Menswear Shopping In Tokyo

If there’s one thing that Tokyo does better than any other city in the world it is the shopping experience. New York, London and Paris are all great, but nowhere will you find the same amount of stores, nor the same variety, as you will in Japan’s largest city.


Of course, like any other big city the majority of fashion retail space is dedicated to women’s clothes, but menswear has a great showing. If you’re in Tokyo for a few days, be it for business or pleasure, and fancy doing a spot of shopping, here’s a brief selection of some of my favourite places. With the exception of 1) you’ll be able to find branches of each in various parts of the city.

1) Isetan Men’s, Shinjuku


Isetan Men’s is probably the largest menswear-only department store in Japan, if not the world. Nine floors’ worth of sartorial goodness await the intrepid shopper. The footwear section is absolutely vast (and usually incredibly busy on weekends), while the suit-and-shirt floors often play host to some of Savile Row’s finest tailors. On the whole, it’s not cheap, but if you’re short on time and want to get a wide range of items, this is the place to go. Rejig, the eighth-floor café, is also a good place to grab lunch. The portions are very generous by Japanese standards.

2) Beams


Beams is one of several high-end clothing chains for which there isn’t really an American or European equivalent. Depending on the store, it caters to casual denim lovers, professional business types or a mixture of both. Displays are immaculately maintained and the sales assistants really know their stuff.

For contemporary business wear Beams is definitely one of my favourite places to shop. Much of their stock is Italian by manufacture, though they have a very good selection of made in Japan, own-brand items. I’m a huge fan of their slim-fit dress shirts, which are just about the best fitting off-the-rack jobs that I’ve managed to get anywhere. They’re also especially good value for money come sale time.

3) United Arrows


Much like Beams, United Arrows is a high-end retailer with Italian leanings (its founder is a former Beams man, so this is no surprise). I’ve found that they’re particularly good at producing summer-weight jackets to beat the stifling Tokyo heat – they’re unlined, lightweight, breathable and very comfortable. With spring in the air they’ve taken to producing a very nice line of suede driving shoes and loafers that retail for half the price of Tod’s or Gucci’s. Will have to check them out further this coming weekend…

4) Lifegear Trading Post


If you’re looking for shoes Lifegear Trading Post is the place to go. They offer a fine selection of reasonably-priced footwear for the discerning gent. My only gripe is with sizing. My (British) size-nine feet may be fairly average by western standards, but in Lifegear – as with many other Japanese footwear stores – they tend to cater to more dainty hoofs.

There are also lots of smaller shops that I’d like to talk about, but a single article really doesn’t afford enough space for me to do them all justice. I’ll bring you more of the best that Tokyo has to offer in future instalments.

The Return of The Tie Clip


There are few items of jewellery that a man can get away with wearing in the workplace. A watch, a pair of cufflinks, a belt and a wedding ring are all fine, of course; but extra rings, necklaces and bracelets are often a step too far. There is, however, one oft-overlooked accessory that’s both perfectly suitable for work and highly practical: the tie clip.

The tie clip’s rise and fall is inextricably linked to the history of the tie itself. By the 1870s the tie had acquired pretty much the same long, thin form that it possesses today, but as it was often not made of expensive material most gents were quite happy to stab it through with a tie pin. By the 1920s the tie had become an altogether sleeker item that deserved to be well looked after. The tie clip stepped in: admirably keeping it under control without damaging the silk.

From the 1930s onwards the tie clip was a common sight in American political and corporate life. From the simple elegance of the solid silver bar to the gaudy, logo-emblazoned monster, they were a small yet ubiquitous accessory. Interestingly, in Britain they never quite reached the same level of acceptance as they did in the States, save for in active professions like policing. Perhaps this is because they signified practicality and a degree of manual work, things that gentlemen wouldn’t concern themselves with.

By the end of the twentieth century the tie clip was careening towards sartorial extinction on both sides of the Atlantic. The relaxation of workplace dress codes often alleviated the need for ties. In an age when the simple act of wearing one was seen as “dressing up”, the tie clip became an idiosyncrasy, and its wearers invariably labelled dandies or try-too-hards.

Thankfully, the recent marked rise in the number of men who take an active interest in dressing smartly – and the increasing acceptance among other men that this is a good thing – has led to an upturn in the tie clip’s fortunes. Personally speaking, I was a bit apprehensive about wearing one, but their sheer usefulness completely won me over. The coming of spring in Tokyo is marked by warm and very windy days, and I was sick of having to claw my tie off the back of my neck. Thanks to the tie clip, this is no longer a problem. It also saves my tie from bearing the brunt of occasional lunchtime spillages.

If you’re looking in investing in a tie clip my advice is to keep it simple. A well-made sterling silver clip, without markings or logos, can be worn both at work and at formal occasions. There is also the matter of width. My favourite tie clip is narrower, or at the most the same size as most of the ties in my wardrobe. Remember: your tie clip should offer an aesthetically pleasing counterpoint to the combination of patterns and colours in your jacket, shirt and tie, rather than scream for attention like an oversized cowboy-style belt buckle.

