EASTERN PROMISES: THE SOUVENIR JACKET
The oriental uniforms of America soldiers and rock stars
by Ellie Howard
Souvenir Jackets were the oriental uniforms of American soldiers, occupying Asia during WW2. Elaborately embroidered, they were a fusion of traditional Japanese craftsmanship and American style. The jacket symbolised a peace treaty between countries. Today, the ‘tour' jacket is having a resurgence, finding it’s way on to the high street.
Proudly slung over the shoulders of an American solider, the jacket wove intricate tales about the dangers that lay over the Pacific Ocean, spirited camaraderie at base camps, tropical jungle patrols and the immeasurable devastations of war. While stationed, troops would bring their military jackets to local tailors, to be embroidered with crouching tigers and elaborate maps. Each jacket told a different story; steeped in history, it was as unique as its wearer. Stealing Ryan Gosling's Look In “Drive”, the souvenir jacket is making a comeback.
Stationed in Yokosuka, the soldiers would bring the jackets home as souvenirs. The distinctive jackets were labelled as “Yokosuka Jumpers” which were shortened to “Sukajyan”.
When Mick Jagger sang, “Rape, Murder/It’s just a shot away”, he was referencing the atrocities of war. The Rolling Stones were not a-political; lyrics from songs such as ‘Gimmie Shelter’ and ‘Paint it Black’ were associated with Vietnam.
Bloggers at New York Fashion Week display their fashion credentials, in ‘oriental’ bombers. Designers Tom Ford, and 31. Phillip Lim recently paid homage to the souvenir jacket in recent collections.
Souvenir Jackets showcase highly elaborate embroidery and high-levels of craftsmanship. Most hold a map of the bases where the soldiers were situated; they were heavily decorated with Japanese ‘ukiyoe’, a floating utopia.
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