culture.png: the effect of war on fashion

by Pujita Tangirala (’22) | April 8, 2022

Art by Caitlin Chan (’22)

Welcome to the last issue of culture.png, a column where I break down various topics in pop culture and their relevance to society today. Whether or not we are aware of it, clothing created for military purposes has trickled into street fashion. Furthermore, the cultural exchange and globalization caused by wars has also significantly affected trends in fashion. I’ll explore some of the largest trends created as a result of war and military in this article.

Due to the mass production and popularity of vintage garments, military clothing has picked up popularity. The black leather German pilot boots began as a novelty in military surplus stores, but have since become large influences for designers like Raf Simons and Rick Owens. The Doc Martens combat-like boot is a prime example of this trend. In the 60s and 70s, Doc Martens became an essential part of punk style, and carried over into the grunge style of the 90s. 

The bulletproof vest has also made countless appearances in pop culture. Helmut Lang’s Autumn/Winter 1997 collection featured a kevlar, goose down, nylon and poly wool blend vest, released in classic military colors: black, white, khaki, and green. Hip-hop musicians have further popularized this style, as seen in BROCKHAMPTON’s 2018 Coachella performance, and Kanye West’s recent Donda listening parties. 

Aside from military gear, wars themselves have also created cultural exchange across countries. Post-World War II Allied occupation of Japan contributed to the rise of Harajuku fashion. As American soldiers and tourists lived in the area, Japanese youth began to browse through retail fashion stores marketed towards Americans. Because of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, fashion catering to tourists gained in popularity. 

Now, Harajuku is one of the world’s foremost fashion capitals. Omotesando, the main street in Harajuku, is often seen as Japan’s own Champs-Elysees, with designers like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Prada opening up stores. Harajuku influences can be seen in the creations of Heaven by Marc Jacobs. Shoichi Aoki, the famed creator of the Japanese street style magazine “FRUiTS,” was recently commissioned by Marc Jacobs to capture images of Heaven being worn in the streets of Japan.

The effects of history extend into all areas of culture, whether it be social movements, art, and even fashion. The creators of utilitarian military items had no idea the influence they would have on the aesthetics of high fashion and streetwear and Post-World War II Americans had no idea the inspiration they would provide to Japanese youth. Nobody could have predicted the internet’s globalization of both of these trends. As history unfolds, the ripple effects will always trickle into fashion, art, and culture.

Categories: Column, Entertainment

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