The term “tech ninja” (and its first cousin “goth ninja”) has been banished from vernacular into the dungeon of cringe-inducing 2014 fashion forum slang. Yet its essence covertly lives on, hijacking common perception of what techwear is and should be. Essentially, the massively complex terms is boiled down to a rudimentary—and highly conspicuous—silhouette of Acronym’s J1A-GT zipped up over a face mask, grid-checked Guerrilla Group tank and a pair of P24s that some scoff at as “school shooter” wear.

This corruption of technical wear—which should broadly encompass any “clothing for everyday life with special fabric, construction and properties that allow for breathability, movement, water-resistance and comfort”—is rooted in techno-orientalism, the phenomenon in which East Asia and East Asians are imagined in hyper-technological terms. This stereotype predicts an “Asianized” future, wherein global society dangles between aggressive modernity and dystopic living conditions. Such representations emerged as the West watched in simultaneous awe and fear of East Asia’s rapid development in the latter half of the 20th century. Exacerbated by Japan’s economic boom, fortified by China’s manufacturing might and invigorated by the rise of tech-centered chaebol like Samsung and Hyundai in South Korea, the “East” was suddenly unfairly characterized as innovation-driven future overlords.

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