2013 in Japanese Fashion

Society Lifestyle

Reliving the Bubble Years

In 2013, “bubble years” styles named for the go-go economic boom years in the late 1980s and early 1990s—from knitwear thrown over the shoulders to clutch bags, tight skirts, and sleeveless tops—made a real comeback. Even the way people wore the items, with high waistlines and tucked-in shirts, was a throwback to that era.

The skill with which both men and women accessorized caught the eye. Many people added a little something extra to their outfit, flashing a stole, scarf, or other neckwear piece, a watch, or a bag without disrupting their overall look. Accessories rose from a supporting role to more of a center-stage presence.

Below we look back on some of the key trends in 2013.

Baseball Caps

Baseball caps were a must-have item for young men and women alike. One key use for these hats was as a way to avoid sticking too tightly to one style. The caps were strongly in vogue as a quick way to give a slightly unorthodox twist to an outfit or to loosen up an overall look, creating the impression of effortless imperfection.

The Return of Vertical Stripes

Stripes also made a triumphant return. Vertical-striped pants make the legs look thinner, and just throwing them together with whatever top you have lying around can give a great slimming effect. People even paired vertical and horizontal stripes, putting them into play as part of an exploding ensemble of different patterns.

Outsider Hair Color 

There was a surge in people with their hair dyed in striking or multiple colors, particularly in Harajuku, as fashion-conscious Tokyoites sought to express themselves through the color of their hair rather than its style. This trend evolved from the earlier style of gradient-dyeing women’s long hair from the tips upward.

Shop Coats

Shop coats were a dominant trend in outerwear in spring 2013, particularly for men. The style had its origins in the long work coats that factory workers might quickly throw on to cover up their dirty clothes when there was a sudden visitor. These overgarments offer more freedom of movement than the stiff fabric of a trench coat, making for a unique look that manages not to be too casual.

Wedge Sneakers

Wedge sneakers feel natural for women who are used to walking in heels, and can be worn just like a pair of short boots. Their popularity may lie in their light weight and comfort, paired with their ability to make the legs look long and shapely. With heels typically ranging from 3 to 9 centimeters, these shoes are affordably priced—usually under ¥10,000—and are available in a wide variety of colors. Wedge sneakers in general were popular among a broad age range, but in Harajuku the preference continued for thick-soled shoes.

Clutch Bags for the Boys

The trend for clutch bags, which had been slowly coming into the scene, peaked in 2013. What particularly stood out were the young men walking around with clutch bags from luxury brands like Christian Louboutin. For women, the clutch bag can have the dual bonus of presenting a look that is both elegant and intellectual. The downside, though, is their small capacity. Women were often seen pairing the clutch with a reusable shopping bag.

Neon Colors 

Neon colors were big in the fashion media, especially magazines, as a trend for spring and summer 2013. But the bold use of such gaudy colors requires both courage and skill, and it appears to have been a bit too daunting for the Japanese fashion consumer. That said, there were many people accessorizing with small fluorescent items, such as shoes, socks, and bags. Particularly popular was the color yellow.

All-White Outfits and White Pants

Summer 2013 saw more people out and about in head-to-toe white than in all black. Combining tops and bottoms of different fabrics brings out a sense of depth and relief. Many women sported white skinny jeans, whereas slightly looser white pants were more common for men. Whether paired with a darker top or a colorful one, white pants as part of the ensemble give a crisp, classy look.

Shoulder-Draped Knitwear: The Producer Look

The most memorable trend from summer to autumn was the over-the-shoulder top, which, because it was a style once popular with people working in television, came to be known as the “producer look.” This time around there were people wrapping all sorts of tops and knitwear around their shoulders like a shawl. While these were for the most part tied at the front, some people opted to spice up their look with an untied knit draped casually over their shoulders.

Sweat Shirts

Although knitwear is usually the first thing that springs to mind when talking about tops for autumn and winter, sweat shirts also became a major player in 2013, thanks in large part to the Kenzo brand. Kenzo sweat shirts, so popular in the 1990s, enjoyed an unexpected revival as sweat shirts in general increased in popularity with both men and women.

Pencil Skirts

For women the hippest item in the bottoms category, and one that remained popular everywhere throughout the year, was the pencil skirt. These skirts accentuate the shape of the body with their sleek, straight silhouette, and their knee length lends a freshness that makes them a great match for any kind of top.

Coordination the Japanese Way

Relaxed, deliberately imperfect, and textured looks were big trends throughout 2013, as were the “add a little twist” approaches seen frequently among the styles sported by fashion bloggers and dokumo (trendsetting amateur models with widely read blogs and magazine columns). Meanwhile, rather more chic looks based around the refined use of color or the addition of a single well-chosen accessory to a simple outfit were also prevalent. All in all, finesse in coordinating one’s wardrobe is becoming ever more important.

Ultimately, 2013 was a year in which trends proposed by the fashion media did not necessarily make their way onto the streets—the first signs of a tidal shift in the influence wielded by the media and that exerted by consumer-driven sources.

(Photos courtesy of the Japan Fashion Association.)

fashion Harajuku accessories 1990s styling street style