Button-Down Shirt Story 3: How the Japanese B.D. Was Born
This is a story I heard directly from Mr. Toshiyuki Kuros, the Product Development Manager of VAN Jacket.
During the 1960s, Mr. Kuros was hired by VAN as the best person for launching the Ivy Look in Japan as he was the leading expert at the time. Although an expert, much of the Ivy Style remained a mystery to Mr. Kuros until he visited the eight Ivy League Universities in 1965.
In America, there supposedly was a shirt called the "Button-Down" (B.D. shirt), where there were buttons on the collars. Indeed, Mr. Kuros wanted to wear a shirt like that. Without really knowing the details of how such a shirt looked, he asked for a shirt with collar buttons at his father’s favorite tailor. He then showed this shirt proudly to his friend Mickey Curtis (a musician, returning home from America), who burst out laughing as soon as he saw it.
“That looks nothing like it! This is what it should look like!” Mickey said.
Mr. Kuros told me that that was when he realized how frightening ignorance could be, and what a real button-down was.
During that time, VAN started selling B.D. shirts as dress shirts. Instead of coordinating it with a suit, it was more mainstream to coordinate it with a sport jacket. It was a versatile shirt as it could be worn as both a dress shirt and a casual shirt. People called it "an amphibious shirt" and it became popular among high school and universities students in a blink of an eye.
The popularity was a huge impact on the existing shirt industry. Copies of the VAN style B.D. shirts started to appear everywhere, but none of them truly understood the essence of the B.D. shirt. This allowed VAN to become even more popular and how VAN rose to become a first-class brand.
The B.D. shirt material was oxford fabric, the warp 40 count parallel yarn, the weft 10 count single yarn, all spun at Toyobo inside the Nishiwaki area of Japan.
Although this was standard for the Ivy Look, Ralph Lauren gave a revolutionary twist to it in the 1970s proposing a new style that coincided with the lifestyle of the customers. A new, modern interpretation of the B.D. emerged. As a matter of fact, Ralph Lauren was originally the designer of another well-known American brand.
He brought a wave of B.D. shirts and since then, this contemporary B.D shirt style became mainstream. And with an Italian alternative added to the mix, the originality of the B.D. shirt was completely lost. Production in the United States was drastically reduced and most of the production went to Southeast Asia. This made it even more difficult to create authentic B.D.s - to teach particular details and inherit the technology required.
When Mr. Graham Marsh published “The Ivy Look” in 2010, young American clothing designers were shocked. They did not know that such an amazing culture like the Ivy Look existed in their country! Slightly old fashioned, but with a certain warmth and a sense of ease. There was something there that the modern society had forgotten.
The old distant memories that arise from the subconscious can somehow feel new. And we want you all to feel this feeling with our “new yet old” B.D. shirt.