On otaku style

I can’t believe I’m writing a post on style and fashion. You can probably blame Azure for this.

As I realized from a quick trip to Uniqlo earlier this week, anime fans’ tastes and preferences have been gradually changing over the years. I must admit, I’ve only been watching anime for about a couple of years now, but when you look at photos of say, T-shirts, you see the change from this:

to shirts like these:

Why? What do you think when you see someone wearing the first shirt? A bit tacky, isn’t it? Sure, the design is fine, but the style ? Ugh. Completely unreserved, screaming ‘anime fan’. I doubt much people might buy the first shirt , and wear it often. Moving on to the second and third shirts. These are a far cry from the old anime-faces-plastering-shirt pre-2010 days. The Hellsing shirt is a move from mere plastering to making a graphic tee, while still advertising the anime. The last shirt is a pure graphic tee – sure, there are names, but it’s also subtle – there’s no way to see what anime it comes from, unless you rip the shirt off and look for the tag, which I doubt will help either.

Then we move on to rooms. Compare these two images:

Which is more likely to be a recent photo?

As a final comparison, tell me your thoughts about this image:

Horrid, isn’t it? Well, then, since we’ve reached this point, have you noticed any trends in the images yet? No? The less subtle it is, the worse it looks. See that first T-shirt? It’s so blatant that you’re an anime fan that it isn’t even funny. The rooms? One extreme compared to the reserved, quiet-looking room on the right. That wallpaper? A computer would be one of the most subtle places to show off your fandom and this simply doesn’t cut it. It’s gawdy, it’s ugly, and it’s nothing more than a bad way to show off your fandom.

The thing about otaku style is that subtlety is key. The more subtle you can get your anime references and style on the better you look. Why? I wonder. Is it because the less subtle you are, the more you are linked to the traditional image of otaku : fat, ugly and anti-social? It probably is. As the saying goes, ‘dress to impress’. After all, how you style yourself is a way of giving others impressions of what kind of a person you are. As much as it seems unfair to say this, it’s true that anime fandom isn’t any bit mainstream, or is it treated as a regular hobby. People look at you with stares and looks of bemusement. Especially if you collect figurines. Trust me on this one.

Subtlety goes two ways: one, the subtle style looks nice to the uninitiated. For instance, read this article by radiant. The idea of wearing t-shirts with jackets looks good, and it isn’t unexplainable either – you’re making the shirt even more subtle. In this way it becomes less of a statement than regular clothing, that simply looks pretty damn good. I realized this as well when I was in Beijing, when we had to wear their jackets for school uniforms. Being the only Sec 4 who brought otaku shirts there and came back with more ( I think.) , I realized that you could make a shirt as bizarre as this:

…look perfectly fine with a jacket, something you probably had to wear any time you went outside during that time. Only part of the shirt is revealed, notably from her waists or shoulders up. Then I realized why: the cutting of the jackets would hide her name from view. It would look like a regular ,cheap shirt adorned with an anime-like character, not a shirt that screams ‘Clannad fandom’ or ‘I heart starfishes’.

So this is how it goes: the more subtle the style is, the more people like it. Even the clothing companies realized this, seeing as how all their shirts are getting more and more subtle, with the element of advertising giving way to pure design.

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33 Responses to On otaku style

  1. robotnazi says:

    The jacket does make the shirts more subtle. Wearing a shirt with a slogan like “lets pretend i give a shit and leave it at that” tends to insult some and bring displeasure but when i wear it with my leather jacket, everyone is gets curious and instantly wants to come and read the whole thing and are also less likely to feel insulted by it.

    And the leather jacket makes u look plain bad-ass 😀 so it looks good with whatever shirt i wear. Unless its pink or purple.

    • Valence says:

      Leather jacket ._.

      Anyway, any shirt + jacket combo usually makes the shirt more subtle, as they don’t see much of the shirt at all.

