What is a Souvenir Jacket

What is a Souvenir Jacket?

Some of the most notorious artists and public figures have worn them such as Zayn Malik, Katy Perry and even Kanye West l’a portée. Luxurious Clothing brands like Louis Vuitton et Gucci have dedicated an entire collection to it. What is Souvenir Jacket that Fashion Lover is talking about in 2021?!

A Japanese Jacket (Sukajan in Japanese, スカジャン) is a men coat which first appeared at the end of World War II. This luxury garment is inspired by the Baseball Jackets (Varsity Jackets) worn by American athletes and is silk embroidered with typical Japanese patterns all around it, front, back and sleeves.

Available for everybody nowadays, this outfit was reserved for a very special social class in the past. Let’s discover its history and its origins together. #intro

Its History and its origins

The story of the Sukajan started in a Japanese port city near the city of Tokyo back to the time that American soldiers were stationing in the Pacific area after the end of World War II. During the post-war occupation, American troops began hand-stitching traditional Japanese designs on the back of their jackets to commemorate their time in Japan. The most popular designs embroidered back in the days were Japanese (and Chinese) dragons, tigers, cherry blossoms and trees but other soldiers also chose local artists art and geishas illustrations.

old souvenir jacket

They had often incorporated rayon and silk and in them and, in some cases, were actually made from surplus silk salvaged from military parachutes. These jackets were brought back to the United States as literal souvenirs and were sometimes purchased as gifts for family members and close friends, that is why we call them “Souvenir Jackets”. 

In addition to the embroidered designs, this type of garment is defined by its cut, which is very similar to what a classic American Bomber Jacket looks like and often incorporated bright colors and contrasting sleeves.

The origin of the term “Sukajan” is still disputed however. Some believe it is a fusion of Sky Dragon and Jacket in Japanese while others trace the origin of the name to Yokosuka, an area where American soldiers were stationed and whose combination with the term “Jumper” with Japanese accents sounds like “Sukajan”.

souvenir jacket from japan

Simple Sukajan Jackets and limited edition branded models are available in most Tokyo clothing stores, but if you are looking for an original with a heavily embroidered model, you will have to go out of town to Yokosuka – from where the souvenir jacket is from.

Since that, Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture, has become famous all around the world for its Sukajan Jackets but also due to its long military history. Indeed, this area was the locations of Japan’s first naval bases, its naval arsenal and, after World War II, it was home to the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.


How Souvenir Jackets made their way into Fashion

souvenir jacket fashion

As explained previously, these Sukajan Jackets were based on the American “letterman” or “college” jackets that were first popularized in the 1930s. These styles found their way to Japan during the post-war period, when American soldiers on their way to Japan looked for souvenirs and ways to commemorate their time there. Since few had the means or space to bring many items home, many turned to their clothing for inspiration.

The former Sukajans were often bomber jackets, simple coats, or even jackets made from old parachutes, with embroidered patches depicting Japanese animals, patterns, or writing. Each jacket was usually sewn by hand, which made each one of them unique.

In the 1950s-70s, with the popularity of Letterman jackets increasing abroad and among the younger generation, more elaborate and colorful Souvenir Jackets were produced in much bigger quantity. These satin jackets were not only popular with soldiers, but they became an item for the working class, and a fashion item for young rebels (yankees) as well, just like the leather biker jackets made popular by Marlon Brando, James Dean, and the punk movement.

In the years 1960 in Japan, the souvenir jacket became a fashion item that many teenagers started to add to their wardrobe, as it was an act of defiance against the dominant Japanese society, very conservative.

From 1980 to 1990, the Sukajan started to become a Fashion trending item available in more stores than ever before, not only in Japan but also in the US, in UK and in Europe, but its fame considerably decreased during the 90s.

souvenir jacket kanny west

In the 2000s, with the help of H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Louis Vuitton and Gucci’s who created their own collections of the Souvenir Jackets, the Sukajan made its comeback in Fashion.

However, the best quality and most sought-after jackets are still produced in limited numbers in Yokosuka. We can’t beat the original Japanese expertise, undoubtedly.


How to wear a Souvenir Jacket?

how to wear souvenir jacket

If you’re looking for some tips on how to wear a Souvenir Jacket, the first thing to remember before buying a Sukajan is that these are not jackets intended to be worn for warmth or protection from the rain. Authentic satin jackets can suffer heavily from water damage if not properly cared for, while rayon/synthetic jackets can endure much more abrasion and less caring handling. Anyway, you need to understand that the embroidery will eventually fray over time, so if you opt for a cheap version, you may only get one or two seasons out of it, while a slightly more expensive version may last about four to six seasons of heavy use.

If you’re looking for a Sukajan for winter, you’ll need to find one with a zippered lining or should wear a zippered sweatshirt, hoodie, or hooded jacket underneath, it will give you an awesome Japanese Streetwear style look!

Furthermore, these jackets are designed to be a little more comfortable than other jackets on the market. The edges are elastic around the wrist and waist and fit perfectly to all body types. Ideally, you should only wear a cotton shirt under a your Sukajan, as it is supposed to be the highlight of the outfit, but if you are not a fan of slim-fitting or short cuts, you should try to buy one that is two sizes bigger than you need for an oversized look.

sukajan jacket pattern

Keep in mind that these jackets can also be quite expensive, so might want to think twice before thinking of owning one. Synthetic or mass-produced Sukajans are still very affordable and cost around 4,000 to 30,000 yens (40$ to 300$). However, if you want some premium models, you will need to spend more like 15,000 to over 80,000 yens (170$ to 750$).

The difference in prices is due regards to the fabric, the quantity and detail of the embroidery, and from the brand that you buy from, of course. In some stores, you can also find reversible souvenir jackets, which have unique designs on both sides of the jacket, which is very interesting when you want to change of style without owning two different apparel.

Where to buy a Souvenir Jacket?

souvenir jacket Yokosuka

If you want to buy a Sukajan directly from the source, head to Dobuita Street in Yokosuka. This timeless Japanese Street still looks like how it was back in the day with lots of amazing restaurants that serve Yokosuka’s famous curries and burgers and of course authentic Japanese clothing stores that are specialized in Sukajan souvenir jackets!  This shopping street is also very beautiful and is great place where Japanese people love to to hang out at. 

However, if you don’t want to wait to go to Japan to get your new Japanese satin jacket, Japanese Clothing® offers you the possibility to buy great Sukajan jackets directly from our store and have them delivered to your home in a few days!

Sukajan jacket

Each model has been carefully selected and will be a perfect gift for yourself or a Japanese Fashion fan and this for a very affordable price. So come on in and check out our collection of beautiful hand embroidered Japanese jackets inspired by the original Sukajan from Yokosuka! Click here to check our latest collection.

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