Traditional masculine archetypes have all but disappeared from the mainstream Japanese media – the Kenshiro-esque heroes from the 80s have long been replaced by preened pretty boys and just you try and find a TV talent whose whose butchness is not also exploited for comic effect. Parallel to this metrosexual dominated mainstream media we also find ourselves in an economic enviroment which deprives men of their traditional gender roles as dreams of providing for a family singlehandedly and measuring ones status by the formular of “university x car x salary x height = quality of man” becomes a distant (and slightly bitter by all accounts) memory. Thus it is not surprising in the slightest to see a degree of discord on the concensuss of what it means to be a man in the mainstream, but this phenomena is exaggerated ten fold when you take it into Japan’s subcultures.
In the case of Japanese men the curious dynamic of Moe, Idol worship and other otaku tastes often manifest themselves in men who surround themselves with these objects of affection, frequently as objects of direct physical desire, that ironically has the dual effect of both depriving the male of real physical relationships but also of surrounding said male with cute girly imagery. This offshoot of bishoujo as the male variant of traditional shoujo style has meant that aesthetically men’s and women’s manga and anime culture has never been closer and it is starting to show in the urban realm as never before.
This phenomenon was at the heart of Mikio Sakabe’s SS 2013 collection in which he presented a gang of hikkikomori men who ambled onto the stage fearfully avoiding eye contact with the snapping cameras and settled down to read shoujo manga on stage, all the while clad in pastels and tailoring inspired by Japanese school girl uniforms.
Contrasting with the rather weak willed men, who even had some of the hair on their legs dyed a cute pink in order to rob them further of traditional masculinity, were the bubbly twin drum unit – Band Jyanaimon! – who gently mocked the men as they came on stage between songs, themselves the embodiment of the genki kawaii culture that the men idolize.
The ladies costumes too were designed by Mikio Sakabe, with the intended contrast that they were the epitome of cuteness, but at the same time see-through to conventional gym-wear underneath, robbing the costume above of its coquettish illusion of concealment.
The band performed their mix of Shibuya meets Akiba pop with gusto, highlighting further the weakness of the men’s defeated posture with every beat.
Thematically the girls were inviting the men to join in in the cute world the models were obsessed with.
The pastel colours will likely prove difficult to wear, as will the dandyish detailing straight out of a BL manga, but men of Tokyo are long overdue a real challenge and they don’t get much bigger than this.
As with Jenny Fax’s collection the collection was packed with references to current street style, but here the garments that currently define Tokyo femininity at the street level were worn by men.
Mercifully there was a decent amount of tailoring to keep the collection vaguely on this planet, but only just.
As with his AW collection Mikio Sakabe’s muse of re-imagining the Japanese school girl uniform as a male garment was central, a garment ironically inspired by men’s naval uniform.
Here you can see the pastel coloured leg hair, as well as his take on the aforementioned iconic pleated skirt as shorts.
The feminine tailoring, seen here with heart cuts outs on the pockets, could be straight out of a school themed anime.
A further level of tension in an already complicated performance was achieved by the suggestion that the men might be adhering to a female fantasy as demonstrated by some of the men reading adult women’s manga.
The boys relaxing on stage…
Regardless of how this fashion will eventually be worn you cannot deny that Mikio Sakabe has his finger on the pulse of both Japanese fashion and culture as a whole. Who else can introduce sociological issues like this so effortlessly while putting on a fantastic show at the same time?