These souvenir jackets and the new fashion designs inspired by them have become a fashion trend since the 2010's yet few are knowledgeable about the history of them and how they came about.
Authentic vintage ones are from just after the second world war.
These jackets were commonly made from surplus parachute fabric by US soldiers who blended the style of the varsity or baseball jacket with embroidery of traditional Asian motifs with dragons being a popular choice. They became souvenirs for them to take home with them back to America, hence the name Souvenir Jacket. You will find a variety of vintage ones on Etsy at various prices, authentic ones from after the war fetching the most due to their history.
But Sukajan jackets did not just exist from the Second World War, they also become a popular item during the 60s Vietnam war with soldiers having local tailors manufacture them for them.
Materials on these jackets varied and included stronger materials such as nylon and thicker material often used in tents.
Some of the original manufacturers of these souvenir jackets from the 50s still exist and continue to operate today.
Because of the popularity of these jackets, they ended up being made and sold in the street shops. A movie came out in 1961 in Japan that showed the relationship between the US military and what was considered the lower class of Japan. It was called Pigs and Battleships and interestingly enough It helped popularize the jacket by showing it to a larger audience.
The 60s in Japan had brought about an interest in Western-style clothing, however, those that considered themselves rebels decided to take back the Sukajan jacket for themselves as a sign of a rebellion against the Americanisation of the fashion trends. Therefore it was seen as a jacket for 'bad boys'.
Moving into the 70s and Western fashion again found its love for dragon motifs with it being found in the popular button up batik shirts that were worn by men as formal wear.
And with ethnic influence on the hippie fashion at the time it was also found on other clothing such as dresses and more
Asian kimonos and robes started to be adopted for mainstream wear by Westerners in the 70s. Culturally dragon themes on robes were reserved for the Imperial Family and not for 'commoners' to wear. Chinese embroidery is known to be of the best quality in the world.
Some street style inspiration featuring dragon themes and motifs from around the globe:
And some of the latest offerings from boutiques online: