If you’re a 90’s kid like me, it’s safe to assume that Pokemon played a pretty huge role in your upbringing. When you weren’t trying to “catch ‘em all” on your Gameboy, you were probably in the playground trading cards and desperately searching for that elusive shiny Charizard. For myself, that’s about as far as my anime journey went – a mere toe in the water of the manga pool. Others, however, have immersed themselves fully in anime and Japanese culture. As a result, we’re now seeing this reflected in modern fashion trends.
Now, to some Gen Xers and Boomers amongst us, that first paragraph might as well have been written in another language but don’t worry I’m sure that you’re not on your own. Before we go any further, let me give you the low down on what anime actually is. Merriam-Webster define Anime as, “a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterised by stark colourful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes”.
Got it? Good. Now we’re on the same level, come with me on a journey as we discover how anime is shaping the next generation of fashion. Naturally, we’ll start at the beginning – with manga.
The manga art form can be found in Japanese scrolls dating back to the 12th century, but the concept truly gained traction during the Edo period (1603–1867). It was during this time that the word “Manga” – (man) meaning “whimsical or impromptu” and (ga) meaning “pictures” – came into common use. Collections of manga were printed into short books during the 19th century called “Kibyōshi” and are considered by historians to be the first comic books. Over time Manga became a cultural tradition in Japan. However, after World War 2 and the allied invasion of Japan, an explosion of creativity and popularity occurred, in many parts due to the hardships faced by the citizens; during this time, Japanese people looked to manga comic books as an escape.
In the following decades, comic book characters who had become immensely popular, such as Astro Boy, found themselves on television screens in the form of anime. Whilst cartoons in the west are usually associated with children, that isn’t the case in Japan, with anime cartoons often taking on serious themes such as love, sexuality, and war. In fact, anime covers so many genres, it has something for just about anyone. Since the birth of the internet and social media, the appeal of anime cartoons has now grown beyond Japan and has become immensely popular across the world.
So where does fashion come into this?
Well, it could be argued that anime conventions really got the ball rolling when talking about its relationship with fashion. At such conventions, specifically “Comic-Con”, super fans get together and dress like their favourite anime creations as a celebration to their favourite art form. The outfits are often unique, edgy and push boundaries. They also act as a form of unity to likeminded fans who share a love of the culture. What’s more, these outfits allow anime fans a chance to escape, to be confident and to find their true selves. So guess what? After fans discovered that this was how they preferred to dress, they didn’t just limit it to conventions. Out and about, these guys are now wearing capes, heavy make-up, bright clothes, and completely wild outfits. If you’re a long time Barneys gang member you’re probably punching the air in celebration right now.
Noticing the popularity of anime, certain brands have seen the opportunity to cash in and honestly, I’m all for it. In 2018 Adidas came together with Dragonball Z to create exclusive trainers reminiscent of several of the famous characters and fights in the show. Since then, there have been countless anime collabs: Gucci x Doraemon, Levis x Pokemon and Supreme x AKIRA, to name just a few. What’s not to love? When your favourite brands meet your favourite TV show, you’re on to a winner; we’re still in talks over a Barneys x Corrie collab because who doesn’t want a Gail Platt themed leather jacket?
It isn’t only brands that are pushing the anime revolution, however. Big Hollywood names of the entertainment industry can often be seen strutting their stuff down the red carpet looking like an extra from Naruto. Rhianna has long been known for taking inspiration from anime for her looks, especially from the character, “Canary” from Hunter x Hunter. US rapper, Megan Thee Stallion also recently launched a line of merchandise in collaboration with the anime distributor, Crunchyroll. Moreover, anime inspired outfits are now even being seen on catwalks with designer labels such a Louis Vuitton, Moschino, and Prada having all embraced the art form with statement pieces inspired by the signature comic style and direct homages to certain manga characters.
Ultimately, we always come back to the same point here at Barneys. Wear whatever makes you happy. Wear whatever makes you comfortable. Wear whatever helps you grow. These guys do, and they’re doing great – creating experiences, sharing ideas, and meeting new people all because of what they wear. If you think you’d feel better in a cape, don’t let anyone tell you different! Oh, and if you couldn’t tell, the Gail Platt leather jacket was a joke unfortunately. However, if you would be interested, please let us know, you never know what could happen!