One of my favorite sentiments to pull out when talking about our friends over on the other side of the world, is that “the Japanese do Americana far better than we ever could.” Of course, it’s a blanket statement holds about as much weight as a bag full of feathers, but nonetheless it sure is fun to say. I first came up with the line during a spur of the moment discussion with a few colleagues about the state of the Japanese vintage market, which by now is probably stocked with more U.S. made deadstock pieces then any of us could even begin to fathom. It’s a cheeky line and makes me seem much more well-versed on the topic than I am, so I’ve kept on saying it, but each time I repeat it, it becomes that much more evident to me just how much of a double-edged sword those ten words are.
During the 1970’s Brooks Brothers was in their prime, producing oxfords of all different colors and patterns at an incredibly rapid rate. With such a wide variety of textiles flowing through their factory everyday, the company was left with random scraps of various lengths and designs. To help teach employees how to sew the company would give these scraps to their new hires, and they would turn them into unique patchwork versions of the iconic Brooks Brothers oxford. The shirts were simply intended for practice, and were never meant to be sold or even shown to anyone outside the company. That is until one day when Ash Wall, the Vice President (and descendent of the founder of Brooks Brothers) saw a pile of these patchwork shirts during one of his visits to the factory. Wall looked at the stack and remarked, “those are some fun shirts,” promptly trading the shirt he was wearing for one of the blended shirts. Wall liked the shirts so much that the company began producing them, experimenting with stripes, plaid, madras, colors, etc. to create a series of fun shirts that quickly became popular among the younger generation of Brooks Brothers customers. Their college aged clientele liked how the shirts were loud and flashy, yet still maintained the familiar design of an oxford. Brooks Brothers and other companies still produce fun shirts today as a break from the typical oxford that adds a bit more personality.