Sukajan, a cultural history of the souvenir jacket
Souvenir Jackets or more famously known as the “Sukajan” (Skajang/Skajan) trace their roots during the World War II when the American troops stationed in the Pacific have wanted to have some “memories” or souvenirs of their foreign assignments to bring back home to mainland. It has sort of become a solidarity uniform or remembrance of their posts and service in the war and their comrades with whom they have spent some of the bravest time of their lives. It is said to have originated from Yokusuka in Kanagawa Prefecture where its name is thought to have come from – “Suka” from Yokosuka and “Jan” from the Japanese term Jumper or ジャンパー or jacket in layman’s term. The famous maker of them during that time is the staunch brand, TOYO Enterprises, which still exists until today.
Louis Vuitton SS16
Originating, souvenir jackets were commissioned by occupying American soldiers to commemorate their time overseas and included bright, ornately hand-crafted designs, mixing both Eastern and Western themes. Japanese (and even Chinese) dragons, tigers, cherry blossoms and trees sat side-by-side with American eagles, military iconography and phraseology, making them the OG fashion collab. Collared and quilted bombers were crafted (sometimes from excess parachute silk) but it’s the varsity-style shawl collar jacket that has become popular with vintage hunters and modern designers alike. Think of a sukajan as 2014’s baseball jacket, but turnt – brighter, lighter and a serious statement piece with sauce.
One of the most popular youth trends in 60s Japan was the American preppy look. Those who didn’t want to conform wore the sukajan as an act of defiance, signalling their blue collar outsider status and forever (perhaps unfairly) linking the jacket to criminal gangs. This collector’s piece from the 50s is so mouth-wateringly dope – with its reversible velvet-like interior and crisp, contrasting design – it would be a crime not to wear it. For a throwback outfit with modern flair, we’d pair it with a pale Oxford shirt, cuffed jeans and loafers.
Nowadays, Sukajans have again invaded the wardrobe and closets of famous pop-artists ranging from Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Pharell Williams, Harry Styles and the like – enjoying a massive cult-following among these personalities’ fans. Although this iconic fashion street wear, have been experiencing a more-or-less 5-to-7-year cycle of hyping up and down annals of Street Fashion, for sure, it is here to stay and remain a staunch form and expression of one’s strong inclination and personal statement towards fashion.
A piece of fashion
More than just a piece of fashion, the reflect the mood of the time they are made and released. Sukajan these days have design themes DNAs inspired by Edo Period Japonisme Arts and cultural elements like Ukiyoe, Shunga, Maiko/Oiran/Geisha and the modern interpretation of the oriental zodiac signs and similar motifs as well.
Photo Courtesy of JapanLover, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, Asos