Reviewed – Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, by W. David Marx

One of the best clothing related reads I’ve had this year.

It’s rare to come across a book that successfully melds a celebration of a certain style with an incisive and accurate history.
Usually, you get one or the other.
The former often ends up as an unwieldy coffee table book, while the latter often ends up dull and dreary.
Ametora suffers neither of these fates.

Marx begins the Ametora story in the post-World War II period, with a history of how the Japanese Ivy style movement started, told through the lens of those involved with now-defunct company VAN Jacket and magazine such as Men’s Club.
It was quite interesting to discover how the leaders of this movement in Japan had to spread the style in the opposite way to how the Americans adopted it.
In Japan, it had to be taught through strict rules, while the Americans did it simply as a louche rejection of rules.

While the cover suggests a particular focus on Ivy, and the title too, I soon found that the book encompasses more than just the Japanese Ivy style.
Instead, Marx uses the story of Ivy in Japan as a springboard to tell the story of how Japanese fashion became so much more.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, however I will outline some of the other topics covered:

  • How Japanese denim went from imitating American denim to becoming the most prized in the world
  • Rock n roll?
  • How the nation became a hotspot for producing all-star designer houses like Comme des Garcons and Kenzo Takada
  • How Japan became the hub of streetwear

Marx’s writing style and flow are well considered and the story remains engaging throughout, with good pacing.
That’s right, this fashion history is a page turner.
At little over 200 pages, quite a lot of information is packed into a fairly short read.

The story spans several decades, with the final pages commenting on how Japan stands in fashion as of current times (in the case of the book, this means in 2015).

There are some great photos from throughout the ages included, but I’m glad the book was published in a small physical size rather than being turned into a coffee table book.
As someone who likes to read before sleep, I like that I was able to read this while lying in bed.
Most books in this genre don’t give this luxury.

The presentation, editing and physical stock of the book are solid.
The cover has a nice bit of texture to it, reminiscent of older books.
Page stock is good, and most importantly, spelling and grammatical errors are nowhere to be found.

I could find no flaw whatsoever with Ametora.
It’s a fantastic book, and well worth a read.

Australian readers can find this title available at Booktopia.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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