What Is the Allure of Japanese Leather Jackets?

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Coriu, Oct 27, 2021.

  1. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Am creating this thread to educate myself and others about current Japanese manufacturers as well to elicit opinions as to whether they are a good investment. I have found rather limited information about some Japanese firms.

    I realize there may be threads about individual makers, but thought it might be helpful to have a "one-stop shopping" thread for anyone considering a Japanese-made jacket. Apologies in advance if a similar thread already exists.

    Please bear with me as I provide some background for the discussion. Just as "American made" is no guarantee of quality, I am not convinced that a leather jacket made in Japan is an assurance of quality. I sometimes wonder if Japanese makers are playing upon stereotypes of Japan to justify higher-priced jackets. Immediately below are some statements found on some popular Japanese jacket maker websites...

    "Constructed by Japan’s diligent and hardworking people, products that are ‘Made in Japan’ are praised for their high quality and beautiful design."

    "They source custom leathers and fabrics from around the world, with a manufacturing home-base in Japan that sets the standard of quality."

    In addition to hard-working people, Japan is also known for low wages and high rates of alcoholism. I wonder if some have this vision of a "hard-working, diligent Japanese craftsman" sewing their jacket when, in reality, it is a low-paid, alcoholic.

    If we are going to question quality in China and Taiwan, as we have for many years, I think it only fair to question quality in Japan. Having done business in Asia, I have seen manufacturing operations behind the scenes and just like everywhere, they play games to drive down costs. Tracing the manufacturing history of a product in Asia can be challenging.

    I like it when I can look at a company's website and see the person(s) behind the company and a pride in its heritage. I find that lacking when I look at some of the Japanese maker websites.

    It concerns me that a company's best jacket maker(s) may be gone tomorrow without our knowledge and we don't see quality drop off until the damage is done. For me, this is a big question. Even if a company is making great jackets today, how do we know that one year from today things have not changed in order to drive down costs?

    I do business with a certain leather manufacturer in America. I can talk to the owner and find out the name of the person sewing my product and his/her resume. It raises skepticism when I see a $2000+ jacket and I have no idea who is making it.

    So, if some of you have some stories, good or bad, to tell about your personal dealings with Japanese makers, please share! And thank you for doing so.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  2. Will Zach

    Will Zach One Too Many

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    Some Japanese manufacturers *objectively* make very high quality jackets. Not all I'm sure. On my trips to Japan I saw Freewheelers and Real McCoy. Wonderful quality. I'd be more interested in identifying those manufacturers who use the stereotype of "Japanese quality" to sell wonky goods.
     
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  3. Monitor

    Monitor

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    One word; Reproductions.

    Initially, Japanese makers did what nobody else at the time was willing to do - Perfectly reproduced, old leather jackets.
    Simply put, their repros are/were as close to being perfect as possible.
    By the time the rest of the world picked up on this, marketing hyped it all to hell. Coincidentally, all this happened just at the time the heritage fashion became super mainstream which in turn deified Japanese makers even further.

    For instance, back in the day, Real McCoy was making a huge point on how long it took them to find the perfect match for the leather Buco used to work with - BUT - They never once called this the best leather in the world. That wasn't even the point, ever! I'm talking about Shinki, of course.

    High-end Japanese leather jackets are beautifully made & are up to any standard - Same as any other, high-end leather jacket in the world.

    The rest is hype.
     
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  4. El Marro

    El Marro Call Me a Cab

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    I am happy to say that the allure is very limited for me as I find myself just outside the size range of most Japanese makers. On the one hand this has been a blessing as it has kept me from buying any of those $2000+ jackets you mentioned. On the other hand, I would love to own the FW Mulholland and any time a used one pops up for sale I always check the measurements.
    The few Japanese jackets that I have bought or seen in person have all been well made, as one would certainly hope at that price point.
     
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  5. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    I’ve handled Real Mc Coys and Flat Head jackets- they were both very nice. I won’t generalize about other brands, but the prices are usually higher than I will go- especially when there are other amazing makers around.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
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  6. navetsea

    navetsea I'll Lock Up

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    something that is hard to get or not being worn or immediately recognized by your neighbor has its allure. I bet Japanese leather afficionado, prefer to get something imported from US too, vanson, schott, LW Langlits for the same reason.
     
  7. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Maybe one goal of this thread should be to separate the "real deal" makers from those who jumped on the bandwagon. BTW-the aforementioned company that "sets the standard of quality" also describes itself as "zen as f _ _ _" on its website. I guess anyone who states that on their website must make jackets that are worth $2000.:)
     
  8. marker2037

    marker2037 Practically Family

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    What, you don't think there are any low paid drunk American sewers making our jackets? o_O
     
  9. Kuro

    Kuro Practically Family

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    I mirror what Monitor and Navetsea said.

