America’s Japanese Ivy?

I was perusing the Unionmade website last week when I noticed what I thought was another Japanese Ivy brand that had been flying under my radar. The jacket that caught my eye was camel colored sack with a 3-button closure. When I took a closer look at the sport coat I saw that this was not a Japanese brand at all, but rather a USA brand located in San Francisco.
Golden Bear Camelhair sport coat

I don’t know much about the company Golden Bear except for the blurb below:

Golden Bear varsity jackets and seasonal outerwear made exclusively for Unionmade.

Started in 1922 on the waterfronts of San Francisco, Golden Bear first created tough, durable leather jackets for longshoremen, who carried cargo, literally, on their backs. Golden Bear gained fame during World War II, when pilots of the Flying Tigers, The P-38′s, Hellcats and the Flying Fortresses, wore their jackets. Sixty years later, they remain stylish and practical. A family-owned enterprise, Golden Bear is one of the few companies that virtually manufacture almost everything by hand.

So Why did I think that this was a Japanese Brand? I am by no means an expert in Japanese Ivy, but I have seen quite a bit of it in my time and what I have noticed is that there are a few common characteristics of Japanese Ivy.

It’s all in the details. A few of the traits of Japanese Ivy are pieces that have all of the Ivy details including patch pockets (often triple patch), swelled edges, and hooked vents, but these details are often exaggerated. This exaggeration can be seen in pocket shape and placement as well as button placement. Often the sport coats have no padding and are designed for casual wear. The final characteristic is fit. These garments are generally trimmer and shorter than the traditional fit that many have come to expect.

None of this is meant to chastise Japanese Ivy. You have both Caid and Kamakura shirts doing very cool things. I frequently check out the offering from Beams+ for weekend wear. I also have a thing for their Ivy illustrations (Ivy Illustrations & A (Calendar) Year in Japanese Trad).

Well this time I was wrong. Golden Bear is not a Japanese Ivy brand at all, but are they producing an American version of Japanese Ivy?

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

6 Comments on "America’s Japanese Ivy?"

  1. Jon says:

    I’m only surmising here, but maybe there was a particular take on Californian 50/60s American style that lent itself to the other side of the Pacific Rim. Alongside the Take Ivy obsession with east coast college students, the Japanese might also have been taking style pointers from San Franciscan Jazz hipsters.
    As another US Ivy league style blogger has argued, foreigners (in his case, us Brits) often andconfuse wider 60s Americana with Ivy.

  2. George says:

    You know what the Japanese have that waivers here? No, not the style, they get that from us. It’s the enthusiasm and commitment, and not just to dress. When these folks go for something, they go full tilt. They might or might not get it microscopically the same as we, but they are “ate up.” I like that commitment.

  3. Roger C. Russell II says:

    I am familiar with the Golden Bear brand because I do a lot of research of military clothing. The label is known for excellent quality. I see the vintage appeal of the camel jacket, and I am so glad that camel is making it back around. However, I personally can not wear clothing of that cut. I feel way to restricted in something like this, and the lapel is so short that really it looks trendy. I know I could dig up some photographs of guys back in the 50’s with jackets cut just like this.

  4. Roger C. Russell II says:

    Too restricted, I should have edited my comment.

  5. Fred Johnson says:

    The drawing is fine and classic, the picture not so. Not for me.

  6. Roger C. Russell II says:

    You got me more curious about Golden Bear. I am wondering if they are Japanese owned. I worked for a Japanese company for about 5 years and San Francisco is definitely a favorite destination for the Japanese. If Golden Bear is not Japanese owned there are particular products probably made for the Japanese market.

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