On my last day in Tokyo, I momentarily caught myself in the tourist shuffle: wandering into an alley, then another, searching for any hint of address, doubling back, pacing in square circles, swearing that the café we researched had to be right around here. I took a moment at the buzzing Harajuku intersection to grasp any sense of direction. Waiting at the crosswalk, I saw no less than:
- One pastel woman in Doc Marten boots and a Victorian wig
- Two of four perfectly chromed hubs bouncing to the hydraulic initiations of a lowrider impala
- A corner shop dedicated to a rainbow of prophylactics, appropriately called Condomania
I bet everyone has caught their own version of this scene in Japan, a self-contained ecosystem of idiosyncratic flairs. The Galápagos of style.
In the metro, the cavalier mode above contrasts with everyday businessmen, commuting in hues as muted as the subway cars that transport them. Gray, navy, black. Crisp, polished, deft. It was as if the underground spreads of Brooks Brothers surfaced into bubbles of cosplay. Except here, there’s no sign of caricature or false characterizations.
For whatever reason – be it the lifelong reverence to improving upon one’s craft, or the flawless execution of foreign signatures, at-times to the point of succeeding its progenitor – Japan has always been able to embody an assortment of styles on any given day with breathless ownership.
And I think that’s what’s kept Ring Jacket relevant through its sixty-one years.
A Brief History
As my Tuesday rush hour commute made clear, Japanese gentlemen either understand impeccable, timeless color, texture, and silhouette, or their only available clothiers do. It is upon this simple concept that Ring Jacket’s patriarch founded the clothing line.
In 1954, Jhoichi Fukushima, understanding that the elegance and precision of a suit was only offered via custom makings, sought to achieve the same in a ready-to-wear line, at which time suffered the assumption of inferiority to its big bespoke brother. Thus the study of the suit began.
Three years later, Fukushima-san’s Ring Jacket factory opened in Osaka with a team of master tailors, allowing full creative and executive control over his garments. An admirer of the Ivy League, Fukushima based Ring Jacket’s aesthetic in American and English designs. This was preserved and expanded as the Japanese palette shifted.
Through the sixties and seventies, gents embraced Ready-to-wear and English/American stylings. They discovered Fukushima’s brand as the superior, finishing every piece with machine and handmade details. The Eighties shifted towards Italian flavor, and Ring Jacket adjusted accordingly, sending apprentices not just to Savile Row, but Naples as well. Soon the best of every leading suit style wove into every Ring Jacket.
1995 saw Kunichi Fukushima carrying the vision of his father’s custom-quality, off-the-rack clothing, and since then, Ring Jacket has enjoyed a worldwide explosion. Today one can try on their Japanese-made suits or Italian-made shirts in stores across Japan, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New York, to name a few. A team also travels the world to offer made-to-order and made-to measure garments.
The Ring Jacket story is one of ambitions realized and traditions preserved.
The Aoyama Flagship
Stepping through the glass doors of Tokyo’s flagship Aoyama store, one thing becomes clear: Ring Jacket’s adherence to expert craftsmanship is as perceivable as their adaptability to Tokyo’s eclectic charm.
A Craft of Custom Quality
The eastern wall of garments lines a collection of uniform wares to complete the standard wardrobe: navy, charcoal, pinstripe, a few double-breasted models for more rakish boardroom meetings. The construction of their basic suits, as well as MEISTER models (premium suits with more handmade details and finishes) all reveal precision far above the usual expectation for ready-to-wear. How is this possible?
Simplicity is key. If you master the right details, the rest will fall into place accordingly. For Ring Jacket, this begins and ends with “Koroshi Eri.”
Any well-fitting suit begins and reveals its mettle at the neck to shoulder line. Why? Take a look at your buddies for a moment. From the bottom of their neck to the edge of their shoulder, notice the near-snowflake array of variation in slope, bulge, length, shape, and more. Any miscalculation can turn a smooth neck-to-shoulder- slope into an avalanche of bumps and breaks. Koroshi Eri is the technique in custom clothing to truly suit the customer’s neck-to-shoulder line. It is by their tailors’ dedication of applying this technique in ready-to-wear garments that Ring Jacket has solidified their place atop this market of suits.
Suiting All Flavors
The fabrics of these three pieces were produced in the famed Italian mill Carlo Barbera, whose signature bears the patches of Ring Jacket-exclusive cloths:
These jackets serve as an introduction to anyone seeking dandier modes of dress, as the Aoyama flagship reveals pieces that can fit in the closet of anyone in the style spectrum.
There are, of course, the traditional suit cloths and cuts for the uninitiated,
wider lapels and trimmer silhouettes for the more demonstrative élan,
my favorite: the fuller, packable Creamy Waffle for the frequent flyers, rough & tumblers, and in my case, chalkboard chieftains,
and then, well . . . those who can pull off this:
“I didn’t know that Ring Jacket was offering women’s clothes,” I remarked. But this, as store manager Keiju Tsuda explained, is a men’s coat made of women’s garment fabric.
“I couldn’t wear this in the subway. Everyone would stare at me,” Keiju admitted.
He spoke for the both of us. Visions of Kramer in his technicolor pimp coat buzz through my head. Who then, would dare?