I thought I’d touch on some of Japan’s, and more specifically, Osaka’s notable menswear options following my recent trip. The retail scene in Japan is quite interesting as it covers stores for standalone brands, and stores for brands who produce their own range of garments, but also retail lots of other brands. These small ‘department store’ style operations are known as ‘select’ stores and are somewhat comparable to Harrold’s or Henry Bucks, but have more of an Urban Outfitters style vibe.
There’s no doubt that the country is teeming with quality men’s clothing, pushing a thoughtfully structured lifestyle aesthetic, but there are two obstacles you must face before purchasing. The first is price. Predicting what amount the tag is going to say is impossible. Just when you think you’re getting good at it, out of no wear comes a 48,000 Yen ($567 AUD) chambray button up. The second is sizing. I can’t tell you how many times I saw something I wanted and the biggest size they had was Large. To put it in perspective, I wear a Size 40 suit jacket off the rack. If you’re bigger than that, I’d recommend not getting your hopes up.
For those that are planning, or have a Japan trip on the horizon, here’s a handful of quality menswear options for you to keep an eye out for when shopping in Japan. Most of these have multiple locations, located at Grand Front, a sprawling complex on the north side of Osaka train station or spotted around Dotonbori, whilst others can be found in the Minamisenba district and beyond.
BEAMS has been clothing the people of Japan since 1976. They’re in house brand, as well as their wider selection of niche brands, crosses both genres and generations, delivering an understated, discriminating style that suits the day-to-day lifestyle of its customers. Their own Beams+ brand is a streetwear favourite.
Whilst (in my opinion) slightly overshadowed by both BEAMS and United Arrows in current day, Ships is, in fact, older than both establishments, first opening in 1975. Today Ships offers a variety of sub-brands across a range of price points to cater for everyday and formal attire.
Considering how early Ships and BEAMS arrived on the scene, it surprises me that United Arrows took until 1989 to open their doors. Today I’d say United Arrows is most like J.Crew, offering quality staples at an accessible price point. They also stock a plethora of external brands making their stores almost impossible to leave without a purchase in hand.
I tried on more pieces in this store than any other. Unfortunately nothing fit, which was a shame because I found the range had a lot of personality without being too trend driven. They stock both men’s and women’s (hence the ‘Couples’ concept) as well as a range of lifestyle and homeware products.
The Minamisenba district is an awesome place to cruise around for an afternoon and a good place to start is Floraison. There are some beautiful clothes on display, but it’s shockingly expensive. It is, however, still a good place to get a gauge of comparable build quality and pricing.
Address: 541-0058 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Chūō-ku, Minamisenba
About 100m down the road from Floraison is another small select store with a name I honestly do not know, despite it being one of my favourite stores from the trip (it really is that confusing). Inside they stock killer pieces from Porter Classic, Sassafras and Colina.
Address: 542-0081 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Minamisenba
Think of Japan’s version of Double Monk, a select store for shoes, albeit the brands aren’t as top shelf as that of DM (yet the prices are similar). Trading Post as locations dotted throughout the country and stocks their own in house brand which is priced particularly well.
Address: Yubinbango542-0081 Chuo-ku, Osaka Minamisenba 4-9-5 NOA Building
Located about a 40 min train from the centre of the city, MAPS & SONS offers customers an excellent selection of niche Japanese menswear brands from the likes of Soundman, Porter Classic and Ordinary Fits mixed with some favourites from Filson, Barbour and Patagonia. It’s a relatively small store, in a random location, but it’s well worth the trip if you’re keen to broaden your knowledge about Japanese menswear.
Address: 590-0031 Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, Sakai-ku
Brands to watch out for:
Founded in 1984, Kapital originally focused exclusively on denim, borrowing heritage production techniques from vintage American workwear. Today they are best known for said denim, but have evolved into a unique range of men’s and women’s clothing inspired by traditional Japanese attire.
Like Kapital (and most of the brands listed below), Journal Standard is heavily influenced by American workwear. They produce classic casual wear and workwear-inspired staples for a contemporary market.
orSlow produces clothes that are built to last, inspired again by American workwear and vintage military pieces. Simple items with a focus on details, all made in Japan.
Function and style combine to produce collections of outdoor-inspired clothing from a former assistant to Comme des Garçons Junya Watanabe.
Want more fashion? Check out our guide to Best Men’s Clothing Stores in Sydney.