Anime & Streetwear : When two cult phenomena meet

February 17, 2021 8 min read

Anime & Streetwear : When two cult phenomena meet


Sometimes funny and light-hearted, sometimes dramatic and moving, we have to admit it, anime and manga are the weak point of all of us. While this little indulgence remains unacknowledged by most, proud otaku communities continue to grow.

Moreover, the anime spirit is slowly creeping into other aspects of our daily lives. Not surprisingly, the fashion industry, especially streetwear, has also been impacted by this legendary cult movement.

How about a closer look at anime representations of urban fashion and the many projects that have resulted from it? Hold on to your hats, because we're in for a mega-article full of nostalgic references and juicy details.

How anime invaded the fashion world ?

Anime & Streetwear

This is not to upset the young gen Z, but the Anime and Manga culture is not new. It has been almost 30 years since this phenomenon asserted the dominance of Asian art.

Nevertheless, there has been a breathtaking rise in popularity for some time, especially on the Western side. It is high time that they take their well-deserved place on the podium of modern fashion trends.


An integral part of popular culture

In addition to being a form of entertainment enjoyed by young and old alike, anime is an important window into Japanese culture. It is almost a genre of its own, reflecting both the creativity and the gentle sophistication of Asian animation artists.

Just like Disney heroes and the first cartoons, manga and anime have rocked our childhood. Masters in the field, the famous mangakas have woven the most unlikely plots and have given life to ultra endearing characters.

What was a local success ended up going around the globe. The real ones will remember Mangas, one of the first French channels to broadcast the anime of yesteryear, long before J-One and the others. Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and Astroboy, then the famous Pokémons, Naruto and One Piece invaded the American and European media.

naruto dragon ball z anime streetwear

Anime and manga in everyday life

Little by little, anime has become more democratic. In the space of a few years, they went from being vulgar cartoons for kids to a real interest approved by everyone. The Otaku community was able to assert itself, and the cult icons and emblems started to leave the manga shelves.

It was no longer enough to collect figurines and hang posters in your room. First attached to pins on backpacks, then printed on hats and T-shirts, anime logos and characters were everywhere. In a way, this helps reinforce the sense of belonging, and strengthens the bonds between community members.

Cosplay, or when fictional characters come to life

Another way to show your appreciation for manga is to replicate their style in real life. We've come a long way since the days of impromptu cosplays. These days, conventions are full of real pirates, saiyans and ninjas.

Everything is there, the big eyes sublimated with contact lenses, the hair of all colors. But above all: the life-size outfits, exact replicas of the anime characters. A real kingdom transposed identically to the fairy worlds of Japanese illustrators.

More than a style, cosplay is a state of mind. That's why we don't hesitate to surpass ourselves when making our uniforms and costumes. Every detail counts when you want to embody your dreamed idol !

The growing craze of streetwear for anime

streetwear and anime with hitachi

In fact, is it any wonder that anime is taken seriously by major fashion brands? Not at all...

Let's not forget that already in the 2000s, famous designers were fascinated by this style. Prada was even asked to dress the characters of the Japanese movie Appleseed Ex Machina. An experience that the team described as very rewarding.

So could streetwear and anime be a good match? The answer is obvious, it is absolutely the case!


Japanese streetwear and anime go hand in hand

Emanating both from the Japanese culture, it goes without saying that the aesthetics of streetwear and manga are overlapping. Naturally, they are based on artistic expression and creativity.

Anime dressed in streetwear

In a way, one builds on the other. When the first small stores in Ura-Harajuku opened, there were several anime-inspired outfits scattered here and there. Rich in bright colors and imitating the caricatured aesthetics of Japanese animation series, they were selling like hotcakes.

Nowadays, when they are not capes or accessories from mangas, we find outfits printed with motifs of the theme in question. They occupy entire shelves of the biggest stores in Japan, and the Tokyo youth is crazy about them.

The anime fandom and the streetwear subculture are now one. It's not unimportant to meet in the street a group of young people dressed in streetwear, having one or more anime references. On the contrary, those who would have been considered nerds a few years ago are now considered the coolest of the bunch.


Anime at the heart of western streetwear

If it's easy to associate manga looks with Asian streetwear, some people still don't understand how they could sneak into Western urban fashion. Yet, the anime/manga culture has been rooted there for a long time.

The new generation is very familiar with the great Japanese works, and has grown up with them. Now that they have full control over the fashion scene thanks to streetwear, the nostalgic icons that rocked their childhood have not been forgotten.

American streetwear is therefore completely compatible with the anime culture. The casual style and the rebellious look are reminiscent of the values conveyed by the various Japanese anime series.

streetwear anime with IKEA and supreme brands

This is without counting the large number of communities that have found refuge in streetwear. Everything that was once seen as unpopular, atypical or out of the ordinary could identify with it. Even the most out-of-the-way webs were reached out to.

