Japanese souvenir jackets, or “sukajan” in Japan, have skyrocketed in popularity over the years. These brightly colored fashion pieces are often embroidered with rich Japanese designs, depicting symbols ranging from a dragon, tiger, cherry blossoms, and more.
Made from the highest quality satin or silk, these bright embroidery jackets make an impression.
Even if you haven't seen one in person, you will have spotted this fashion on TV or social media. Besides being a staple in Asian culture, Hollywood celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Harry Styles, and Katy Perry regularly wear them.
To understand the rage behind these souvenir jackets, we'll dive deeper into their cultural history, the ideas they represent, and how much they cost. We'll also explore how to care for your souvenir jacket.
What Is a Sukajan Jacket and Its History?
Souvenir jackets have an intriguing history that began following World War II. People first produced these jackets for soldiers who served overseas in Vietnam and Korea. The name "souvenir jacket" derives from how this clothing commemorated the soldiers' time overseas.
American soldiers would wear these unique designs to pay homage to their service in Asia. These souvenir jackets sought to blend Eastern and Western symbols and motifs. For example, Asian imagery like dragons or tigers would sit alongside American imagery like bald eagles.
Traditionally, these military-style jackets use satin and silk, but some producers opt for thicker, more durable materials. Regardless of the material, each jacket features embroidered designs and eye-catching colors.
The cut is also very detailed, meant to resemble the traditional American baseball jacket.
Initially, these worn jackets represented personal gifts for each soldier. This process means every bomber jacket and embroidery style carries its own unique style.
Today, finding a vintage jacket that belonged to its original owner is nearly impossible. As a result, these 70-year-old pieces are exceedingly rare.
However, many replicas today exist that make for an outstanding fashion piece. In fact, it didn't take long for pop culture to adopt souvenir jackets.
The 1960s saw many Japanese youths enamored by American accessories and culture. As a result, they began incorporating these jackets into their everyday wardrobe.
Following the war, wearing one of these jackets in Japan became a symbol of rebellion and, in some cases, gang representation.
Today, much of this edginess has softened as celebrities, including famous women, have begun embracing the look.
What Does Sukajan Mean?
The souvenir jacket itself originated in the Kanagawa Prefecture inside Yokosuka City. Yokosuka contained Japan's first naval bases and quickly became a favorite item of clothing for many soldiers.
The name blends the end of the naval base's city ("suka") with the katakana translation of "jumper," which translates to "jan." By placing these two words together, you get "sukajan." Sometimes, people refer to these sukajan jackets as Yokosuka jackets.
The History of the Streetwear Style in the Harajuku District
These Japanese bomber jackets are synonymous with Japanese streetwear. Streetwear in Japan represents a unisex, modern trend most popular in the Harajuku District of Tokyo. This type of Japanese fashion seeks to rebel against Japanese norms and customs.
Like traditional sukajan, you can trace Japan's streetwear back to American origins. Streetwear in the United States first exploded inside urban areas in the 1980s, representing a rebellious subculture. This subculture included hip-hop enthusiasts, surfers, skateboarders, and more.
In Japan during this time, traditional clothing—including kimonos, yukatas, tabi socks, haoris, and more—was the norm, and often divided classes. For example, wealthier classes wore kimonos made from better materials and more ornate details.
Following Japan's defeat in World War II, two crucial things happened that would change Japanese fashion forever:
1. American soldiers inspired new clothing styles and culture that merged with Japanese culture.
2. The youth saw a way to defy traditional norms and customs using this new fashion.
This new mindset inspired high-quality pieces blending America's subcultures with various Japanese symbols and motifs.
Pieces range from explosive T-shirts featuring traditional Japanese imagery and bright colors to streetwear beanies and caps, sneakers, oversized sweatshirts, and more.
Additionally, streetwear in the Harajuku District would sometimes incorporate sukajan jackets. While it's hard to come by a vintage Japanese bomber jacket today, the embroidered look still appears in many forms.
Whether choosing a brand that replicates the original look or a more modern take, you can still find plenty of sukajan jackets.
What Are the Most Popular Embroidered Animals on Sukajan Jackets?
Souvenir Sukajan Jacket
Look Sharper Than Ever in This Souvenir Jacket Details Sukajan Jacket Rib cuff Available in 2 styles: Embroidered Tiger back & No embroidered back Available sizes: M - 3XL Asian sizes (select 1-2 sizes larger than your US size) Please… read more
Style-wise, Yokosuka jackets must feature animals in their embroidery. Animals commonly depicted on a souvenir jacket may include:
· Koi fish
· A dragon
· A tiger
· A snake
· Bald eagles
Besides animals, a souvenir jacket sukajan may feature imagery including geishas, cherry blossoms, temples, flowers, and more. The jacket may even depict the rising sun alongside the American flag, the outline of Japan, or specific names of cities or districts. Many even have bold slogans in English.
Today, when you shop at a business that carries sukajan jackets, you can find a brand or style that's sure to pique your interest.
Why Are Japanese Bomber Jackets So Expensive?
The perfect sukajan jacket typically carries a hefty price tag. Many factors can affect the price when you shop, including:
· The materials used: Traditionally, high-quality silk and satin composed sukajan jackets. While today’s manufacturers typically opt for nylon, some still use fabrics like silk.
· The embroidery designs: The embroidered designs themselves are hand-stitched, representing time and extra care. You can expect to pay more if you buy a customized style. Additionally, some jackets feature reversible sides with more embroidery images.
· Cultural and celebrity impact: Since celebrities started wearing the sukajan jacket, its popularity exploded. Naturally, when you can see your favorite celebrities wearing this style, the retail industry will take notice.
· The brands themselves: Many affluent brands like Evisu, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci give the traditional Japanese bomber jacket a modern-day spin. Even if you don't buy a Gucci sukajan jacket, these outfits appearing on the runaway have cemented their cultural impact. As a result, they often raise the price across the board.
You can buy mass-produced or synthetic sukajan jackets for $100 or less, with higher-end ones hovering around $400. A boutique bomber jacket, however, can go for much higher.
How to Wash or Clean Your Sukajan Souvenir Jackets
It's vital to care for your sukajan jacket properly. It's important to note that this jacket’s function isn't to protect against winter weather or to provide general warmth. While most rayon or synthetic jackets can survive plenty of wear and tear, embroidered designs can quickly fade if not properly cared for.
Your jacket should come with washing instructions, with "hand wash only" being typical. A label that says “dry” also shouldn't use a washing machine.
People worried about damaging their sukajan jackets can take them to a professional laundry service.
Get Your Souvenir Jacket Today
Sukajan jackets represent a lot of cultural significance, but with celebrities joining the club, you can too! The perfect jacket shouldn't be too loose or too tight. It should also match your unique personality or style.
At Eiyo Kimono, we have many sukajan jackets available. Please browse our shop today for the perfect addition to your wardrobe.