The Sukajan jacket is not a simple souvenir. Born from American G.I.’s bringing them back home as gifts, the Sukajan morphed into a symbol of post World War II Japanese youth rebellion and has become a modern fashion icon. The term “Sukajan” has loose origins but we can narrow it down to something meaning close to ‘Sky Dragon Jumper’ – or just ‘jumper’ – a reference to wartime parachute servicemen.
The jackets are defined by their materials and style: Silk, embroidery and cut like a baseball uniform jacket. They’re bold. They’re bad. They say something. Originally designed for American export, these have since interestingly been co-accepted by the Japanese market. The 1960’s Japanese market initially associated the Sukajan with cultural rebellion, juvenile delinquency and gangs. This attitude has since faded as new conflicts diluted the market – the Korean War and Vietnam – with new designs and slogans changing the way the jackets were received.
Sukajans have been worn by everyone – Mick Jagger likes to wear them when touring. Ryan Gosling wore one in the film Drive (2011). Kurt Russell wore a Sukajan variation as Stuntman Mike in Grindhouse (2007).
Sukajan should be carefully chosen – especially vintage pieces. Many of these were designed with intention to convey a message of sacrifice and experiences of war.