What Asia Taught Me About Casual Style

Asian Inspiration

Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to travel to places that have a culture so different from America that my mind gets blown away. Two of my all-time favorite trips were to Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan.

As I’m walking around the streets of Tokyo, I feel like I’m part of an Anime. I’m speechless from culture shock, and I can’t get over the fact that everything is so small, i.e. the food portions, streets, cars, and apartments.

Despite the food portions being so small, I was completely bewildered at how filling they were, at which point I looked around and realized that overweight people just don’t exist in Tokyo. Seriously though, throughout my whole trip, I did not see ONE overweight person. I mean when you look at the way Americans eat versus the way the Japanese eat, it’s no wonder we’re a nation where obesity is a huge problem.

Anyways, what REALLY caught my attention was the number of guys in these cities who had an aptitude for fashion.

So many of them had their own unique style of dressing, some of which I have never seen the like, yet very well put together.

I was in a world full of what Americans would call “metrosexuals” and people who seemed to really understand the power of proper style. I was shocked at first when I saw certain things that you would never see in America, like men who wore makeup or men who spent more time on their hair than their female counterparts.

I thought, “Has the world gone mad!? Where am I!?”

I soon learned, that the same things that I found “crazy,” were things that people in Tokyo considered the norm around that area.

I Was A TOTAL Tourist

Japanese culture is truly fascinating because there are so many different subcultures within it. Some Japanese people enter a certain lifestyle almost like it’s a cult or religion.

I found out that a big part of the younger Japanese generation rebel by following one of these many subcultures of fashion and music. There were people dressed like freaks, barbie dolls, and other “weird” things I can’t even begin to describe.

When I saw people dressed in what is called Japanese Ganguro and Yamanba fashion, I first thought it was some kind of joke. They looked like some sort of African tribe that had lost their way into the streets of Tokyo. There are other subcultures like “Visual kei” which are the guys that dress like anime characters with perfectly long hair and skinny clothes, and “B-kei” (B for breakdance) who dress in hip-hop style clothes or clubwear.

I saw a lot of guys who were dressed up in goth, rock, or punk clothing, and it looked as if they MATERIALIZED out of a comic book. I’m talking about an ALL-OUT mind-blowing level of appearance, that will make you feel like these guys have almost taken it too far. At times I felt like it was Halloween.

It was all wild and so surreal – and ridiculously interesting to me.

Just so you can see how extreme the Japanese can be, here is an example of one Japanese Rock band:

Talk about hardcore.

Imagine walking into a club like this? You’d win “most interesting guy,” hands down. You’d probably scare all the girls away here in America though.

Don’t get me wrong, most people in Japan don’t dress like the pictures above, but the majority of the people you’ll see on the streets are very fashionable.

Now in Korea, I didn’t see anything crazy like I did in Japan, but a lot of guys were super stylish. Up till then, I never thought so many well-dressed guys could inhabit a single area. No matter where I was, there were always a group of guys who looked like they were heading to a photo shoot.

These guys were really the epitome of “stylish casual.”

Adopt the Stylish Casual Mindset

While in Korea, I was reminded that no matter where you are or what time of day it is, you can be fashionable. I was constantly reminded that casual doesn’t have to be the way most people think of it – with no flavor.

In America, I know most guys don’t really pay attention to their image unless they have a date or they’re going somewhere really important. Slowly but surely, times are changing here, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell a straight guy from a gay guy here in New York City (in good way). Men are learning how to dress better again after years of being lost.

Being in Asia inspired me to write this article on how we can learn to bring their sense of style into our everyday casual wear:

1. Layering

What I saw in Korea and Japan was that these guys are LAYERING MASTERS.

My Tokyo friend tells me that it’s rare to see anybody wearing only ONE layer over there. If they are wearing a dress shirt, they will most definitely add something like a cardigan sweater, with perhaps another vest on top; and they’ll really put together a complete outfit by adding something like a fedora and a light-weight jacket.

One layer usually doesn’t cut it. Unless it’s over a hundred degrees out, get creative with your outfit. A dress shirt will look ten times better with a sweater, a vest, or a blazer over it than it would alone. Layering also has the ability to give a skinny guy extra bulk, and a heavy guy the ability to mask his not-so-flattering parts. This is something we discuss in detail in the Kinowear Bible.

