I’ve always had an interest in these sorts of pieces – countless visits to quality vintage shops and the usual trawls through the internet looking for decadent gems normally reveals the odd souvenir jacket. Fascinated by the intricate embroidery, the choice of colours and fabrics used make these garments eye-catching and mostly an unique piece to the original owner that commissioned the handwork on them.
Constantly working on new pieces for the Scott Fraser Collection I’ve been inspired by idea of them and felt the need to delve deeper into understanding the history behind this garment; the practicalities, traditions and un-written details.
The story starts in post World War II Japan – the war is over. US servicemen and women are preparing to leave their various bases. Looking for a memento to take back for themselves, children or friends – they chose to use their clothes as their vessel, which created the Souvenir Jacket. Original forces issued tanker jackets, flight jackets, shirts etc. were taken to local Japanese craftsman and tailors to embroidered with animals, patterns and maps etc. This act originated primarily out of the Yokosuka base camp so naturally developed the name of the Yokosuka Jumpers, shortly after the changing to Sukajyan which is what they are still called in Japan today.
Quickly this trend moved itself from base to base and with that the designs, materials and garment shapes changed (shawl collared baseball style jackets, bowling shirts etc. become common). The Japanese craftsmen started to create their own pieces and the addition of a reversible option became a very popular choice. The two sides generally differing from one another in colour and material (silk, velvet, satin, etc.) – one side being less eye-catching than the other.
Today these vintage articles are a sought after item and have significant history to both countries (Japan/USA). For the sentiment and knowledge of the American services during this time, as well as the detail and quality of the Japanese craft. A peaceful wardrobe collaboration between the countries and even after 55+ years has stood the test of time – I’d like to see how the ‘I Love NY’ t-shirts do in years to come…
There are many collectors and enthusiasts out there with unrivaled knowledge and experience of these pieces but if you’d like to know more I’d suggest checking out the handful of books dedicated to them. The information and detailing done to the most smallest of details are covered in the way only the Japanese can do –