara already enshrined as legends of streetwear.
How is Chinese street fashion different?
While a slightly more insular scene thanks simply to the lack of exposure it gets on western social media, Chinese street fashion is nonetheless rapidly growing in both its size and influence around the world. Chinese menswear takes its cues from a huge array of global influences, and you could maybe argue it’s more reactive to global movements, making for an eclectic range of subscenes that seems to grow and morph with every passing season.
So, where do you start incorporating Chinese and Japanese street fashion into your own wardrobe? Here are some of the defining menswear trends that have taken over wardrobes in both nations as of late, and how to style them yourself.
Blokecore is everywhere, isn’t it? First popularised in the lead-up to the World Cup last year, the trend, which takes its cues from British sportswear from the ‘80s and ‘90s, has proven surprisingly pervasive since and is naturally big with both nations enjoying healthy bases of soccer fans. Luckily for you, particularly if you’re soccer-inclined, it’s a fairly easy bandwagon to hop on board. All you need is a soccer jersey (or any other code, if that’s your thing), some dad jeans and a pair of retro adidas Originals. Back of the net!
Cityboy fashion basically represents the platonic ideal put forward in a Muji catalogue: An ode to slightly grimy, yet aesthetic urban alleyways, wood-panelled coffee shops and minimalist streetwear. With its emphasis on minimalism and more leisurely, relaxed silhouettes, this is perhaps one of the easier trends to replicate, with stores like Muji and Uniqlo helping shape the aesthetic with their low-fi, timeless take on streetwear.
The cleanfit guy is the cityboy’s older, slightly more mature brother, favouring more tailored fits and, to use the now much-derided phrase, a certain air of quiet luxury afforded by investing in more high-end staple pieces. Cleanfit rejects branding and ostentatious logos, allowing the cut and quality of clothes to speak for themselves. Best worn while making an ASMR TikTok of your morning espresso routine.
If you love hiking you’re probably already half-way to nailing the gorpcore aesthetic, which re-contextualises technical outerwear and all-conditions outdoors geat for an urban environment. Hiking-adjacent sneakers and runners like Salomons are popular in the scene, as is outerwear from brands like the North Face and Arc’teryx. Heavily brand-centric, gorpcore is very much about the labels, but can be both minimalist and flamboyant, embracing both neutral tones and technicolour tones from the ‘80s and ‘90s.