Fashion Tech News symbol

FTN Sessions02 Report of 'Looking Back at the Street Culture of the 90s'

Copied to Clipboard
On March 27, 2024, an event sponsored by FASHION TECH NEWS was held in Marunouchi. The theme of the event was 'Looking Back on the Street Culture of the 90s'.
At the event, there were lectures by Koichi Tadano, who witnessed the rise of the scene since the launch of "Boon," Shigeyuki Kunii, Creative Director of mita sneakers, and the writer Tajimax. The event ended with a group session featuring special guest and mixed martial artist Kaoru Uno, who discussed 90s street culture, much to the delight of the attendees.
I would like to share some highlights from the event.

How Did the Sneaker Boom Arrive in Japan?

The first presenter was Koichi Tadano, former editor-in-chief of "Boon" and current advisor at SHODENSHA CO.,LTD. He talked about how the Air Max boom of the 90s was created.
The release of the Nike Air Jordan 1 was in April 1985. In the US, the initial retail price was $65, but it is said that Nike greatly exceeded its initial sales targets.
On the other hand, sales in Japan were not so strong, and the initial retail price was 16,800yen. This was because the recognition of both Air Jordan and Michael Jordan was very low at the time in Japan.
In 1989, NHK began broadcasting NBA games, and from there, Air Jordan's recognition in Japan started to rise. Although Air Jordan's recognition increased, an explosive boom had not yet occurred in Japan.
"Another factor that boosted the popularity of basketball shoes in Japan was hip-hop.
"Following the explosive hit of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', hip-hop artists began creating their own videos. One famous example is Run-D.M.C.'s 1986 release 'Walk This Way'.
"In this video, they wore Adidas Superstars without laces, and it became a topic of conversation in Japan as well."
After that, sneakers became a focus not only in music but also in movies. In Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do The Right Thing," the Air Jordan 4 appeared and became a hot topic.
Other basketball shoes and hip-hop styles that were trending in the US at the time also began appearing in films, slowly making their way to Japan. However, by around 1990, there were still no magazines in Japan that introduced hip-hop or NBA basketball shoes.

The 90s Sneaker Boom Kicks Off Alongside "Boon"

The year after Air Jordan 1 was released, in 1986, "Boon" was launched.
Initially, it was a magazine focused on interior design and room hunting, but by around 1988, it started featuring jeans and other items. In 1991, it did a feature on NBA basketball shoes.
In the August 1995 issue, "Boon" introduced the Air Max 95 Yellow, but only with a small photo. The editorial team, including Tadano, thought that yellow sneakers would be difficult to coordinate with and would not become popular.
However, at the start of 1996, reports started coming in that there was no stock of Air Max sneakers. The reason was that Takuya Kimura wore red Air Max 95s on the cover of a weekly magazine, which had a huge impact. The red ones sold out, followed by the yellow ones, leading to an unprecedented Air Max boom.
Regarding the end of the 90s sneaker boom, Tadano said:
"The Air Max boom, sparked by Takuya Kimura, unfortunately led to various crimes like Air Max thefts and scams.
"The rapid rise of the 90s sneaker boom came to an end around 1996-97, but those of us who were following the sneaker boom spent a very intense period."

The Beginning of Japan's Unique Culture of Collaborations

The next speaker was Shigeyuki Kunii, director of mita sneakers, who promotes unique sneaker styles from Ueno, Tokyo. Kunii talked about the relationship between sneakers and collaborations in an engaging manner.
"In the 90s, 'Boon' and similar platforms introduced the concept of 'special orders,' and similar movements spread in Japan. By 1996, at the peak of the sneaker boom in the industry, manufacturers and retailers began feeling the desire to try something new.
"As the senior generation brought in imported goods, our generation directly proposed changes in materials and colors to manufacturers, and with the support of aggressive manufacturers, collaborations began."
Collaboration in Japan gained attention with the release of 'City Attack' in 1999. Kunii talks about the beginning of 'City Attack', which symbolizes sneaker culture.
"City Attack was developed as a Japanese version of models like Air Jordans, which were sold exclusively in cities in America and Europe. At that time, sports brands primarily made sports shoes and always released innovative products, so the concept of reissues was almost non-existent.
"However, due to the popularity of vintage items and requests in Japan, they reproduced those models irregularly and sold them exclusively in cities, which is considered the beginning of City Attack."

The Evolution of Collaboration Culture Starting with 'City Attack'

Speaking of mita sneakers, their collaboration with New Balance is essential.
"At that time, those who genuinely loved New Balance idolized the ones made in the USA and UK, and did not consider the ones made in Asia as genuine.
"Our shop staff felt the same way, and people from the brand 'Hectic', which was booming in Harajuku back then, were also wearing New Balance 580s.
I"n that atmosphere, a request came from New Balance, and suddenly, we had the opportunity to create what we now call a 'collaboration.' We didn't even have the concept of collaboration at that time, so we consulted with Hectic and started the project."
Even now, mita sneakers collaborates with various brands and shops, not just New Balance.
Kunii says, "The essence of collaboration lies in the creators having the most fun." Although the role changes with the times, the excitement of the creators is crucial, and the primary mission is to promote the manufacturer's new products.

Current Street Culture

The author's talk theme is, "How has street culture from the 90s evolved to the present day?"
90s street fashion has begun to be frequently featured in the media as a 'trend revival' as we approach the Reiwa era (2019-present).
90s fashion eventually incorporated elements of the 2000s, giving rise to a new genre called 'Y2K'. Since 2020, there has been a rush of reissue models and 20th-anniversary events, leading to a boom in Heisei culture, not just fashion.
Surpassing the atmosphere of a temporary trend, 90s street culture has recently been established as a 'new genre', gaining popularity among both men and women. This was explained along with its widespread acceptance.
1 / 2 pages
Share Article
Copied to Clipboard