Embroidered bomber, souvenir, or "Sukajan Jackets" have been everywhere since Louis Vuitton men's SS16 show, trickling over to women's, and they don't seem to show any sign of slowing down. Of course I think they're super cute with their oriental inspired patterns, but I tried to restrain myself from purchasing one, only because I really wanted a truly authentic one from Japan. It just feels strange to buy a product with Asian motifs and "Japan" embroidered on the back from a mass retailer that manufactures these jackets in a country other then Japan. But... I came across this one from Zara and slightly caved, to temporarily satisfy my desire until my childhood dream of going to Japan comes true. Curse you Zara.
Although, after doing some research on the Sukajan jacket, I realized my desire to acquire one from Japan is slightly ironic! Why? Because They actually came to exist due to the American soldiers post WW-ll! The English translation of Sukajan is souvenir, and the Americans post WW-ll had these jackets created to commemorate their time overseas, hence the name. They were often colorful and hand-crafted with a combination of eastern and western motifs and typography.
It wasn't until the 60's when the jacket notably got adopted into Japanese fashion. The American preppy look was the most sought after style for the youth during that decade, but those who didn't want to conform to the new trend typically wore the Sukajan jackets - mainly the working class or blue collar youth. It was an act of defiance and irreverence to the mainstream. Yet It came with negative connotations, being symbolic of Yakuza relations and rebellion. Which I think is pretty cool. In today's world, the stigma has faded but the influence and connotations are still apparent to some eyes.
The Souvenir jacket soon became almost a tradition post wars, later resurfacing for soldiers who fought in the Korean and Vietnam war. Although, those ones weren't as colorful or optimistic as the Japanese ones created decades earlier. Due to the hellish and brutal experience during those wars, Vietnam specifically.
So they weren't actually a Japanese product per se. But for the ones created in Japan, the embroidery is so much more elaborate and decadent then the mass market imitations. Like Tigers cascading the entire back with back drops of sakura or a Phoenix embroidered in such a way it's like it's swiftly flying in the jacket. A statement, yet cool piece.
One factor that makes this purchase a bit more justified is that it's reversible! It reverses into a simple black body with ivory sleeves. Until the day I go to Japan, I will have to make due with this cute but imitation sukajan jacket. Soon!
Photography by Linda Chow
Edited by Vitaly Usherenko