"I Just Don’t Feel It’s As Heart-Felt As the Japanese Brands": Anglosphere Men’s Transnational Consumption of Japanese Denim, Workwear and Military Reproduction Clothing

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Nathaniel WEINER, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Following sociologist Agnès Rocamora’s (2002) theorisation of fashion as a Bourdieusian field, this paper looks at transnational consumption within the sub-field of online menswear communities. These are online communities that men visit to discuss and read about men’s clothing. Reporting the results of an online ethnography of these communities and in-depth interviews with fifty community members located in the Britain, Canada and the United States, this paper explains why so many Anglosphere men are so passionate about Japanese clothing. In the process of doing so, it demonstrates how the transnational consumption of high-end Japanese ‘heritage’ brands troubles the traditional class meanings attached to denim, work clothing and military surplus.

Beginning with a genealogy of Japanese menswear, this paper explains how menswear is itself a transnational field, with American style having greatly influenced Japanese clothing consumers and producers during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The focus here is on how the class meanings of these clothes changed in the process, with working-class American jeans and military surplus clothing becoming sought-after luxury commodities in the Japanese market. This paper then turns its attention to contemporary transnational consumption practices, detailing how expensive Japanese imports bestow ‘subcultural capital’ (Thornton, 1996) within fashion’s sub-field of online menswear communities. To the uninformed outsider, Japanese jeans, flight jackets and work boots are indistinguishable from the cheaper, contemporary versions worn by huge numbers of men around the world. But within online menswear communities, the craftsmanship, high price point, and rarity of these Japanese clothes make them very similar to the types of luxury garments more commonly associated with high levels of economic and cultural capital. This challenges nationally-bounded analyses of men’s fashion, revealing the need for transnational analysis of consumption within the field of men’s fashion.