2. Accentuate

If you want to easily upgrade your “casual” to “stylish casual” like these guys, follow this rule:

Have at least ONE element of your wardrobe that stands out and changes the mood of your entire outfit, e.g., a fedora, a scarf, a dress shirt, a tie, a blazer, a really cool accessory, etc.

For example, in Tokyo, they almost always wear an ACCENT color or item with every outfit. They might wear a mostly black outfit but then wear a bright red undershirt or a white belt.

My source in Tokyo tells me that currently guys are accenting with “Scarfs, fedoras, and ties. Suspenders are also really in now. Pointy shoes, loafers, boots or converse are almost standard to give any casual outfit a kick.”

Even if you’re not specifically out meeting someone, try setting standards for yourself – never leave the house without some sort of accent to your wardrobe, so that when you happen to run into a friend or an attractive woman, you’ll be prepared with the confidence of knowing that you look way better than the average guy out there.

Think “stylish casual.”

3. Mix it up

It seems the Japanese really don’t follow any fashion “rules.” They do a great job of mixing different elements that they’ve acquired, and there is a lot of personality that is shown through the way it’s put together.

After figuring what styles you like, try mixing different elements to create a look that you’re totally satisfied with.

Add your own twist to your outfit, but make sure it looks good to you.

A good way to go about it is to find out what is popular, why it’s popular, and explore what certain fashion aspects represent. Then figure out how you can hit on the right points, in your own unique way.

So for example, if you are going for the hip-hop look, find out what defines hip-hop fashion, the reasons and history behind it, and think of how you can best create your own version without going completely out of those lines.

4. Never Settle for Less

Another thing I learned from observing fashion in Asia is to never settle to look your best every single day of your life. You want to put your best foot forward.

You want to go out there and present the best of you to the world.

Sometimes I wake up and am tempted to throw on a sweatshirt and some lame jeans…comfort wear…but I realize I am settling.

A lot of Asian guys would never do this. If they’re going out, they are looking their best.

I’d rather die of thirst, than drink from the cup of mediocrity.

When it comes to ANY area of my life, I really don’t like to settle for less than I can get, because I never want to wonder what it would have been like if I had tried my best.

I always say that life is a gift, so I’m going to live it the best way I can to honor that. Anything less than that is below the standards that I have set for myself, and that is just unacceptable to me. But most of all, I enjoy taking risks and learning from what comes.

This is a lot more rewarding than chasing an end result. So enjoy the process of cultivating your own unique style, and enjoy learning, because to just chase some end result won’t satisfy you in the long run.

Take risks with style, be bold — If this means trying out a completely kickass outfit you see in a magazine that you could NEVER see yourself in … do it. Most people wear the same lame clothes that don’t even fit right because they’re scared of stepping out of their comfort zone. They are afraid of trying something new and looking like a fool. In Asia, I saw some ridiculous failures, but most of the time, I was awestruck at the boldness, and subsequently, the GRAVITY of their unique styles.

It’s Always Better to Be Overdressed than Underdressed

While in Asia, a lot of the guys looked way overdressed. Nonetheless, their style caught my eye. It was undeniable, and it reminded me of the fact that overdressing is one of the most organic and surefire ways of standing out. Of course, use your judgment (don’t go to company dinners in your pink suit).

But if you know everyone’s going to be wearing collar shirts at a club, wear a blazer. Every time I overdressed when going out, people were strangely more open and friendly.

Did you ever have one of those days when a girl friend of yours dressed up more than usual and you find yourself strangely attracted to her (when you’ve never been in the past?)

You give her more attention and you’re probably more receptive. Even with strangers, I realize that when you actually look like somebody of higher value they assume such and treat you accordingly.

Casual doesn’t = “dress down”

In the world of stylish men, the term “casual” doesn’t mean an absence of creativity or style, it means tuning your good taste in clothing to the occasion. This means you look damn good, no matter what you’re doing.

