Tokyo, September 1964: A squad of plainclothes police descend on the tony Ginza shopping district and round up hundreds of Japanese youths who had outraged local businesses. Their crime? Loitering in what was then outre style — button-down shirts, skinny ties, suit jackets and chino pants. These delinquents were the miyuki-zoku (Miyuki tribe) and they idolized one thing: Ivy League fashion.
Yes, they were preppies. Tokyo was about to host the Olympics and these kids were causing alarm by rejecting their 19th-century gakuran (high-collar) school uniforms. The Ginza panic seems incomprehensible today, but this is one of the fascinating accounts in W. David Marx’s unique archeology of Japanese menswear fashion, “Ametora.” The term is Japanese shorthand for “American traditional” and the book traces the cultural history of American trad as well as jeans and streetwear in Japan — how they were imported, exploited and sometimes radically modified. The result is, as Marx observes, “a highly illustrative episode of how culture globalizes.”