In recent years, the souvenir jacket has gained popularity on both the runways and the streets. Despite their recent resurgence, souvenir jackets have a storied past dating back the end of WWII when U.S. servicemen and women stationed in Japan would commission these embroidered hand-made jackets as literal souvenirs to bring home.
The original souvenir jacket, or sukajan in Japanese, can be traced back to a single American soldier stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. There, he took his government-issued bomber jacket to a tailor to have it embroidered with decorative elements commemorating his time spent overseas. Fellow comrades soon followed in his footsteps before popularity spread to other U.S. military bases.
Demand for the personalized ornamental jackets subsequently spread across Asia, Europe, and the United States. Famous designs included Japanese and Chinese dragons in addition to elements such as eagles and fish. A great deal of the jackets also depicted detailed maps of military campaigns.
Understanding the cultural significance and context of the souvenir jacket is key when looking at Alpha Industries’ variations of the timeless style. A key piece from the current collection is the reversible White MA-1 Souvenir Tiger. The Japanese tiger, a symbol of power and courage, is intricately embroidered on the front and back of the garment.
Another highlight of the collection is the reversible MA-1 Souvenir Shinto – with “Japan” and “Yokosuka” embroidered on the back, it pays homage to the location where the first souvenir jacket came into existence. The jacket also depicts the Japanese gods of rain, thunder, and lightning in the Shinto religion. Alpha Industries’ unique reinterpretations of the iconic souvenir jacket are sure to carry on their lasting appeal.