Also, make sure you don’t take this article the wrong way. Try and calibrate your outfit for the occasion. You’ll look like a dork if you wear clothes that are way too nice for a normal house party, just like you would look like a fool going to a posh club in a plain t-shirt and shorts. Don’t look too try hard, but in a casual setting, add those extra elements to make your “casual” stylish. The key is to socially calibrate how much your casual wear has room to be upgraded or not. So do the best that you can, given the situation.

When it comes to unique styles, the guys in Tokyo have it down. Tokyo is one of the fashion capitals of the world. And despite the fact that New York City shares that title, the average American seems to fall short in comparison.

It’s as if these guys in Asia take a style class as part of their school curriculum. What are we learning here in America? Hopefully sites like Kinowear can shift the tide.

ย What do you think?

  • x-factor says:

    speaking of layering, I think that would be a good article. some unique ways to layer other than the usual shirt and blazer or shirt and sweater type combos. especially layering without getting to warm. i put on an undershirt, collared shirt, sweater then blazer and feel so warm anytime i am indoors

  • BillSalem says:

    It hardly needs saying, but as far as I can tell, Japanese people have the eyes of highly developed visual artists. The entire culture is incredibly sensitive to refined materials as well as an illustrious history of extraordinary art in every walk of life. Consider that even as far down the social ladder the Ninja thugs were, or are, wearers of extraordinary tattoos.

    This refined sensibility contrasts strongly with American males who are roundly condemned should they reveal an independent sense of style. Look at how the media nearly destroyed John Edwards for paying attention to his hair with a $400 cut. And how the final result scarcely shows. In other words, John Edwards pays a great deal of money to achieve a look that says he pays nothing at all.

    Then, there is Dolly Parton’s infamous remark, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”

    If a gay man wears typical gay high style clothing, nobody says anything to his face but I have heard business men in their blue suits smirking and chuckling to each other about “…the cupcake.”

  • Echo says:

    Hey man, I always look forward to your posts, thanks a lot.

    I just have one request. I would like you do an article or two on stylish yet inexpensive clothes. Since I’m in high school, I don’t have a regular source of income. Can’t get a job either. I just want more tips on cheaper sources of clothes. Anyways, I’m still , by far, the best dressed guy in my school.

    Peace out.

  • Kien says:

    Hey just for corrections sake, its Bboys and Bgirls who do this for Bboying (Breakdance), its really really huge in Korea and Japan ——im not sure about the rap part though

    but definitely keep up the good work! i thank a lot of my fashion from you guys. But…..wearing good stuff casually does have an effect on your money >.

  • LoveMech says:

    Hey man! Another fascinating article, tnx!

    This website, YesStyle, also seems like an affordable mailorder. Any particular reason you mention that we should use it for inspiration (as opposed to actually ordering there)?


  • Dog training says:

    Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

  • i stumbled across this article and its so good. i can’t wait to go to japan and be inspired. i think over on the western side of the world everyone settles. too afraid to be laughed at, too afraid to be different. i can’t wait for more people to break their fashion molds.

  • Guile says:

    hey, i noticed that in 4 of these pictures, the styles would be a whole lot less attractive without those hats. do you plan on doing an article for hats soon? I love the style of the guy in the picture right underneath the “1. Layering” heading.

  • in agreement says:

    i totally agree. men, and people in general, in Japan seem like they’re just born with a natural sense of style. but that doesn’t mean we can’t have it!

    this was an amazing article. and i absolutely adore visual kei. ^___^

  • Elaine says:

    Great article! This is what I love about the Japanese and Koreans, their unique sense of fashion. This is my first time on your site but I think I’ll get hooked. ๐Ÿ˜€ Hope there’s an area for women fashion as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Alice says:

    Wow Japan and Korea sound awesome (wish I could go), Japanese guys always have the best sense of style compared to everyone else ^_^ Great blog :]

  • T.L says:

    Except for the 2nd guy obviously most of those models look korean am I correct ?

  • Crystal says:

    Agreed! ๐Ÿ˜€ And that’s Ayabie right there. (The five dude with the vibrant cerulean, silvers, blacks, and fluffy hair)

    America definitely needs some mind opening. (-_-) And we’re oh-so-diverse but still so short-sighted.

