A few years ago, I wrote an article on Otaku Fashion. That article had some problems with it that I didn’t really like in the end. So here, is a more subjective look at Otaku Fashion, and how to pride yourself.
I think it’s absolutely important to express yourself as an individual, especially when you’re interested in doing so. That’s the whole idea of fashion – to express yourself uniquely, and to impress. That’s a keyword there.
The Psychology of Judging a Manga By its Cover
We live in a society that is predominantly based on judging by first impressions. No matter how much you try to deny it, this is a fact. You go to a party, or meet someone for the first time, and they subconsciously judge you based on how you look.
The thing is though, a lot of times, people are fairly accurate judge of character (or stereotype) due to experience and gut feeling. But of course, it still doesn’t give the full story.
Try it yourself – look at the people on the streets (I people-watch sometimes. It’s very interesting). A guy in a suit – he’s a businessman. Some cute girl walks down the street wearing Sephora and carrying a Coach bag, you can tell she’s into looking good, a party girl, and various degrees of looking good depending on who you’re looking at.
What you may not know is maybe that 38-year old business man still lives with his parents and is actually off to a job interview, and that cute girl is actually 35, married with children, and loves to read a good book, and was a party girl in the past and still misses partying.
And what do people see when they look at you? Hopefully, not this guy:
Now, not to offend anyone, but a lot of people in society judge people like the guy above in very poor light. Give a read for what this ignorant dude wrote. But don’t take it seriously, or read too much. It will hurt your brain. If you don’t want to click on the link, he basically rants about how Otaku have terrible personalities, no money, social issues, and poor judgment. Obviously, most of us would think it ridiculous to give any credibility to what he’s saying.
However, you can’t deny that there are people who think like him, and to varying degrees of hate too. Otaku is still primarily a negative image. OEG has stressed that point pretty harshly (in an elitist sort of way). People will look at you and judge a manga by its cover. This is true even within yourself.
Try it – go to a manga store, pick up a manga you’ve never heard of. What got you to pick it up? The attractive art? What got you to put it down? The lame cover? Never heard of the artist? It’s the same with going to a music store where people are inundated with an endless selection of music. They stick to the familiar ones because they know it. They don’t feel comfortable with getting music they’ve never heard of. So, when meeting people, one is also quick to judge a person by their appearance to associate people into a comfortable category within their own minds.
So what does this mean for you? Unfortunately, if you dress like the guy above, people will judge you, and most likely negatively. But why should you care? Impressions. No matter what you do in life, you will always be making impressions on people.
For the most part, those people aren’t important. But there are people that you do need to impress, such as your employer, your date, or your family (some of them, anyway). There will always be key people in your life that can change the course of your path, sometimes without you even knowing! Those people are less likely to help you if they have a negative impression on you. Those are the people you need to care about.
In that regard, you aren’t trying to impress people for the sake of others. You’re trying to impress people for the sake of yourself.
Practice To Be Natural
Just like learning to draw well, one needs to practice. Learning to dress well, one needs to practice. Practicing makes one aware of themselves more, of their surroundings. It’s one of the main principles that the samurai Miyamoto Musashi stresses on. Practice on something so much so that you forget how to do it. In essence, it becomes so natural to you that you don’t even have to think about it.
Let me put it this way – Let’s assume that Otaku guy dresses like that most of the time. Or at most, a normal T-shirt and jeans. He’s never looked through any fashion magazines, and wears what he thinks is most comfortable. As long as people aren’t running away screaming, it’s generally acceptable to him. How likely do you think he’ll know how to dress for a job interview at Deloitte? How likely do you think he’ll know how to dress for a dance club? How likely are you to know how to dress for the occasion? And if you think you do, how likely are others in agreement with that statement?
This is not a question you need to answer to me. This is a question for your own awareness.
Sometimes, awareness is like a frog at the bottom of a well. All he can see is the sky above through the well opening. That’s his world. He doesn’t know that there’s an entire vast world out there. Someone has to tell him. You may very much be in that situation and not know it.
First thing’s first. You need to pay attention to what your current wardrobe looks like. You don’t need to toss anything or change anything. Instead, categorize your clothes. Judge each piece as if someone else important to you was judging you. What would that person think of you if they met you wearing this? Some clothes will probably go into an “otaku” pile, while others may go into “normal wear” pile, and some “dressy”, etc. etc. Feel free to continue wearing your otaku-wear with your otaku-friends.
So here’s where you get others to help you be aware. Take your dressy and normal wear clothes, and ask a friend whom is outside of your normal circle of friends to help. I say outside your normal circle because these are the people that see you from a different perspective. They’re outside your well. After all, the friends sharing the same well with you will only see things in similar light as you.
I recommend asking someone whom you think seems to know how to dress for success. Ask them for their take on your dressy and normal-wear clothes. Then, take their advice. Seriously. You may feel shy in asking someone you don’t really know all that well to help you out, but trust me. They will feel very flattered that you think they dress well and want their fashion advice.