      • there’s nothing wrong with wearing a leather jacket in Singapore’s weather. just that u’ll look like a douchebag (and a bad-ass if i might be bold enough to say :P)

        due to the subtlety of the shirt, u stir up the curiosity in others to find out whats rly on the shirt too 😀 so it might not work the way u want it too. or maybe its just my jacket that attracts attention (particularly police attention…)

        still, i prefer printed shirts with the depiction or art of the anime than just words proclaiming to the world that ur otaku. seems distastful to me but thats just me 🙂

  2. Tsuki says:

    The idea that “the subtler the better” certainly holds true for the most part, though at times it’s virtually the same as you trying to hide your fandom. There is a rather fine line between having a good fashion sense, and just plain outright trying to hide the anime connotations to a piece of clothing. It’s not a particularly bad thing, but tasteful fashion just works like that I guess. ヽ(´ー`)┌

    On another note, just seeing that room comparison makes me think of an article published in Newtype a year or so ago, where they had images “recording the evolution of the otaku room from the 1980’s to present day”. It was quite interesting, though I could see people argue that it’s more of a devolution than an evolution; even moreso after looking at those two images you put up there in your post. I did manage to archive the images themselves in a quick post a long time ago, which you can see here: http://blogs.emory.edu/animec/2010/04/21/the-otaku-room-from-1980s-to-2010/

    • Valence says:

      I read the article. Otaku rooms are out of the question, seeing as how the term ‘otaku room’ already hints of a fandom-covered room.

      But how many anime fans have such a room today? Check out room photos uploaded by fans all over the world. How many of them have rooms entirely covered in anime? How many even buy these dakimakura and ero-figures and whatnot? Surely it’s an evolution from the 80’s.

  3. Mathew says:

    I thought ‘I love anime’ was still quite good. Aesthetically, it was good. Tones and contrast, black white and orange, the balance was good. For me, I don’t really mind wearing it out… But I guess that’s just because I’m nit very savvy anyway.

  4. misaki says:

    The anime fandom is a huge spread of different kinds of people. On one side you have the casual anime fans, and on another side you have the crazy weeaboos, and on another side, you have oldfags that have transcended space and time to become wiser than any living otaku.

    To a more outwardly otaku person (aka weeaboo), the “I love anime” shirt may even be too reserved. They feel the need to announce their love for anime to the world, and clothing is just one way of doing that.

    Casual anime fans may like the Hellsing shirt, which says “I liked Hellsing” and “Hellsing was pretty badass.” It’s not like wearing a shirt with half-naked anime girls, but it’s not quite like wearing the subtle Eva shirt.

    Less outgoing/more reserved people would probably go for the Eva shirt. It’s like an inside joke rather than a declaration of “I love anime.” It’s also more subtle than the straightforward Hellsing shirt. A lot of anibloggers tend to fall into this category of people – many fall under ‘weeaboo’ as expected, and few can be categorized as ‘casual.’

    Just my $0.02, however divergent from the topic at hand this comment may have been.

    • Valence says:

      Agreed. Over time, I started to stop wearing the shirts I bought in a fandom-induced frenzy. COSPA, maybe around friends, but then again a lot of them are quite…unsubtle. Then I realized that some of them were literally walking billboards, with nothing but a promotional poster printed on . . .

  5. Overlord-G says:

    I fall into the casual fan since I only watch the shows and read the manga rather than go all out and buy the merch. I know merchandise gives John Cena superpowers and it could do the same for me but I’m not currently interested in becoming superhuman.

  6. Azure says:

    Wow, I inspired a post.
    I certainly do feel that subtlety is very crucial when expressing your fandom via clothes because half the time you’d just look like a dumb weaboo with really thick skin. Also ‘subtle’ happens to say more than just blatant wearing a shirt that screams ‘I’m an otaku’
    Taking some recent cospa shirts for example this: http://www.cospasea.com/product/en/448/Steins+Gate+EL+PSY+CONGROO+T-shirt+Black-S.html At one glance by some unknowing street walker, you’re just wearing the typical shirts that have words which make no sense printed on them but someone who watched steins gate would know that “El Psy Congroo” really ARE just 3 words which doesn’t make sense made up by a mad scientist building a time machine microwave.
    In fact many of cospa’s shirts are heading towards that direction: it’d be far more easy to just slap some anime character on a shirt but to put something anime specific in a subtle yet impactful manner on a shirt; now that takes some thinking. Jackets are awesome to use with shirts with a character printed on them but looking at how Singapore’s weather has recently been, not really practical.
    Speaking of Jackets, my school jacket without the school logo and adding the stars would look just like Black Rock Shooter’s, just shorter. I was very tempted to alter it but school rules >.>

    • Valence says:

      School rules ._. At least you get a jacket. Ours looks like crud.

