As collectors of old clothes we love visiting museums, and one of our favorite ones in Stockholm is the museum of far eastern antiquities. This spring we were invited there to choose an item from their archives to look closer at together with the curator Petra Holmberg, and as you can imagine we were delighted!
We chose this jacket because we thought it was very contemporary, and we think it would look just as good worn today as when it was made!
It is not often that you get to go "backstage" at a museum and even more rare to get to choose an item to be brought out of the storage and laid out for you to examine so we had to choose carefully. Eventually a little striped jacket caught our eyes, and we asked if we could see it! It turned out to be a child's garment, dated to around the 1950's. The jacket resembles a hikeshi banten, a kind of jacket traditionally worn by firefighters and this garment has probably been used in ceremonies celebrating the tradition of the Japanese fire-fighter as a local hero and general cool guy. The garment is now on display at the museum, and in this little video you can see what it was like when we met Petra that day to have a look at it! Speech in Swedish, so I'll add a summary below!
In pre-industrial Japan the houses were generally built out of wood and paper, and thus prone to catch fire easily. As we have understood it, a constant watch was held to spot any fire outbreaks and when such occurred different bands of firefighters would race each other to get to the site first, and after the fire was put out they would put on showy clothes and prance around, bragging of their deeds and accepting the peoples gratitude. These firefighters were often heavily tattooed and their clothes were made of thickly layered cotton or hemp fabrics that were soaked in water prior to the battle with the flames, and in their stiff and heavy garb we guess that they looked a little like Samurai, which surely would have impressed people!
Anyway, this little jacket has been worn by someone who looked up to these firefighting characters. The garment is made out of several layers of fabric which we believe have either been covered with stitches using a heavy cotton thread, or it could have been woven to resemble such a fabric. We thought it looked like a sporting garment, especially since it has a big sign on the back. It turned out that the sign said "Number One" which only made the feeling stronger! The signs in the front of the collar says "Happiness" and "Fortune", making this a real power-garment. In the end we also talk a little about our own fascination for the Japanese tradition of honoring crafts, and why we refrain from referring to our crafts as strictly Japanese.
The jacket will be on display until 28/8 at the museum of far eastern antiquities, so make sure to stop by there if you want to see it in real life!