In the pantheon of menswear, Japan sits on the main altar. Through a reputation for quality (and a dash of inaccessibility), the island nation’s native brands have consistently floated to the top of their category, no matter how eclectic. Yet, whether it be Visvim’s handsewn tribalwear or Descente’s high-performance ski gear, a single red thread links each collection: for both Japanese brands and their customers worldwide, outerwear is king.

Japanese menswear brands live and die by their outerwear. While logo tees are a financial necessity, it is coats and jackets that give logos meaning. For technical brands like nanamica and White Mountaineering, coats are a proof of concept; for workwear brands like Kapital and Nonnative, jackets are the final touch; for designer lines like Undercover and Junya Watanabe, outerwear is the largest canvas of all, a space for the artist to isolate signal from noise with one cocooning garment. Western brands have even tried to capitalize on this penchant for parka, with The North Face and Tilak launching Japan-only diffusion lines focused almost exclusively on sleek outer layers.
It’s no surprise, then, why Uniqlo has staked so much on producing the best cheap down sweaters: in Japan, the coat rules all categories. Yet, despite this broad cultural foundation, the history of Japan’s outerwear obsession as we know it is less than eighty years old.

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