      Anyway, I think COSPA’s moving towards graphic tees in such a way that even the anime characters look like they’re just there to decorate the shirt. Sort of something normal folk would wear, not just otaku. You have to admit, they actually look pretty nice.

      • Azure says:

        The graphic Tees do look very good I was half tempted to go get a few of them until I remembered that i wear my school uniform 80% of the time, my pajamas 15% of the time and normal clothes the remaining 5%. Not exactly a valid reason to splurge on nice looking T shirts…

  7. Nopy says:

    I don’t see it as being subtle, but as anime clothing companies copying what we call the “fob” style here. I see a lot of asian immigrants wearing clothing with cartoons and chinese/japanese/korean text or a non-sensical string of english words. You can usually tell if someone grew up here or in asia based on what they’re wearing. Most of the anime clothing out there fits with this style perfectly, so you can wear a clannad t-shirt and not look out of place. Of course, this usually only works if you’re asian.

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  10. Nadja says:

    *nods* Yes, subtle t-shirts are definitely better. It always pains me to see someone at school blatantly wearing a loud, orange Naruto t-shirt or hoodie. I much prefer the quiet power-level hiding tees to the louder ones with brand names screaming across the chest.

    I don’t agree with the whole room thing, though. I’ve had my wallpaper since I was 6, and it’s hideous, so I try to cover it up with as many posters as possible. I detest buying wallscrolls because they take up way too much space, but I love buying lots of smaller things to put on my walls. In the end, it comes out looking like a huge floor to ceiling collage. It’s not just anime stuff I put on my walls, though. I also save little mementos from school, hanging out with friends and past vacations. For example, I keep almost all of the movie tickets I get and hang them on my walls. I also collect postcards; I have 560 as of right now, and 2 of my walls are adorned with those. I’m currently working on covering my ceiling with postcards as well. So in the end, it’s 2 walls = anime and 2 walls + ceiling = postcards.

    I did buy an Edward Elric dakimakura at a convention once. He’s fully clothed, though. I wrote a post about it here:
    http://strawberry-milk-anime.blogspot.com/2011/04/truth-about-dakimakura.html
    (I don’t know how to embed it, sorry Dx)

    People don’t notice how comfortable those dakimakura are. -.-

    Sorry about the long-ish comment. I rambled a lot. xD

    • Valence says:

      They are? I thought they’re just regular bolster-like pillows. If there are, then hell I like my bolster fine enough. I wouldn’t buy one no matter how comfy it is. Room’s shared by 3 people.

      But I guess you have a point when it comes to the whole room scenario. Sometimes, careful allocation of wall space to anime goods and whatnot can make the room look nice. My relatives bought a frame for a movie poster and hung it up in their computer room. Looked completely awesome.

      • Nadja says:

        I had to look up what a bolster pillow was. xD
        Yeah, they’re pretty similar. Dakimakura are usually more square, though.

        Oh and about the whole room thing… All of my close friends are into anime, and they’re usually the only people that are in my room. I do have some friends who aren’t into anime, and although they don’t come over all to often, when they do, they may make a few comments on the posters out of curiosity, but we usually don’t talk about them.

        A movie poster? That’s awesome. May I ask what movie it’s of?

        • Valence says:

          Can’t remember,it had guns though.

          I never have friends over at my house (thankfully), so I don’t have to deal with the whole poster issue. . . .

          • Nadja says:

            Well, if it had guns, it’s almost guaranteed to be awesome.

            When you have friends over, if you just act like nothing’s there, no one usually has a problem. I mean, anime is one of my hobbies, and it’s part of me. I’m not going to deny it or hide it from people, but I’m not going to shout it out to the heavens or act obnoxiously about it in public. My whole philosophy is: don’t say anything about anime unless someone asks, or you know that the people you’re talking to share similar interests.

  11. I already have two of the otaku stereotypes covered (ugly and anti-social), so at this point, I don’t care too much about what I wear. I don’t try to hide liking anime or broadcast it, I just have 5 or so anime shirts that I like and I wear them when I want. For me, I do kind of hold out hope that an anime shirt will help strike up conversation… sounds lame, I know.

    • Valence says:

      Well , it does get conversation, but unlikely. I have about the same amount of shirts, but I’m anti-social too so hey.

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