    I’m liking that layering technique…

    Maybe I should try it out. Wouldn’t hurt, right? Even my mommy says my hairdo looks like a ‘male Korean pop-singer.’ *cries in little corner*

    But anyways, don’t mind me, great article! >:D

  • Egor says:

    Hello, I was browsing Internet searching for organic hair color and your blog regarding ia Taught Me About Casual Style came my way. Very interesting! You really do know your thing! I’m gonna bookmark you and come back in a few to see your new posting! Looking forward to! Cheers!

  • niwa matsuyama says:

    hey, this is interesting because i dress visual, i’m asian DUH jap and i love what you write about our highly weird but.. kawaii yeah kawaii fashion. the band i love, its ayabie if you didn’t know, but going to shabuya or harajuku bridge is a sight to see, everyone like j-rocker and mwa here love to dress up, i think your so right, people, men and boys should start dressing like they care what there apernce is, its makes us interested and also makes them have more..err what is it… fun yeah knowing that not only they look great but feel it.

    lol, i sound so weird. ^___^

    i love what you wrote, and you seem coolios!!!

    guys listen to what he has to say…write i mean and take his advice, it really can help your love life and so on! hehe ^___^

    ^___^ niwa niwa

  • TI says:

    Hey man, nice article. I really like the zip up in the first picture under the article title. Any idea where I can buy it? Keep up the good work.

  • Isa says:

    Nice. Go team Asia.

    It’s true, too; my friends who have visited Japan have all been impressed. Additionally, a buddy of mine who went there on an exchange came back with vastly improved fashion sense. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Viktor says:

    I completly agree with this post, im from new york, and for a fashion capital theres a boatload of underdressed dudes and dudettes there.

    Im currently living in the caribbean (dominican republic) where the weather is super tropical, too damn hot, which makes it hard for me to layer (im a HUUUUUGE fan of layering) most days a simple Tee seems like too much, i have try sweaters and jackets and ppl look at me like im crazy and i feel like im in hell from the heat.
    Any tips for some tropical layering ;)????

  • KoNg says:

    awesome article Jae! Your fashion tips and personal advice has helped my life improve 100 times over. A big part of my improvement was to never settle for a cup of mediocrity.

  • Dhin says:

    Kinowear for sure is one of the best blog for good references ever, nice job. And I agree with Guile: “(some) styles would be a whole lot less attractive without those hats. do you plan on doing an article for hats soon?”

  • Himmler says:

    I think this may be one of your most poplular articles. Still waitin on your expose on “hats”.

  • Deborah says:

    I really loved this articles. I stumbled through it, and I completely agree with what you say. When I went to Japan, I had an intense culture shock, but after going back to Korea, I really felt like I was in a professional world. Everyone dressed nice, and it all seemed to look good together! I felt like a loser! I really hope someday that others will find Seoul’s high expectation for fashion to be admirable and others will step up to the plate!

  • Chris says:

    Thanks for another great article.

    I am currently living in Tokyo and from Day one loved how much more stylish and well put together people walk around here.

    You are really hard pressed to see anyone that looks like a bum.

    Your article made me aware of a lot of the things I see daily, but could not always put my finger down on why it looked so good.

  • competent says:

    Amazing website, i wish i have got this site sooner, all other magazines claim to show fashion of fashionable models, you my friend are the one is the one who is TEACHING fashion 2 Guys, seriously why dont’ you start a fashion university,

    anyways, i posted a few articles on my site from your site with a link 2 u r site in it..

  • Miss M says:

    SO true!
    This is why I love Asian culture: they seem to have the confidence to dress themselves with style and to play with what they wear. Plus, from the looks of their ads, well-dressed guys seem easier to come by XD

    As for the overdressed vs. underdressed: my opinion is that it’s attractive because it shows that the guy wearing those clothes cares enough about who he’s with and what he’s doing to dress well for the occasion.
    Besides, what girl doesn’t love a man in a good blazer? I know I do XD. It does such a good job of really streamlining and showing off the torso and shoulders.

    Keep up the great articles, Jae ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Vivienne says:

    Totally agree!! Japanese and Korean guys have amazing fashion sense. Very interesting article. I love men who know how to dress.

  • Reeemah says:

    This site is totally being forwarded to all my male friends. Your tips are really simple and efficient for boosting someone’s natural style. Kudos to you, and keep up the amazing work!