    Jacket styles I can not find other than made in Japan.

    This is my primary reason for purchasing a Japanese leather jacket, I could not get it anywhere else.
     
  10. AeroFan_07

    AeroFan_07 I'll Lock Up

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    For me, the appeal is rather limited. My peferances are well documented here regarding leather and fit preferances. That said the FW Mulholland is quite appealing to me. There are a few others I seriously respect the build quailty of. Perhaps that is the biggest appeal - artisan quailty of manufacture.

    They are generaerally out of my price range, so I have not taken much time to research further.
     
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  11. Kuro

    Kuro Practically Family

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    But I will state that @Coriu

    This statement is an assumption not based on fact (the part about low wage and drunk sewers), and is making a stereotype. It could be just as easy to say that a manufacturer pays a high wage for a high skill and does not allow people to be drunk at work, and has a no tolerance policy. My statement is just as true as yours.

    So my gut instinct here is that you are trying to poke a hole somewhere that really does not need to be poked. It is not difficult to do your homework and see what jackets have quality at a given price and which ones are on the bandwagon without making statements about the people who may or may not be making them.
     
  12. ton312

    ton312

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    Attention to detail. I find that most “things Japanese” have an elevated attention to detail and an eye for these details in a manner that is cultural. Everything, down to the smallest minutiae, counts.
     
  13. Carlos840

    Carlos840 I'll Lock Up

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    This has also been my experience.
    I like to inspect stitching, i like to inspect how the corners of pockets are folded, how straight and symetrical things are, and i usually notice better attention to detail in Japanese made jackets than in most other makers.
    Not saying only japanese makers do it, makers like Greg, Thedi and LW IMO show similar attention to detail, but i think that japanese makers allow for less "good enough" than your average non japanese maker.

    Personally i always strive for perfection, whatever i do i always ask myself "what can i do differently next time to get a better result" i somehow feel like this applies to a lot of japanese made jackets.
     
  14. TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead

    TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead One Too Many

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    I've gotten close a few times to buying one of the higher end Japanese jackets. I just couldn't pull the trigger. I think there are diminishing returns after you cross the $1000 point. Via our classifieds, I've gotten both my Thedis and a handful of really tricked out Aeros sub $1000, even sub $700, so it's hard to quantify how much better I'm getting for 4x. My most expensive jacket is my FL and at $1400 new, I could essentially buy two (custom, same or better workmanship, pretty darn close on leather quality) for the price of one of some of the RMCs or FWs. So a couple months ago when I sold off a bunch of jackets with the intention of buying a RMC J24L, instead I got in line for another FL and ordered a LL while I wait, and still probably have a few hundred bucks left over.

    I will say that almost every time I see a picture of a FW, RMC, FH, etc. I do think to myself that is pretty damn nice. It's for a lot of reasons already mentioned, but I think something that happened to American companies is the evolution of the "typical" American body. The cuts just aren't flattering and unless you really understand the need to size down, you could be screwed. If I plug in numbers on the Schott website, they're sometimes recommending a size 44 when I know for a fact a 38 or worst case a 40 will be the proper fit. That's crazy since I have a 42 chest.

    I know I'm generalizing here, but Japan has this amazing heritage culture, especially when it comes to Americana type stuff. My IG is filled with a bunch of Japanese influencers and companies rocking incredible gear. It looks great and I ain't going to lie, if I ever hit the Lotto, I'd fly into Tokyo with a bunch of empty suitcases and come back bursting at the seams with leather jackets, boots, jeans, hoodies, and whatever. So for me it's primarily prohibitive because of cost but there is a little bit of, jeez, how much better could it be for that way extra cost??
     
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  15. marker2037

    marker2037 Practically Family

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    It's ingrained in their culture that when they find a craft they put all their focus and energy on perfecting it. I have always envied that characteristic of their culture and you can see it in many Japanese products.

    With that said, I couldn't justify spending so much on a Real McCoys or Freewheelers just based on the fact that I don't believe they are that much better for the extra $1-2k you have to spend on them compared to western makers. They are beautiful though.
     
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  16. Claybertrand

    Claybertrand Practically Family

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    I will echo what some have already stated. Personally, the Japanese repros are of little interest to me in terms of purchase options because they are never in my size, and never in my preferred price range. Also because they are reproductions and I enjoy hunting the original vintage jackets as hit and miss as that tends to be.

