East to West Workwear - The Noragi Jacket

Left: Vintage Noragi with Sashiko Stitching, Right: Naked and Famous "Kimono" Noragi

Why are the Japanese so damn good at everything? I remember learning to spin a pen through my fingers in high school and thinking "hey, I'm pretty good" (for clarification, I didn't say "cool") until I came across a video of Japanese kids doing it (not the exact video, but you get the point). Down the street from where I live now, there's a Japanese home store that sells Japan-made products like elegant scissors and beautiful dustpans that have me legitimately asking myself "am I into dustpans now?" It seems the Japanese have had a solid track record of taking and perfecting whatever they can get their hands on for quite some time. They're even the best at being weird - not NSFW technically, though I wouldn't play it around anyone you have respect for or you need to respect you in any way.

Vintage noragi
Following WWII, Japan assimilated much of its menswear style from the US - most famously Ivy, outdoor-oriented "Heavy Duty," as well as craft denim production - and set out to perfect them. Today, the Japanese arguably do Americana better than America. But as much as Japan has borrowed style from the western world, it seems the road hasn't really gone both ways aside from the West readopting cool Japanese versions of Western-inspired clothing with brands such as Engineered Garments, Chimala, Kapital, etc.

Japan's workwear culture is actually older than our own. While our view of traditional Japanese garments starts (and maybe ends) with the silk kimono, hundreds of years ago farmers and craftsmen needed garments practical for work. This is where noragi were born, field clothes made from hemp and later from cotton, worn by the working class.
Vintage noragi - indigo boro fabric

Because clothing was so precious and hard to afford for rural farmers, old garments were repaired with patchwork fabric known as "boro" and "sashiko" reinforced pattern stitching to preserve the life of the garments. Boro is basically the antithesis of modern disposable fashion, and something I've come to admire about the concept of regret of waste, or "mottainai." If you appreciate the age in clothing, boro falls right in line with that, and the unique textiles have garnered a cult following over the years.

A cautionary tale
That being said, wearing patchwork in a modern outfit is not something every Tom, Dick, and Harry can pull off. Maybe Harry. And wearing Asian styled clothing in general can quickly take a wrong turn into bad costume territory or a fresh flavor of fedora-like horror if you're not careful. But some brands have brought noragi westward into a more approachable domain by tweaking a few details and tailoring it with modern proportions. By utilizing rougher, heavy duty fabrics like denim and often slimming the sleeves down a bit, noragi jackets can have a feel akin to something between a light denim jacket and a cardigan. You'll see a lot of them worn with a simple tee as well, though I personally prefer styling with something like an oxford and chinos to anchor the look in more concrete Americana. Nevertheless, there will be plenty of guys who don't like the style or consider it too "out there" to pull off, and I totally get that.

I recently picked up a Naked and Famous "Kimono" Noragi in selvedge chambray, one of the cheaper options available, during the last East Dane sale, which you can expect to see more of sometime soon in closer detail. My other picks would be Visvim's Lhamo Noragi if you are blessed enough to be able to afford one, the Kimono Kid's custom work, or the Epaulet Kamigata - not available as of now, though you can find some on sites like Grailed if you look around.

Further looks below.

Naked and Famous

Visvim Lhamo

Epaulet Kamigata

The Kimono Kid

Other makers:

Shuren Projects
4 Horsemen (Archive) - Canada
Sasquatch Fabrix


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