While strolling through the streets of Kyoto, Japan, a crazy green jacket with an embroidered monster on it caught my eye. It was in a small shop surrounded by hundreds of other jackets- each colorfully stitched and unique. I tried on the green monster jacket – It was outrageous and so different from anything I owned, but I had to have it. The jacket was also reversible and the other side was silky black and cream with oriental embroidery – much like the bomber jackets I had been pining for recently.

Turns out, the fashionable bomber jacket has fascinating cultural origins. The bomber jacket style got its name from the versatile jackets originally created for military pilots – meant to be lightweight but keep soldiers warm. The trend of silk and oriental designs often found on them in today’s fashion, can purportedly be traced to an American serviceman who took his flight jacket to a local tailor in Yokosuka, Japan immediately after World War II. He requested to have it decorated with colorful oriental designs as a memento of his time served in Japan. Other soldiers followed – getting Eastern-influenced stitchings such as dragons, tigers, and geishas on their flight jackets to bring home as souvenirs. Some of the GI’s requested maps of military campaigns, but the jackets were almost always conveniently reversible, in case one wandered into a location where wearing a military conquest on one’s back was too controversial.

While these souvenir jackets started out as something made for American soldiers, they ironically became co-opted into Japanese fashion during the 1960s when many American trends and styles were incorporated in Japanese society – young Japanese especially loved the American preppy look.

I love my jacket because when I wear it I feel like I am a walking story. It is one of the bolder and flashier things I own, and when others comment on the item, it inevitably launches a discussion about my magical trip to Japan, which is always fun.





World War II Stories of a Cult Fashion Jacket