Sweaters: The Crew Or The V?

[A massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan just as I finished writing this article. Even in Tokyo the tremors were huge, and thousands of people in the north east of the country have been made homeless. If you were planning on buying something fancy this month, please make a donation to the Red Cross or Salvation Army instead.]

Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of sweaters. In fact, I’ve now reached the point where I’ll have to either make more room in my wardrobe or throw some of them out. If I do decide to throw some out, then I’ll need to decide which ones. This will involve taking fabric condition, colour and pattern into account. I’ll also need to take into consideration stretching – inevitably, my sweaters have stretched out over the years, especially in the neck area. And there is also the question of neck shape in general. Should I keep more V necks than crew necks, or vice versa? Or should I have an even number of both?


In my case, I’ll probably keep more V necks than crew necks. They already outnumber my crew necks by two to one, though this is more by chance than design. I do prefer them for work, largely because the V keeps the tie-knot and collar area prominently on display. Some V neck sweaters lend themselves to this better than others: it all depends on the depth of the V and general width of the neck hole.


Crew neck sweaters definitely have a place my work wardrobe (I’m wearing one today, for example), though they tend to be better suited to days when I feel like dressing more casually. I find that ties and shirt collars are almost completely obscured by crew necks with narrow neck holes. If I’m going tieless, I usually steer clear of point-collar shirts: without the support of a tie knot the collar-ends tend to flatten out and creep underneath the sweater’s neckline.

By far the best looking, and incidentally the most comfortable, partners for crew neck sweaters are button-down shirts. The buttons push the collar up above the sweater’s neckline. This is especially useful for the slimmer man because the collar then frames his lower face, making him look more masculine and powerfully-built than he otherwise would.

The Versatility Of The Navy Blazer


If you’re a young chap in your twenties you might very well be slowly working your way up the corporate ladder. If so, chances are you’re in the process of acquiring a decent, respectable work wardrobe. You’ve probably already got at least one navy and a couple of grey suits, and if you’ve followed the advice given by my fellow Men’s Flair columnists you’ll have invested in a few pairs of shoes (black and brown) as well. But have you delved into the world of the navy blazer? If you haven’t, consider doing so this coming spring: there are a few items of clothing that are more versatile.

To be quite honest with you I was rather apprehensive about buying a navy blazer. They conjured up not-too-pleasant childhood images of silver-haired alcoholic windbags who propped up the members’ bar in my local golf club. In addition, the traditional brass buttons, which are a key feature on many traditional navy blazers, drew far too much attention to themselves for my liking. So, when I did eventually take the plunge I opted for an entirely unstructured cotton affair with horn buttons. It gets me smartly through the stifling humidity of Tokyo summers without suffering the inconvenience of death from heat exhaustion.

Grey trousers make natural partners for navy blazers. Their sobriety allows you to go mental with other parts of your outfit, or opt for a simple white-shirt-navy-tie combination that is truly timeless. A more contemporary look that I quite like is to pair a navy blazer with cargo pants or khakis. The key to pulling this one off is to find a pair that are as smart as any other pair of trousers in your wardrobe. The undisputed king of the smart-cargos-navy-blazer combo has to be Brunello Cucinelli. His wares effortlessly manage to blur the line between smart and casual clothing.

The Right Shade Of Brown Shoe


Black shoes are easy. You can wear them with grey or navy suits (though personally I find navy with black to be a bit too police-uniformly), and no one will bat an eyelid. It’s no wonder, then, that they remain the footwear of choice for the besuited masses. But black shoes can also be a bit boring, and perhaps too severe for certain outfits and circumstances. Brown shoes, on the other hand, offer an almost limitless variety of shades and hues to play with. The Italians discovered this aeons ago; it’s about time the rest of us followed suit.

Finding the right kind of brown shoes to compliment your existing wardrobe is a both matter of personal taste and common sense. Generally speaking, the darker the shade of brown, the more versatile the shoes will be. Chocolate brown shoes, for example, can be worn with pretty much any colour suit apart from black and the very darkest shades of grey. For this reason, your first – and probably second – pair of brown shoes should be dark in shade.


Brown shoes become trickier to pull off the lighter in shade they become, but I’m a long-standing fan of medium shades of brown with rich, ruddy hues to them. And provided the leather is of a good quality, medium brown shoes will, over time, develop a wonderful patina – just be sparing with the coloured shoe polish. I find that it’s better to stick with neutral unless I seriously need to cover up scuff-marks or scratches.


I have something of a love-hate relationship with tan shoes. They always look great in shoe-shop windows, but I find that, when worn with navy suits especially, they can look like overripe banana skins. With lighter shades of clothing, however, tan shoes can look good. But if you’re a frequent wearer of light grey, khaki and/or light brown suits and trousers, you’ll get a fair amount of use from a pair.