I recommend asking more than one person for their opinion (not at the same time, of course). Also, watch some fashion how-to type shows like What Not To Wear, and flip through some general fashion magazines. Don’t worry if you can’t pull off what’s in the magazines. That’s not important, and will only hurt your self esteem. You’re merely observing at this point and sort of building your eye for fashion. Take all the data and observations you got, and from your friends’ opinions, and find a commonality in it. What you’re trying to do here is find clothes that society accepts as a base to work with, and then build your own personality into it.
Building Your Personality
Looking through the commonality data, you should be able to pick out things that you really like. This may require some shopping, or flipping through more magazines. But what you’re trying to do now, is figure out what looks good to you, without going all-out-nerd-otaku, and without going completely plain. This is a delicate balance, but can bring a very unique and awesome look to you, and not only make you more presentable, but make you much more confident in your appearance, and abilities.
Maybe you find black dress coats with a long white dress shirt, small button-up frills and uncuffed sleeves look cool and “anime-goth”, while still looking presentable. Maybe you like the more sporty hoodies hanging off your back and could attach some small cat ears to them. Maybe you like chains and everything and makes you look somewhat “cosplay”.
Just like my “how to design a character” post, what you want to do is make yourself look plain for the base, and bring your personality out through small accessories or features.
Merging Otaku and Life – The Ultimate Otaku Pride Expression
The idea behind otaku fashion, just like any fashion, is expression. Expressing your fandom to a particular anime series or video game, or just expressing your fandom of anime or video games in general. The problem is, as you have read from my previous article, many otaku fashion feature prominent, brightly colored anime characters on it. While in principle, this shouldn’t be an issue, it becomes one in a society where anime is still generally niche. This is something you can’t deny.
I’ve come to take back the whole idea of the cute anime keychain thing that I vehemently protested against in my previous post. The key word that needs to be kept in mind is taste. Just like how one can wear terribly gaudy clothes, you can ruin your look if you have a clash of too much anime with your regular style. Keychains to me would be considered “high” on the “otaku meter”. If you wear nothing but attractive looking non-otaku clothes, pulling out a keychain with an anime character on it is hardly considered a fashion boo-boo. It’s more of a quirk, and adds to your personality. However, if that keychain is attached to a messenger bag with a huge bright anime character emblazoned on it, then it’s a bit of a problem. Remember that it’s all about balance.
To keep that balance working, you will need to err on the side of conservative. The majority of your wear will have to be a non-otaku in nature kinds of expression, with hints of your otaku pride.
The Rewards of Merging Otaku Fashion in Society
You want to express your fandom because you love anime. The thing is, who out there in society really cares? Only other fellow otaku, of course. Who cares if you like the LA Kings? Other hockey fans. So your expression is a tool for bonding with other otaku. So once you’re able to merge your otaku fashion sense together with what society deems acceptable, you’re suddenly in this confident, comfortable zone where you can mingle and interact with both groups.
Let me paint this pretty picture for you. You’ve taken your lessons in fashion well, you’re all dressed up, looking sexy, and ready for a night out with your friends at this club you’ve heard about. When you’re there, you mingle with people, and they’re liking you and all that. None of them really know about that necklace you’re wearing, but they like it because it’s different and interesting. You’re talking with one particular person, and they suddenly notice the necklace.
“Hey, is that Tidus’ necklace from Final Fantasy X?”
You happened to stumble upon a closet otaku. They had been trying SO hard to hide their otaku lifestyle that they look like a normal person. And yet here you are, brought together by a single trinket.
“Why yes it is! I’m a pretty big fan of Final Fantasy. How did you know? Do you play as well?”
Of course, that’s an ideal situation, but it does happen. Shazzsteel and myself have experienced things like that before, and I’m sure Ninjovee would also react that way if she saw someone with some anime/game trinket.
Alright Radiant. You’re the expert, you know where it’s at right? You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?
This is my fashion sense:
I actually wear all 4 of these styles. For parties and social times, I wear a dress shirt, like on the left. Or if it’s a little more formal, I top it with a jacket like the one on the right. Daytime wear, I usually go with Raine’s style in the middle, or I do casually go just T-shirt like the guy with the hat (except without the hat). I wear mostly denim jeans, and sometimes dress pants. I keep nice leather shoes, and some laced leather boots too. My favorite brand is definitely Kenneth Cole.
The types of jackets I wear are similar in style to Raine’s, including a white cloth jacket, and a white pleather jacket that is somewhat in the style of Kyo from King of Fighters 2000. [rss]If you’re looking for the secret code, it’s asusrt16, just so you know.[/rss]I also have a more casual jacket than the guy on the right, as well as a more formal one.
Keep in mind that I also have a wife. She helps me with my fashion sense (remember the person who’s outside your circle?).
But you’re saying “That looks like normal wear! Where’s the otaku pride?!”
You’ll notice that Raine is wearing a T-shirt inside. This is where my expression comes in. The exposed area of that T-shirt constitutes about 20% of the overall visibility. That 20% is all you need. The shirts I wear are as follows:
Right away, anime fans, especially One Piece fans will know where this is from. Non-anime fans can suck it, but that doesn’t matter. To them, it’s just an interesting “nautical” shirt. This is from Uniqlo.
