American men’s fashion magazines seem almost embarrassed about their identity–they’re rarely focused strictly on fashion, instead spending plenty of time talking about picking up girls, travel, gadgets, and other supposedly man-centric hobbies. There is a palpable sense that you’re not allowed to enjoy fashion for its own sake without some sort of reaffirmations of prepackaged masculinity on every other page. And the styles covered are very similar from one magazine to the next – disproportionately focused on suits and paint-by-numbers semi-casual garb.
But in Japan, it’s a different story. The Japanese enthusiast has dozens of men’s fashion magazines at his disposal, which cover a wide range of styles and are unabashed in their focus on style. Many young raw denim enthusiasts don’t realize that the sort of Japanese brands hallowed by Superfuture or Style Forum are not mainstream, cutting-edge Japanese fashion but actually a small and specific subculture. As a result, one might be baffled to explore a Japanese convenience store or book store, finding numerous magazines with no seemingly no relevance to denimheads.
That’s why we’ve assembled this handy and convenient guide, giving you a quick rundown of Japan’s best and most relevant fashion magazines for fans of denim and vintage workwear. They’re well worth a look even if you don’t know Japanese as they offer excellent style inspiration and a detailed focus on some of the lesser known brands and even looking at the pictures in a few new magazines can give fresher style inspiration than you’re likely to find simply by surfing Hypebeast or other forums. There’s more variety within Japanese fashion than what makes its way to the west and these are your portals to it.
The best-known of Japanese denim magazines is undoubtedly Lightning. But what many occidental denim enthusiasts don’t realize is that Lightning is much more than a fashion magazine, it’s more of a men’s lifestyle magazine focused around its organizing aesthetic. Lightning takes its inspiration from mid-20th century Americana, and holds the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando as undisputed style gods. They devote as many pages to classic cars and motorcycles as vintage and repro clothing. But maybe most interestingly, Lightning is about an alternative sort of lifestyle. Those who read the magazine might be salaryman office workers, but they dream of the America-inspired ideal of carefree independence.
Lightning has plenty to offer the denimhead, ranging from conventional breakdowns of denim products like the Denim Buyer’s Guide, and related items such as leather wallets, boots, and jackets. But Lightning is just as likely to offer fascinating articles on vintage American toys, 1950s decor, film and music, there’s even a love advice column.
Daytona Bros. is lesser-known outside of Japan compared to Lightning, but arguably has even more to offer the western denim fan. Daytona Bros. is probably Lightning’s biggest competitor, but it’s more of a straight-up fashion magazine in comparison – it’s actually a spinoff of a magazine simply called Daytona, which is focused on cars and motorcycles.
If Lightning’s broader focus is unappealing, you’ll be right at home in Daytona Bros., which displays a classic American style which is very much in line with the vintage-inspired tastes of the denim community. This magazine has some great photography and is often worth buying for the pictures alone.
A spinoff of Lightning, Clutch is a newer magazine that’s more fashion-focused and features a European-tinged vintage aesthetic that’s closer to brands like John Lofgren, Stevenson Overall Co., and Mister Freedom than a grittier biker inspiration.
Fans of publications like Germany’s Heritage Post and American Men’s File will find plenty to enjoy here – in fact, Clutch has collaborated with for Men’s File for split-issues sold outside of Japan at retailers like Self Edge. It’s probably the Japanese fashion magazine that’s the closest overall to the style of occidental denimheads, especially if Denimbro is your forum of choice.
Another magazine from Lightning’s publisher, Mono retains parts of Lightning’s vintage aesthetic, but combines it with a more contemporary Japanese style, offering an appeal balance of contemporary Japan and classic Americana.
This magazine is a great choice for anyone wanting to incorporate a bit more of a Japanese touch into his wardrobe, without going as far as many of the contemporary mainstream Japanese fashion magazines that feature styles which can seem exceedingly feminine to Western tastes.
Not to be confused with the popular Japanese retailer of the same name, this magazine is similar to Mono, but with a bigger influence from Ivy League style and a slightly more upscale vein of contemporary fashion. Expect to see dressier varieties of shoes and more nautical-inspired pieces than the other magazines mentioned here. This magazine is a great choice for the mature denim enthusiast looking for a way to add a touch of adult sophistication to his style.
Of course, there are plenty of other Japanese fashion magazines worth checking out – like Free & Easy, Men’s Non-No, and Safari – but these are plenty of suggestions to get your feet wet in the very deep pool of Japanese fashion.
Which magazines are your favorite?