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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two Good Reasons Not to Condemn Hatoyama's Sartorial Sense

CNN recently published a report in which Japanese fashion designer Don Konishi criticizes PM Yukio Hatoyama's fashion choices, saying they are an outward manifestation of his antiquated political ideas and philosophy.

While I understand the impulse to criticize the Japanese PM--what a complete hash he's made of the U.S. military base issue on the island of Okinawa--I can't find within me to critique his sartorial choices precisely because of living in Japan, and the UK for that matter, as long as I did. Here is my reasoning:

1) Japan has for so long been the Land of the Three-Piece Suit, it makes a refreshing change. That a Japanese political leader would not be afraid to rock a rockabilly plaid shirt is an event worthy of celebration, not condemnation. As for Hatoyama's heart shirt with pink blazer--what Konishi calls his biggest faux-pas--that is my personal favorite. Besides, consider the context. It looks like he's singing karaoke, in which case what could be more fitting?

2) My years of living in the UK have given me the confidence to say that I rather like things that are in bad taste. As one commenter wrote in response to the poll on the PM's dress sense that appeared the Huffington Post: "I love his style! If this is outdated, I say bring back the good old days." Now that's the spirit! Notably, if Japan is the Land of the Three-Piece Suit, is the Land of Enjoying Bad Taste. Brits even throw Bad Taste Fancy Dress Parties. (That said, I'm glad to see them drawing the line at the young Tory activist who came dressed up as the missing five-year-old Madeleine McCann--he was expelled from the Conservative Party--not to mention Prince Harry with his swastika armband: beyond disgraceful.) When Konishi and his ilk find themselves cringing at Hatoyama's garbs, they should say to themselves, listen, it could be worse!


D said...

Ahh, but the three piece suit is gone in Japan now---or almost so. Summers have brought "Cool Biz" as you may know, which allows the lucky few to escape a tie and sometimes even the jacket. How they ever got established in semi-tropical Tokyo summers is beyond me.

One of the things I like about Japan, or at least Tokyo, is the willingness that many people have to take a risk in fashion. Sometimes it fails, but it is a way folks can stand out a little.

I may have been here too long, but I don't see why Hatoyama's clothes were as bad as many in the media seem to think. I wouldn't choose it, but it is at least something outside the jeans and t-shirt 24-hour casual style impression I have of most of the US.

ML Awanohara said...

I completely agree with your last paragraph. When I first came back to the US, I thought everyone was dressed as though they were going to gym class. It was a true Rip Van Winkle moment! It did not help matters that I lived in Washington, D.C. at first, whose inhabitants aren't exactly known for sartorial flair. Indeed, President Obama's first social secretary, Desiree Rogers, was skewered for wearing designer clothes.

And I guess my exposure to DC is what made me want to applaud (now former) PM Hatoyama's unconventional dress choices. How many U.S. politicians have the courage to dress themselves rather than having their image makers choose their outfits?

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