    That said, I love so many things about the Japanese jackets (speaking generally here). For one thing, I feel a sort of amused sense of national pride that people in another country so different from American culture fell so passionately in love with these Old American jackets that WE ALL ARE ENAMOURED WITH that they seem to have "raided" the U.S. and gobbled up so many of the coolest old designs ever made. That is in addition to their accumulating so many NOS American Military jacket accessories and parts.

    I know that the exotic appeals to many and that is just human nature. Things that are different and from far away places have always had a certain allure. So in part, I think the Japanese love of American jackets is that they are NOT Japanese. But I credit them for being the first people for recognizing these jackets for being fashionable and worth having. Let's face it---No one would be buying American Vintage jackets from Yahoo Japan had the Japanese not been first to realize their value. Its so strangely cool to me.

    I don't mean to tie this into something political or jingoistic---but its fascinating to me that the Japan Mash site is selling tons of NOS U.S. Military clothing items when some of those items are from the very merciless war the U.S. and Japanese fought that made the production of those items necessary in the first place!!! And with all due respect---this was a war that did not end well for Japan. Its ironic that the Japanese would be the ones selling old American War Era militaria from a war they essentially "lost". Its also odd/interesting to me that they would reproduce U.S. WWII leather jackets --- basically making tribute like copies of jackets from a foreign military that defeated them. Again, I say this with all due respect. I mean this in a factual tone not a humble brag about war history.

    As for the reproductions like Real McCoy/Buzz Rickson/Flathead etc. honestly, I have never handled one myself. But they do look like beautifully done jackets. I really like and respect the Japanese sense of style in reproducing these and even being able to produce jackets meant to age and wear like a vintage jacket would (even it the "aging process" happens faster as a result of their leather tanning processes). Again, the Japanese were first to reproduce these cool jackets on such a prolific level. Credit to them for their keen fashion sense and devotion to reproduction down to the smallest details.

    In general, (stereotype alert!!) the Japanese exhibit high quality workmanship. Attention to detail in design and manufacturing seems to be a constant with Japanese companies. There is an element of true exceptionalism in their culture as to workmanship and building things to last. My father tells me that when he was young, MADE IN JAPAN was a sign that something was cheaply made and of questionable quality. Then as they rebuilt their country after WWII as a manufacturing giant, their products improved greatly and their brands began to gain real traction here as well made cheaper products. Nowadays, Japanese products have solid earned reputations as being very well made from electronics to cars.

    I think that the allure for those who can fit into and afford the Japanese reproductions is a combination of the jackets being exotic to a degree and made by a people who have a reputation for extreme attention to detail and quality craftmanship. Also, for those who know leather jackets, there is the Tanaka book and other history of the Japanese being sorta the vanguard on vintage leather jacket collecting and reproduction. I think this combination of factors are the basis of the respect people have for the Japanese leather jackets.
     
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  17. dwilson

    dwilson One of the Regulars

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    I like to have a lot in common with the person sewing my jacket
     
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  18. ton312

    ton312

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    I've always found this fascinating as well. The Japanese fantasy of post war America, greaser culture...Harley Davidson. It's all so romanticized. It's like a memory of something that never really happened. That romanticism has produced some incredible clothes and truly beautiful motorcycles! Zero engineering is one of my favorite bike builders out of Japan:
    [​IMG]
    Austere simplicity at it's finest.
     
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  19. ton312

    ton312

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    Times like these I do miss Big J's insight. He has a wonderful perspective into Japanese culture.
     
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  20. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Thank you for your post. Unfortunately, my homework has not been very fruitful. As an example, the Real McCoys has been around for a number of years, yet their website tells nothing of their history, manufacturing process, employees, etc.
    https://therealmccoys.com/pages/about-the-real-mccoys

    You hit on my point precisely. We cannot rely on stereotypes to judge goods from a certain country. "It is Japan’s esteemed craftsmanship and expertise which makes such high-quality reproduction possible." Sorry, that statement doesn't cut it for me any more than Germans beating their chests over German engineering...or Americans beating their chests over ________ (fill in the blank). Japan's history of craftsmanship is not necessarily reflective of how "X" company in Japan produces their goods today...in a world that is more about the bottom line than ever.

    I spent much of my career in manufacturing facilities around the world. In most countries I visited, I saw facilities that were abysmal and others that were mindblowingly good. I've seen incredible craftsmen as well as unskilled people making high-dollar goods. I've seen Chinese factories that absolutely blow the doors off comparable American factories, yet some Americans would insist American-made is better.

    I'm not saying we throw history completely out the window. It's obvious that many of these Japanese jackets are very well made. For $2000, I want to know details beyond "made in ______." Any details about these Japanese firms is appreciated.
     
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