American Styles From Japan: BEAMS +
Words: Peter Obradović
When the late Virgil Abloh stated in a 2019 interview streetwear would die, barely anybody signed on to this quote. Instead, it became a meme; wasn’t it by the designer who helped lift streetwear into the more significant scene. Three years later, we can say that Abloh wasn’t all wrong. Sure, there’s still streetwear, sneakers, etc., but more and more people get hooked on less loud and monochrome designs and brands. Heritage and quality have become essential factors in the buying decision of customers. A brand that offers both and is now available at HHV is BEAMS + from Japan.
To learn more about BEAMS +, we have to begin with the OG, the brand that started it all – BEAMS. The Japanese brand that takes its name from the sun rays is still somewhat unknown to a brighter mass in the western hemisphere. Even though their high-tier collaborations with brands like Arcteryx, Needles, New Balance, Porter, or Reebok – just to name a few – are highly sought after by enthusiasts, the brand never made its way into the mainstream markets of western countries. However, if we look at Asia, we see a different picture. BEAMS runs approximately 150 stores throughout Asia, most of them in Japan. With the variety of sub-labels (one being BEAMS +), their garments characterise the streets all over Japan.
The history of one of the most successful Japanese fashion brands began on 21.5 square metres in Harajuku. The label sold imported goods in the tiny space that is now the current menswear flagship store and displayed them in a UCLA dorm-themed interior. Named American Lifestyle Shop BEAMS, the 1976 opened store quickly gained popularity and soon began to import more goods from the US and Europe. The demand kept rising, so the store added more sub-labels in Ray Beams, the womenswear line in 1984, and BEAMS + in 1999. As a result, the brand grew to be one of the best-known Americana retailers in Japan. Japan was a fertile market with a rising trend and interest in American fashion. Over time BEAMS began to adopt the products more and more to the Japanese taste. In the late 1980s, the United States had to deal with social and political issues like the rise of AIDS, and the presidency of Ronald Reagan lowered the American willingness to explore new cultures. As a result, the Japanese picked up on the loose ends of Americana fashion and further developed into what we today know as Japanese Americana.
In 1999 BEAMS decided to introduce a new sublabel called BEAMS + (BEAMS Plus) to create a place that solely focuses on the company’s very early origins. BEAMS + reflects the 1945-1965 American styles that BEAMS grew up on. It represents the golden era of American fashion and provides timeless men’s clothing. The foundation of BEAMS + aimed to create something timeless yet classic as some people at BEAMS feared menswear could turn tasteless. They were pointing at the emergence of the Ura Hara movement, the growing skate clothing scene, and outerwear and vintage pieces. BEAMS + should stick out of this mix of street styles and hold up the flag for classy menswear.
While still clinging to the idea of a multi-brand retailer like the mother company, BEAMS + was focused on its original pieces that made up 80 percent of its stock. Their goal was to “update timeless classics for the future,” which worked out quite well. More and more stores picked up BEAMS + products. With the trend shifting to a cleaner look and the rise of classic American styles all over the globe, BEAMS + was just ahead of the wave. Thom Browne in New York or Engineered Garments, who joined Pitti Uomo in Italy, pushed this trend to become a worldwide hype in the early 2000s.
In 2008 BEAMS + started overseas operations, and ever since, the brand has found its spot to present American classics with a Japanese turn to an audience interested in timeless and high-quality menswear. But BEAMS + goes beyond that. Their dedication to classics does not stop at preserving them but sticking to their roots, shaping the classics of tomorrow.
Discover BEAMS + at HHV, online and in-store.
Photos: Tiana Lenz / Location: Dashi