The street style in Japan was outstanding. I am greatly inspired by the refinement, grace and elegance of the women I saw, as well as the spunky, daring and over the top style of the teenagers. “Wow!” sums it up pretty well. 

It’s clear that people of all ages in Japan take their style quite seriously and have fun with fashion. Below are some general observations, bearing in mind that it is impossible to capture all the variety and there are exceptions to every rule.

  • There is huge variation on the street — from traditional styles and classic looks, to trend driven outfits, eclectic remixes and over the top ensembles. 
  • You never need to worry about looking too formal in Japan. People dress up! Most men wear dark suits with white shirts and ties to work, while women wear dressy clothes during the day. Of course, there are lots of people dressed casually too, along with kids in school uniforms and women in traditional kimonos.
  • Japanese women dress in a very lady like and feminine way — the opposite of “hard edge” and “tomboy”. There are lots of girly details in their outfits like frills, flounces, bows, ribbons, ruffles, lace and shine. 
  • Skirts and dresses are more popular than trousers, although the younger generation love their short shorts. 
  • Few women wear jeans. 
  • The women seem to have great posture, which very much adds to their sense of grace and elegance. 
  • The style is quite maximal, with all sorts of jewelry, accessories, hair accessories and dramatic outfit details into one ensemble. 
  • Muted colours, light neutrals or soft pastels are the order of the day. Pastel pink, taupe and blush tones are popular. 
  • Leggings are very common and worn with skirts and dresses in many different varieties.
  • Hosiery is very common. For the most part it was textured and patterned black, or skin toned. No one looked frumpy wearing skin toned hosiery with skirts, dresses and shorts. 
  • Many Japanese women wear their hair long, and often highlighted and tinted.
  • Women generally do not wear highly form fitting and provocative clothing. Their looks are tailored and structured, and quite often waist surrendering and voluminous. Hemlines can be very short on the younger generation, but the silhouettes aren’t tight. And it’s almost always accompanied by hosiery. 
  • Younger women show a lot of leg, but with loose silhouettes, volume on top and hosiery, it doesn’t come off as provocative.
  • Flats, low heels and three inch heels ruled the streets, but every so often you’d also see sky scraper platforms pass by. For this reason, Japanese stores are full of exquisitely beautiful flat and low heeled footwear that cater to the masses who commute on foot and take public transport each day. 
  • Cycle chic, where people cycle in their normal outfits, is very much the done thing. It is not uncommon to see an extremely stylish woman cycling along effortlessly in her dress and high heels.

After nine days in Japan I am greatly reminded how good posture increases your style quotient, and that there is style life after jeans. As much as I have adored my jeans over the last few years, I am very much into wearing non-denim bottoms these days. I am also far less into “hard edge” than I used to be. Seeing the street fashion in Japan has reinforced my love for well made and refined clothing in luxurious fabrications, and elegant dressing. 

No set of photos can ever capture the variety of Japanese street style, but these will give you a sense of the wonderful ensembles that we saw in Tokyo and Yokohama.

This is the first of three parts. This afternoon, the men, and tomorrow, Harajuku.