  • Inu-Vete says:

    I completely agree with your point about accentuating your outfit.

    Back when I worked as a cashier in a grocery store, a friend of mine made me an earring made out of a penny. It had a grungy, used quality to it and he didn’t brush it up at all, it was just an average penny from my pocket, but it made a difference.

    There was an instant change in the way people treated me compared to when I was just wearing a stud, people began paying more attention and talked to me more. Sure, I got some people who didn’t like it or thought it was weird, but many people actually gave me compliments. Half of the people who came through my check-stand at least noticed the earring if they didn’t comment on it.

    That little piece of flare was the only thing different about my uniform, everyone else was wearing the exact same thing as me, but it was that earring alone that set me apart and brought me attention.

  • Mark says:

    I noticed this when I went to tokyo. The people there have such a unique sense of style!

  • Monica Dickey says:

    Great article! I know it’s geared at guys but it works for girls too. I agree always overdressing a little looks way better than being underdressed. I love these Japanese fashion pics too. Very sharp stuff.

  • xxXXVampireDollyXXxx says:

    Great piece. I personally favored the photo of the Japanese rock band. I’d dress like that if my mom would let me. I do though, get called ‘ little scene girl’ at school. That’s just me, my style. I believe more people should dress like that, stand out. I live in Washington (West coast), and you’d be surprised how many people dress in such a way as that rock band. It’s pretty sweet watching people’s faces as I walk by, how their eyes get big, and they stare. lol I love it. I toatlly just went off topic, but, oh well. Peace out.

    -Victoria A. W.

  • R2 says:


    I just come back from Tokyo.

    Before I went I was advice my Japanese flatmate that I should dress smart in Tokyo.
    I thought she didn’t know what she was talking until I got there. Mainly 80% of the guys, regardless their job will wear a blazer which ever style it is. So, YES you need to wear smart if you go to Tokyo. Forget about the London thing looking fab with your cool T-shirt. It just won’t work in Tokyo.

    Thye guys had amgazing style particularly with jackets, which they all seem to fit amazingly well. Don’t go anywhere near that jaket sizes without checking first “pro ana” websites.

    Men handbags are also remarkable.

    To tell the truth there is one element of their outfit which they seem to not master which is shoes. In a place where everything goes, you can see people wearing drop mouth outfits but being killed by some no-go sneak leather shoes with square tip. Not my favorites or anyone here on the west.

    Yes, Japanese people need to develop some shoe taste sensibility. Their shoes some times have ugly thick plastic soles and bad quality. They look cheap straight away.
    Yes and of course you can find Italian or Spanish shoes in Tokyo, but they work out not for everyone pocket.

  • Henry says:

    It is very, very interesting. I lived in Japan and attended 2 Japanese high schools as a student. The style and looks in Asia are much more important than here in America.

    When I came back to America I was always thinking “what the hell are they wearing?” and people (specifically my family) would comment on why I would dress so stylish when just going somewhere casual.

    My response now is “It’s how we do it in Japan.”

  • Alex says:

    Awesome article keep it up

  • Alat fitnes says:

    Wow Japan and Korea sound awesome (wish I could go), Japanese guys always have the best sense of style compared to everyone else ^_^ Great blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jim Allen says:

    Wow this article is great! I’m definitely bookmarking this site.

  • Ami says:

    I am actually Asian myself. I have a so called as Americans say “goth” or “punk-casual” taste in clothes. Guys and Girls alike think my fashion taste is weird but honestly, when I went to China… The goal is understated but fabulous and stylish…. Accent pieces I tell you. That band has amazing style though. Girls can like this stuff too;

  • Mik says:

    Honestly I think Koreans are the best dressed stylish people in the world. Both men and women dress very well. They have great fashion sense. Simple but stylish. Korean guys are tall so clothes hang nice on them. Even my Japanese friends agree. Japanese women dress well but I disagree with Japanese guys. Your average Japanese guys dress just average. I was also sort of disappointed with the Parisians too and some Italians dress too gaudy especially the men.

  • Agreed about Parisian fashion! It’s very basic. Lots of neutral colors and very basic garments. Not too adventurous.

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