October 21, 2010

Timeless fashion

One fascinating fact about female fashion in Japan is that the yukata and kimono have remained almost unchanged for 400 years. Young women still wear kimono on Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) and yukata to the summer matsuri.

Yukata remain de rigueur for men and woman at any hot springs resort or traditional Japanese inn.

One odd exception is the adoption of the English morning coat as formal male dress, especially favored by politicians. And western-style wedding gowns (along with faux Christian wedding ceremonies) have become very popular.

But sumo refs and judges wear kimono and hakama. Sumo wrestlers must travel to competitions wearing kimono.

What has changed--for women and men--are hair styles. Nothing pins down the time period of a Japanese melodrama faster than the chonmage (丁髷). And again, sumo wrestlers sport a version (that doesn't involve shaving the pate).

Get past the awful bell-bottom stage (and the entire 70s) and this holds for the last fifty years in the U.S. The hair styles of the students in Caltech's Mechanical Universe series, more than the antiquated PCs, pinpoint its 1985 origins.

The lecturer in the series, Professor David Goodstein, looks as conservatively and consistently unhip as a geek from last week. Just as the uncool military haircuts in 2001 (made in 1968) are truly timeless. Ditto if you're Audrey Hepburn.

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