Japanese Bomber: Sukajan Jacket or Souvenir Jacket

Japanese bomber for men is named Sukajan or souvenir jacket

Wondering what a "memory jacket" or "souvenir jacket" is? Do you wonder the same about the "sukajan"? Do you love the look of the Japanese bomber?

What if we told you they all mean the same thing...

Because they are! And in this article, we'll explain how it came to be, where it came from, what makes it so "special", and how it has grown to be one of the most wearable garments, yet so identifiable and bold.

The Japanese bomber is a mid-season coat with a baseball jacket or American college teddy jacket cut. The sukajan has a shiny look and is adorned with traditional Japanese patterns.

The most common embroidered Japanese motifs are the Ryu dragon, tiger, Sakura cherry blossoms or the Great Wave of Kanagawa.

Read on to find out the story behind this sportswear and Japanese streetwear style, cyberpunk style, traditional zip-up jacket, and Japanese Bosozoku biker outfit...


Japanese style bomber in manga and rockabilly fashionA young Japanese man with a Rockabily look | Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell | Kaneda the Japanese biker from the Akira Anime

The origins of this jacket go back about 80 years, during World War II, when the U.S. Army decided to set up camp in the Yokosuka area of southern Japan in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Once the war ended, the American soldiers wanted to bring back with them a memento of their time in Japan. If anything, bringing back a memento from a country where they had just fought a war is really acceptable.

But never mind.

The soldiers, in search of a present sufficiently representative of Japanese culture, brought back kimonos and obis (large cloth belts). Noticing Americans crowding the stalls, a merchant at the port had the idea of embroidering oriental designs on jackets to attract them.

With success as the news was spread at the US Army post office. This resulted in a surge in demand with deliveries for U.S. bases all over Japan and its popularity spread overseas.

This was the first time that the product was used in Japan.

This is where the idea for the "clothing originating from Japan" called "Sukajan", also known as "Souvenir Jacket" or "Souvenir Jacket" in English came from.


Men's Japanese Bomber with Japanese Patterns and Black Hooded SwearSukajan Coat with Japanese Floral and Tiger Print

The most characteristic elements of the garment we will analyze lie mainly in the fabric used, the patterns or embroidery and the cut of the garment.

The cut of the Japanese jacket

The shape mimicked the style of blousons baseball or college jackets so familiar to Americans. In other words, it's a bomber leather jacket, with long sleeves, with the leather replaced by fabric and with elastic bands at the waist, cuffs and collar. This men's jacket closes with snaps or a zipper. The straight cut of the printed jacket makes it comfortable to wear...

The fabric: silk, satin, acetate, viscose

Originally, they were made of silk or satin fabrics. But at that time, it was difficult to get them because of the controls, so the fabric used as a substitute was acetate, which looks like silk.

Such was the success that they sometimes ran out of raw material, so they used parachute canvases from the military to meet the demand!

Thankfully, this is no longer the case and today they can be found in an infinite number of fabrics, natural or synthetic, from cotton to acrylic to rayon (viscose).

The embroidery of the souvenir jacket

embroidered sukajan jacket, Japanese men's bomber in red colorJapanese Bomber red and gold jacket with Shinigami embroidery

The embroideries were usually hand-sewn by craftsmen from Kiryu and Ashikaga. They required a certain amount of skill and time.

Unfortunately, due to technological progress and decreasing costs as well as the lack of "consideration" for textiles, it is very difficult to find them nowadays, except by using specialists like Tailor Toyo or by taking a look at our collection of jackets and coats.

The Patterns

As symbols of identity and distinction, the souvenir jacket was filled with patterns ranging from tigers, dragons, geishas or birds of paradise to, later, include symbols of American ideology such as eagles.

Later, during the Vietnam War, the embroideries evolved into Marilyn Monroe, cartoon characters and sometimes phrases, one of which became emblematic of the chaos that was to reign there:

  • "When I die I'll go to heaven, because I've served my time in Hell"
  • "When I die I'll go to heaven, because I've served my time in Hell"

The choice of motifs, then as now, is a process that should not be taken lightly. A spiritual dimension emanates from them and the Japanese bomber jacket must resonate with the style and personality of the wearer. These designs should be given the same place and importance as a tattoo.

Little by little, the sukajan evolved by adopting a lining and even becoming reversible during the Korean War in the early 1950s. This women's (and men's) jacket has side pockets. It's an ideal half-season coat...


Bomber drive clothing worn by Ryan GoslingActor Ryan Gosling wears a bomber jacket

How did a jacket sold in souvenir stores in Yokosuka, a small town in Japan, become a cult item?

The fact that the world's leading power at the time was involved in the war and that many of the world's celebrities added them to their dressguard is perhaps the most impactful factor. With the backdrop of Japan's growing influence in the fashion world.

Famous celebrities wearing the Sukajan Bomber

Then, of course, as with any fashion movement, celebrities have adopted it, spreading a cool and trendy image in the process. Actors like Ryan Gosling and Cate Blanchett and music stars like Katy Perry, Mick Jagger and Pharell Williams helped bring the sukajan into the spotlight by wearing it.

Fashion brands

Similarly, many fashion brands have decided to reinterpret this mid-season zip-up jacket with casual style. Designers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Valentino have featured them in some collections.

While the move probably helped to impose theJapanese bomber, it's a safe bet that it came at the cost of howling worshippers of the original urban cut jacket.

For none of these brands will ever be able to tell as much of a story in a single jacket as the sukajan can. 

Also, the badass image of this short, quilted, casual jacket gives it a trendy look.

The Japanese Sukajan is also very popular in manga. In the animated film Akira, the biker Bosozoku wears sukajan... This is also the case with the Major in the Ghost in the Shell manga...


the sukajan jacket is a Japanese bomber jacket

... Or rather, yours will find you. Because that's the whole spirit of the sukajan, a wild side of us that just wants to wake up to assert our difference, night and day, everywhere, all the time.

The Japanese bomber is also a respect for Japanese traditions and art with embroidery of an unparalleled level of detail that highlights a unique know-how.

Although paradoxical given its history, the souvenir jacket logically characterizes openness, to novelty and change, as a form of challenge or rebirth.

As evidenced by the mixture of two strong cultural symbols: the American light jacket, two-tone and timeless, with the graphic style, patterns and embroidery typical of the land of the rising sun. The metaphor of a renewal between two countries at war.

So, when choosing your souvenir Jacket from our collection, don't ask yourself too many questions... Without being able to explain it, when you see it, you'll know it's him and not another.

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