What The Hell’s A Souvenir Jacket?
Also known as a Sukajan, the souvenir jacket dates back to the post-WWII years when American soldiers stationed in Japan commissioned these ornate, hand-made jackets as a souvenir (hence the name) of their time stationed abroad.
Key design factors include a mixture of Western and Eastern iconography; American eagles and military symbols nestle alongside traditional Japanese imagery like tigers and cherry blossoms.
The jackets remained a trend amongst soldiers throughout the 20th century, thanks to the US’ campaigns in Vietnam and Korea. Which is why many jackets sport slogans like “When I Die I’m Going To Heaven Because I’ve Served My Time In Hell”. Although that kind of motto isn’t so good a look on an accountant from Milton Keynes.
So I Should Check Vintage Shops?
Since these were bespoke commissions, they’re unique, highly personal and much rarer than the beaten up Levi’s truckers you find in every second-hand shop. So finding an original isn’t really on the cards.
But since they’ve been mimicked ever since – by, among others, street gangs who adopted the look in the 1960s – you’ll find it easier to pick up an homage. Although be prepared to pay for it. Every decade has had a souvenir jacket trend of one kind or another, so if authenticity is your thing there are ‘real’ jackets out there. They just might not date to the 1950s.
I Haven’t Got Time To Search. Where Can I Buy A New One?
There are a few designers who have been championing a modern take on this trend. Louis Vuitton has some of the finest around, as does Gucci, if you’re willing to pay more than you would for an original.
If you’re less convinced you’ll still be wearing one next year (although considering their longevity, don’t be) then Evisu, Maharishi and Stussy offer some superb designs, with celebrity fans including everyone from Pharrell Williams to Wiz Khalifa.
The high street has plenty of options for anyone who only wants to dip a toe; Topman has a sleek modern version, as does ASOS. If the style is more outlandish that your usual garb then play it safe with a budget take until you get your head around how to pull one off.
And How Exactly Do I Pull One Off?
Souvenir jackets are, by very definition ornate, colourful and garish. If yours isn’t, it’s not a souvenir jacket. So even if you’re forking out big bucks for high-end designer clothes they still need to be styled correctly to work in harmony with your existing wardrobe. That said, there’s no need to be scared – not everything has to be monochromatic to look stylish.
If your jacket is brightly coloured then try a crisp plain white tee underneath, some dark indigo jeans and plain white trainers, to let the jacket shine and curb any risk of clashing.
For darker shades you can be a bit more experimental: a plain sweat or button-down shirt, paired with some casual trousers and Chelsea boots. For an authentic slant on the look opt for a classic preppy American vibe, run through a Japanese filter: chinos, neckerchief and penny loafers will show you know exactly what a Sukajan is all about.