The origins of the City Boy fashion style

In the mid-1970s, as manga culture began to flourish in Japan, it was predicted that this industry would have a significant impact on the Western market, especially in the United States. This was the time when people began to explore the commonalities in various aspects of the general culture between the United States and Japan, and fashion was one of them.
In fact, the clothing styles of Americans and Japanese during this period didn’t differ significantly. As early as the 1950s, fashion enthusiasts were familiar with “Ametora,” a style that blended the “swagger” of Japan with the “classic” aspects of American fashion. However, because Ametora still retained many Western characteristics, the Japanese people’s national pride did not allow them to stop there. That was until 1976 when the Popeye magazine introduced its first issue with the tagline “Magazine for City Boys,” which marked the birth of a new fashion style with an Asian influence.

At the end of the 1970s, both comic book publishers and fashion designers began to target the youth audience. They focused on aspects related to youth, and the editorial team of Popeye magazine captured this quite well. They combined the physical characteristics of Asians to create a sailor character in the familiar manga style of Japan and mixed it with images and activities describing Western youth interests, such as skateboarding and hip-hop. Thus, Popeye Magazine’s first issue, produced in Los Angeles, made a highly impressive debut.

In an interview with The New York Times, Yoshihisa Kinameri, the editor-in-chief of Popeyes, shared, “In Los Angeles, people look really happy and enjoy street pleasures. It’s like paradise.” This motivated him to change the mindset of Asian men, who had a more traditional and pressured lifestyle. With a simple tagline, “A magazine for city men,” without explicit references to the inspiration behind it, it brought about one of the most notable cultural changes of the 1980s and 1990s in Japan and Hong Kong.

Characteristics of the City Boy style
Like any other fashion style, the City Boy style has its unique characteristics that have evolved over time to adapt to the changing nature and requirements of each era. While not directly inspired by any particular style, we can highlight some recognizable features of the City Boy style.

The influence of California culture and fashion
A significant element of the City Boy style comes from the West Coast of the United States, particularly California, where hip-hop culture began to thrive. Street culture aspects such as skateboarding and breakdancing are integrated into the clothing style of City Boy in an Asian way. Skateboarding shoes like Vans and Converse, button-down shirts, wide-leg denim or cargo shorts, are inseparable when talking about the City Boy style. These pieces create an outfit that exudes both a sporty and streetwise spirit, while retaining the elegance of Asian men.

Outerwear – The central spirit of the City Boy style
When you think of the City Boy style, you can’t help but think of layering multiple pieces of clothing, with oversized jackets being the most prominent. Emphasizing outerwear in the City Boy style is not only an aesthetic choice but also closely related to the weather. Unlike Los Angeles, Tokyo and Japan, in general, have distinct differences between hot and cold seasons, making the use of multiple layers of jackets more practical than ever.
Sporty and dynamic spirit
In addition to skateboarding culture, other sports serve as inspiration for creating sporty elements in the City Boy style. Popular sports in Japan, such as basketball and baseball, feature items that perfectly embody this style. Basketball shoes from Jordan, Nike Cortez specialized for running, and baseball varsity jackets are the ideal components for a City Boy outfit.

The popularity of casual menswear
As mentioned earlier, layering is an essential part of a City Boy outfit. This includes suits, oversized blazers, trench coats, combined with oversized pants and high-top sneakers or boots. This creates outfits with a casual feel while maintaining an air of sophistication. Contrasting colors, especially dark coats with bright pants, are also a hallmark of this style.
The spirit of Americana
The wave of cultural influence from the 1970s to the 1990s brought about the vibrant “Americana” lifestyle to Japan. American symbols became more prevalent on Japanese streets, from Ralph Lauren shirts to 20th Century Studios logoed caps, and preppy-style sweaters with Harvard logos. It seems like all of these were created for the City Boy style, featuring highly fashionable combinations.
In summary, the City Boy fashion style is a unique fusion of American and Asian influences, blending elements of street culture, sport, and casual menswear into an elegant and expressive fashion style. This style reflects the dynamic spirit of the youth and a touch of Americana, making it a prominent and memorable cultural phenomenon in the 1980s and 1990s in Japan and Hong Kong.


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