Louis Vuitton SS16: Photo via UpscaleHype
Identifiable by their unique, exquisite, and colorful embroidery, Japanese bomber jackets have become all the rage lately. However, this trend is not a new one; the bomber jackets were first popularized post-World War II by Americans who had been stationed in Japan. Now, the trend has reemerged more powerfully than ever, with everyone from celebrities to top fashion designers on board.
Photo via Vogue.com, courtesy of Japan Jacket
Lynn Yaeger for Vogue.com writes, “Unlike most trends that seem to arise from fashion’s primordial muck and do not have one specific point of origin, these jackets can purportedly be traced to a single person—an imaginative American serviceman stationed in occupied Yokosuka, Japan, immediately after World War II. This soldier had the bright idea to take his regulation bomber jacket to the local tailor and have it embroidered, thereby turning a symbol of war into a placid souvenir.”
Photo via ASOS Marketplace
Indeed, the souvenir jackets were a sign of conquest. Yaeger points out how strange it must have been to be a Japanese local embroidering designs on the invading army’s bomber jackets, especially as the bombers displayed “stereotyped symbols of their two nations—geishas and eagles, cherry blossoms and dragons, and even, at the GIs’ request, maps of military campaign.” As the popularization of the bomber jackets began to skyrocket, Japanese tailors resorted to using unconventional fabrics, such as leftover parachute silk. The bombers--now called “Sukajan,” translating to “Sky Dragon Jumper”-- received support from Japanese gangs and were a sign of rebellion at the time.
Photo via Urban Outfitters
Alas, the post-war trend is making an extraordinary comeback. Not only featured in high fashion shows (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, and Saint Laurent have all jumped on the trend), Sukajans are also found at affordable outlets such as Forever21 and ASOS.
Jacket from Zara, Photo via Pinterest
Perhaps it is important to reflect on the bomber’s history and recognize the piece as not only a fashionable accessory, but as a symbol of conquest and rebellion as well.