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Distinctive Headgear Is All the Rage (November 14, 2003)

An example of the distinctive hats now popular.
Hats have always combined fashion with practicality, offering protection from both the summer sun and the winter cold. But right now hats are experiencing a boom in popularity that has made them an essential item regardless of the season. More and more people are wearing hats of distinctive designs that, unlike in past hat booms, are not constrained by fashion trends. Rather than famous brand boutiques, it is specialty shops stocking hats created by daring young designers that are at the forefront of the current craze. More and more of these shops are popping up in the trendy Harajuku and Shibuya areas of Tokyo, and they are often packed with teens and twenty-somethings seeking out their next hat purchases.

The New Fashion Essential
Trendy hat shops and designers are often described using the word "charisma" (karisuma in Japanese) by young people. In the vernacular of young Japanese, the word is used to denote those who are exceptionally skilled or talented in a particular field and are popular among young people. The word karisuma has been applied to such people as housewives (exceptionally skilled homemakers), and buyers (those with a particular knack for purchasing products for retail). In many cases, the adjective karisuma has roughly the same connotations as "celebrity" in English. When applied to shops or hats, it suggests that something is highly distinctive and stands out from the crowd.

Under this definition, the epitome of a karisuma hat shop is CA4LA (pronounced "kashira"). This spacious store, located along Meiji-dori, one of Harajuku's main streets, stocks some 3,000 items. Part of the store's appeal lies in the fact that it offers hats that are not available anywhere else. CA4LA has more than 10 in-house designers and unveils new products every week. Although CA4LA's popularity was sparked the revelation that its customers include a number of showbiz stars, the store's product lineup appeals greatly to young people, as it consists mainly of affordably priced casual items costing an average of ¥5,000 ($45 at ¥110 to the dollar). CA4LA has three locations in Harajuku alone and 14 locations nationwide. Over the past three years, the store has seen its sales increase about fourfold.


Another hat shop on Meiji-dori, Override 9999 (pronounced "override nine by four"), is also expanding rapidly, with four locations in the Harajuku area and over 20 locations nationwide.

Department Stores Join the Fray
The demand for highly individualistic hats is also sparking big changes in department stores' and clothing stores' hat sales areas, which have tended to be sparse and nondescript. This fall, two department stores - Seibu in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district and the main Matsuzakaya store in Nagoya - have set up karisuma hat sections. The Isetan store in Shinjuku plans to double the size of its men's hat section. And the Hanshin department store has set up a corner where hats created by young designers are showcased in a display that changes every two to three weeks. New companies are entering the hat arena as well. Sagami, a kimono retailer, has opened hat shops in Harajuku and Yokohama called Shazbot. And Cricket, a retailer of ties and other accessories, opened its Hatjazz shops in two locations, Daikanyama and Harajuku.

A Simple Way of Expressing Oneself
During the summer, fedoras and mesh caps made of natural grasses found favor among both men and women. Another common sight was unlikely combinations of feminine clothes and baseball caps, while, as an extension of the layered look, turbans were also a hit. This fall has witnessed the renewed popularity of the rounded, visored berets known as "caskets" that have been a conspicuous presence since last year. Hats and caps are coming out in a variety of materials, colors, and shapes, including woolen caps with designs knitted in and hats made of furry materials like angora.

As to why hats have become entrenched as a fashion accessory over the past few years, the reason is believed to be that headwear offers the easiest means of self-expression in the context of a general trend for casual fashion. Even a person dressed in a simple outfit like pants and a t-shirt can instantly express his or her personal style just by putting on a hat. Hats are becoming as much an integral part of young people's wardrobes as other fashion items.

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Related Web Sites
CA4LA (Japanese only)
Override 9999 (Japanese only)
Seibu (Japanese only)
Matsuzakaya (Japanese only)
Hanshin (Japanese only)
Sagami (Japanese only)

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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