Wabi Sabi: Why Vintage is Revered in Japan

 As many of my readers know I have recently opened my own leather manufacturing and bespoke jacket business Himel Brothers Leather .  I have spent more years buying and selling vintage clothing then I can remember.  I am only now starting to piece together the real cumulative knowledge and memories from my years of buying and selling into a cohesive understanding of why my work was important.

 Recently a friend attended a conference and course on the Japanese way of Wabi Sabi.  Wabi Sabi as stated in the link is a way of understanding aesthetics in the world.  Wabi Sabi views objects in the world as imperfect, transient and in a constant state of decay.  The real core of the aesthetic is the way in which objects come into the world simply and modestly, and then decay and decompose and their beauty lies in their process of decay.

 Now I am not an expert on the study of Wabi Sabi but I have been inadvertently studying it for years.  Wabi Sabi looks at the imperfection of creation. Where limitations of materials and design lead to decay and repair and age.  The value of the design is also in the decay and transcendence of objects into dust, which often conveys a sense of loss and longing and nostalgia.  I never realized this aesthetic ideal is the very crux of why vintage clothing is so revered in Japanese culture.  Longing of a lost past, the craftsmanship of solid organic materials and simple human designs that over time show their age and beauty and become art objects of the sublime. 


  1. The picture of me was taken by Doug Nicholson...very talented Toronto Photographer, if you need freelance shooting in Toronto, drop me a line and I can hook you up

  2. Wow, I love this post. I am a collector myself and I always knew that the Japanese held "vintage" things in high regard, be it people or objects, but I had never heard this analysis. Thank you, and thank you for your own contribution of fine craftsmanship to the world.

  3. Hi David,

    I'm a collector(in a small scale) and I collect mostly vintage motocycle jackets.

    It seems to me that no matter how rare buco jackets are becoming there is always a place to find them. However, for a vintage Harley Davidson Cycle Champ it seems a lot harder to get a hold of - my question is, is it harder to obtain a vintage Cycle Champ comparing to a Buco J24? And why??
    Thanks and regards,
    Alex (wax1212@gmail.com)

    1. It is something I have thought about. If you look at the archival photos of early Harley D. they are not like the marketing monolith of today. The early company seemed to focus mostly on bikes and bike equipemnt. While I have seen several early 1930s harley rain suits I have only seen one 1930s motorcycle jacket owned by Hellers Cafe...sold here in Toronto. The pictures rarely show any jackets that appear to be made or branded by Harley. I would have to guess that early 1940s and 1950s Harley jackets were either not that popular or they just didnt make that many. Buco on the other hand had to produce large numbers of jackets because this was their core business. I would guess the factory was making thousands of jackets. So while Bucos are more sought after, the Harley D pocket cycle champ is just not that common in the vintage piles. All conjecture of course but the net result bares out regardless


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