How one tweet on fashion sparked a cultural debate about Japan and America

How one tweet on fashion sparked a cultural debate about Japan and America
PHOTO: Instagram / monulinecka

All it took was one tweet about the way Americans dress and Twitter exploded.

In the age of social media where cat videos go viral, it could be argued that people have gone to "war" for less. And boy, did Twitter users duke it out.

It all started with Japanese exchange student Kanta, who has been living in California for more than a year. Despite his time in the US of A, Kanta still finds himself surprised by the American culture and isn't shy to share his experiences on his blog and Twitter.

In a tweet last Wednesday (March 6), he shared that he appreciated the freedom that Americans enjoy in the way they dress.

The tweet read: "Something I really like about America is that people can wear whatever they want without worrying about what they look like.

"There are people who wear pyjamas to class, and lots of girls who don’t wear any make-up. I’ve even seen someone who's in their thirties wearing a Pikachu T-shirt.

"Regardless of whether other people like it, as long as you like it, then it’s okay. It should be like this everywhere.”

on Twitter

Kanta continued by substantiating his observation based on his friend's experience - she felt somewhat oppressed after she returned to Japan after her stay in America.

In follow-up tweets, he attributed this to the pressure in Japan to look a certain a way and what your appearance says about yourself and others.

Kanta also added that Americans are "more confident in themselves" and avoid digitally editing their features (think big Asian eyes that are a dime a dozen on social media) to look cuter because "they don't have to put on a fake image of themselves".

on Twitter

He also drew a comparison between the Instagram feed of his Japanese and American friends, pointing out that the latter post way more selfies. Apparently, this is because the Japanese think selfies are embarrassing.

Twitter user Satoko Sato chimed in with their own experience on seeing a gray-haired elderly woman in a red suit walking in the city in the US and felt that her clothes would not be considered age-appropriate in Japan.

on Twitter

Another user t4631ori_kuru_xxx, who claimed to have been born and raised in America and felt more self-conscious upon their return to Japan, identified with Kanta's observation. They wrote: "When I was not careful with something, I was sometimes seen with strange eyes. I like Japan, but I love America so much and I think it's easier to live there."

on Twitter

However, his opinion had its fair share of detractors who argued that the American culture may seem more appealing but it isn't perfect.

One user pointed out that people can dress freely but they were not absolved of judgment, especially when it comes to "gendered clothing".

Another commentator delivered a sobering reality check - that people may not judge your garments, but they judge your "skin colour".

Twitter user sederu4631 wasn't afraid to insinuate that Kanta was being hypocritical.

on Twitter

"I think that way of thinking about foreign countries is wonderful, but I also think Japan’s way of thinking about other people’s feelings is great too.

"If you don’t care about what people think, then why are you trying to compare Japan and the US? That’s such a Japanese way of thinking," they wrote.

Ouch. Shots fired.

Well, it seems that Kanta didn't provide an official conclusion to the heated discussion. However, perhaps the takeaway from this isn't so much about which country's culture is (supposedly) better but rather, how far can one exercise their freedom to sartorial expression?

After all, we've already seen very bold examples of men challenging gender boundaries in their red carpet choices.

bryanlim@asiaone.com

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