I’ve only worn this shirt once – when it was Pac Man’s 30th (or whatever) anniversary. This shirt is still fairly acceptable to wear, because it’s a retro classic game that even non-gamers can identify with. Also from Uniqlo.
Even though I bought this shirt because I thought it was cool, I’ve never worn it. Haven’t found an opportunity to. It’s too bright and attention grabbing. I really do like Pikachu, and the pixel art is quite cool. I would wear it around other otaku friends, or while working in a games studio. Also from Uniqlo.
This was a free shirt given to me when I attended a Nintendo party. The inverse Samus is a neat idea, and is still subtle enough that it appears to be a graphic design. However, I have never worn this shirt, because style-wise, the whole shirt-sleeve shirt coupled with a long sleeve shirt is a bit … nerdy. Maybe one day, I’ll take it to the tailor’s and have them remove the white long sleeve portion.
I used to wear this, but stopped. It’s still one that’s worth wearing, but I don’t want to wreck the print any further. Yes, it’s got a huge anime-style character on it, but if you think about it, the anime face takes up only about 10% of the image. The rest of it is purely a “biker style” design. This sort of subtle expression will still catch the attention of an otaku, while still look cool to everybody else. Was purchased from a car-mod store.
One of my favorites, but barely wore it. For the non-gamer, this is just a shirt with a pin-up girl. You’ve seen those before at Guess or something, right? To the gamer, it’s the awesome arcade shooter “1942”, and that girl is Cammy from Street Fighter. That Kamikaze pinwheel is worth 1000 points.
Damn, Cammy! You’re sexy!
I haven’t worn this shirt much because green actually looks terrible on me. There’s a powder blue version, which I should have bought instead. Bought online from Meatbun.
Now here’s a strange one I do not yet know what to do with. It’s Battle Star Galactica, and non-BSG fans would be none the wiser. It’s a graphic tee for sure, but the colors seem a bit much. Overall though, it’s still not as “nerdy” as a shirt with a Cylon on it.
This shirt sort of falls in the same category of the BSG shirt, in that it’s loud. Ghost in the Shell fans would recognize that Section 9 is the division that the Major works in. Bought from Uniqlo.
The back of the shirt has a stylized Masamune-esque “9”.
Eva fans should recognize this shirt right away. What makes this still acceptable (though fairly borderline at this point) is the types of color used. This keeps it a graphic tee, and not as loud as a real deal anime shirt.
Most people, even gamers, will not really know what this is, and see it as a regular graphic tee. It’s subtle in design too.
But you flip to the back, and you see this gaudy logo. It’s now obvious that it’s a promo shirt. Fortunately, the style and design makes it look a bit like those bomb-squad shirts you used to see around. I’d wear this shirt with a jacket over at all times, I think.
Now this is an interesting shirt I got from Uniqlo. From a distance, it looks like some sort of military pattern. Fairly normal looking shirt. But up close you can sort of make out a couple of unique shapes.
Of course, it’s Mickey Mouse’s glove, and signature head and ears. Remember my article on characters with unique and memorable characteristics? This is where it works effectively.
This shirt is fairly common. And for good reason. The style is decidedly retro with the font, and the colors, and of course, it’s a classic NES controller. Nothing says Nintendo Fan while still remaining stylish quite like this shirt.
In a similar vein, nothing quite says Street Fighter Fan while still looking stylish, like this shirt. A graphic tee to most, a matter of “You Win… Perfect!” to others. HADOKEN! I wear this shirt when gaming with friends, or going to the mall.
Forgive them, it’s engrish. Bought from Uniqlo.
And here is how I pair them up with my jackets.
Here are more shots of nerdy shirts looking fashionable. If you’re a DJ Max fan and want to express your fandom, this works:
I actually own this Syriana shirt. But I can’t wear it because I bought an Asian Size M, which is essentially XS in North America. 🙁
In conclusion, an expression of otakuism is not wrong. But just like any fashion, when you overdo it, you will give people the wrong impression, and in a world where judgment is based on that first impression, you most certainly want to have as much advantage as you can.
And the unfortunate thing is you can’t simply pick it up and expect to look good. At best, you’ll look like a person trying to be someone you’re not, and failing at it, so you need to “practice” regularly and develop an eye for fashion.
A final thing to take away from this also – you, no matter what shape or size you are, can look good, as long as you pick the right clothes. Clothes that fit you. I highly recommend you check out this book called [amazon_link id=”0307236714″ target=”_blank” ]Dress Your Best[/amazon_link]. It’s a guide that covers practically every body shape there is for both men and women. That’s also to say it can only cover so much, so maybe about 4 pages would be 100% relevant to you. However, it’s the start and basis you need to get your proper foundation set. The rest of the book covers practical general advice that everyone can follow. Read this book, and watch the show and you’re pretty much guaranteed to look good if you follow their advice.
[amazon_image id=”0307236714″ target=”_blank” size=”Medium” link=”true” ]Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That’s Right for Your Body[/amazon_image]