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Stoles Adding Spice to Japanese Men’s Styles

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This cashmere stole goes well with a formal look.

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Stoles have become a firm fashion favorite with young Japanese men. The neck garments are available in a wide variety of materials—from versatile, year-round cotton to wool for the colder months and silk and cashmere for formal occasions. One of the attractions is the ease with which stoles can bring sophistication to even the simplest jeans-and-T-shirt outfit. Available at budget fashion stores and other outlets for reasonable prices, stoles are highly popular as affordable accessory items.

Celebrities and Models Lead the TrendThe fashions for men’s stoles in Japan started around 2001, as part of the “layered” look popular among Japanese young people at the time. Initially, the trend was for subdued patterns in black or white. This changed when popular fashion designer Miyashita Takahiro began producing stoles marked by a “punkish” attitude, featuring musical notes, and block check patterns. The trend hit the mainstream after several celebrities and male models were seen sporting the new styles.

The prominence given to stoles in “street fashion” photo shoots in magazines and blogs has also contributed to their popularity among young Japanese men.

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A young man sports a fashionable panther-pattern stole.

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This red stole sets off the gray sweater with a touch of color.

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Stole StylesOne of the defining features of Japanese men’s stoles this season is the wide range of different colors, patterns, and styles. Popular designs have moved beyond checks and stripes to incorporate animal prints, including zebra and panther patterns formerly worn mostly by women.

Stoles can be worn in lots of different ways. With two to three times the length of regular scarves, stoles can be wrapped loosely around the neck, worn around the waist, or draped over the shoulders like a shawl. Some Japanese young men create an even more striking effect by combining two stoles with different colors or patterns. The versatility of stoles is a large part of their appeal.

Behind the BoomWhat is the reason for the current popularity of stoles among young Japanese men? Observers of Japanese men’s fashions have noted a general shift away from American-influenced casual styles based on parkas and jeans to softer “trad” styles such as argyle knit sweaters, duffel coats, and chinos. Stoles match these styles well, offering a quick and easy way to give a softer, somewhat feminine touch to the face.

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A delicate and eye-catching combination of colors.

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Another reason may be the steady change in the figure and sense of style of the average young Japanese man over the years. Along with stoles, caps and hats are also popular with young men in Japan at the moment. Common to all these styles is the fact that they look good on slender figures with relatively small faces and well-proportioned arms and legs. The popularity of stoles also suggests that Japanese men’s fashion interests are reaching beyond the clothes themselves to include overall outfits, including accessory items and shoes. (February 2011)

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