Fashion has long been pigeonholed as a vain understanding of one’s image. Nothing more than superficiality meets fabric. But mere vanity isn’t enough to support a multi-billion dollar industry or engage the masses. Fashion is a vehicle for an individual’s authentic self-expression. It’s a reflection of one’s spirit and inner being and inextricably tied to cultural identity. Every fabric and style choice highlights the various experiences and cultures that shape you, a tangible history.
While traveling here in Japan, @jayshogo exposed Tash and I to a deity festival. While the entire celebration was an amazing spectacle the crowning glory was the unique and intricate fashion imprints flooding the festival. From the Kimonos to the Samurai robes that represented different Japanese neighborhoods, every article was a tapestry unto itself. They were so vibrant and so colorful and so much rooted in how they identified themselves in the world. From the Kimono socks to the carpenter Tabi shoes, Japanese fashionistas have a rich sartorial tradition to draw from. Even the most aloof, minimalist article of clothing has echoes of the past.
The latest hot topic in Japan is a peculiar looking but durable pair of shoes. Invented in the 20th century, Tabi Boots are modeled on traditional split-toe Japanese socks. At first glance they are unusual shoes bordering on the whimsical. But unlike your run-of-the-mill sneakers or Docs, they’re cleaved in the middle so that they can be worn with slip-on thonged footwear. Tokujirō Ishibashi, a brother of Shōjirō Ishibashi (founder of major tire company, Bridgestone Corporation), is the father of this brainchild. Which makes complete sense as, like many things in the world of high fashion, the boots have working class origins. Not unlike the iconic punk wardrobe staple, Doc Martens, Tabi Boots were completely utilitarian and commonly used among construction men. But that’s what gives pieces like Doc Martens, Tabi Boots or even Converse their staying-power. They tell a story about a specific time and place. Think about a sweet pair of classic black Chucks and what comes up? For many it immediately conjures up idyllic images of scrappy kids running, skipping and playing for dear life, milking every last bit of daylight for everything it’s worth. But early Tabi boots exist outside of our daily routine and most of our lived memory. We know who they were used by and what for but our imagination fills in the blanks. Were they a farmer’s sole companion for hours at a time? Did they see a garden grow sprout by sprout until one day its owner couldn’t keep the weeds at bay? Were they chased by a rickshaw everyday until the pavement finally silenced them?
Call it what you will; aura, psychic energy, or just a vibe but things like Tabi Boots pick up a little bit from every place they’ve been and that resonates with us as people. So much so that a once perfunctory object becomes iconic. Maison Margiella’s PRE-collection for summer 2018 is releasing their own version of our Tabi Boots and the humble work shoes will take on yet another life, until they once again fade back to “just shoes.” And the beat goes on. However way you slice it, once again we see how fashion is cyclical and how the fashion runway pushes that wheel forward.
💜Love & Light☀️,
CRISTEN M. MILLS