Today, this diversity is what makes the strength of the modern trend. Streetwear brands want to be ambassadors of successful Japanese anime. This unique imprint of the fans is the proof that only they can dictate the trajectory that urban fashion takes.


The most fashionable anime inspirations in streetwear

Now that the anime frenzy is in full swing, they are no longer satisfied with small and emerging designers. Cult anime series are now the muse of big brands, and regularly appear at the most prestigious fashion shows.

Anime crossovers in streetwear always attract the attention of the most loyal fans. From the announcement of the collaboration to the release of the collection, it is a big event that never goes unnoticed.

I might as well tell you that the legendary projects are so numerous, that we had a hard time making our final selection on this one. After much reflection, here are the 5 most outstanding anime collaborations in the history of streetwear :


1. Supreme x Akira

akira x supreme collab

Akira, the famous manga by Katsuhiro Ōtomo, secondarily adapted into a science fiction film, is a rare gem of Japanese popular culture. Extremely avant-garde for its time, it was the work that set the tone for all Japanese post-apocalyptic cyberpunk worlds.

The excitement of fans when they heard about the release of the collaboration with Supreme in 2017 was just indescribable. For the streetwear brand's manager, who has offbeat taste to say the least, Akira was an unavoidable strategic choice.

The result of the accounts: a most successful fall collection! In addition to being real little masterpieces, the hoodies, T-shirts and jackets have become real collectors' items.

2. Adidas x Dragon Ball Z

adidas x dbz collab

In terms of nostalgia and poignant memories, the Adidas and Dragon Ball Z collab has been a big hit. It is with the whole Son Goku and Vegeta fights in mind that the addicts of the series rushed on these incredible sneakers.

We have rarely seen a collaboration between anime and streetwear brand working so well! Three points made us validate the project without any hesitation :

  1. The creative dimension: unlike lazy brands that dare to say that their collections are inspired by anime just by putting a logo (shame on them!) Adidas makes a lot of effort. The design is completely revisited in order to better capture the spirit of DBZ.

  2. Customization: instead of changing the colors for each character, the German sports brand is innovative. Instead, the models are adapted to the personality and specificities of each manga character they represent.

  3. And finally, it's Dragon Ball Z come on! Do we really have a say in this? We are ordinary people, when it comes to DBZ, we can only stare at it all misty-eyed !

3. BAPE x One Piece

bape x one piece

Unlike many OG manga, One Piece keeps the fun going, and is always relevant. For their 20th anniversary, the Straw Hat crew allowed themselves a little madness. Nothing very impressive, just a collaboration with BAPE, one of the biggest streetwear brands in Japan...

As expected, the collection is of impeccable artistic quality. The perfect balance between anime and streetwear, and multiple symbols in honor of our favorite pirates.

The degree of originality is such that they even thought of designing a durag featuring Zoro, no less! It proves that the design team is really interested in the essence of the anime, and we can only love it. As long as the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy continue, we can expect new projects at any time !


4. Uniqlo x Sailor Moon

Thanks to the beautiful Japanese moon princess, life comes in many shades of pink. So that's the color palette chosen for the iconic collaboration between Sailor Moonand Uniqlo.

On the front page, there are designs worthy of the greatest fashion connoisseurs. These are carefully crafted models, whose patterns and designs truly capture the soul of the warrior.


5. Air Jordan x Slam Dunk

Jordan x slam dunk

As usual, we left the best for last! Again, no favoritism, but if you didn't know Slam Dunk as a kid, you really missed something. Plot, love story, moral values, it's a complete anime in the true sense of the word. Basically, it's what made us really love the sport.

What could be more natural to launch a collection with the Air Jordan. Exclusive items that make basketball lovers and the biggest collectors dream. Who knows, with the movie coming out soon, we might be entitled to a new collaboration ?


The creativity of talented otakus online

Have you ever imagined what it would be like if your favorite heroes went urban too? Well, you don't have to dream about it, because there are talented designers who have dressed them in streetwear. After all, the soul of streetwear is also about giving a voice to the most talented in the community.

The first notable example is the famous artist GOATHE. He stands out from other illustrators by his unique touch and his particular choice to represent famous anime characters in traditional streetwear.

anime naruto in streetwear mode

For this purpose, we find a wide range of manga references: One Piece, Psycho 100, Naruto or My Hero Academia. All these characters are honored in streetwear clothes of big brands, such as: Adidas, NIKE or BAPE and Neighborhood.

One thing is certain, with this enthusiast you will not be bored. Don't hesitate to take a look at his Instagram page!

The second example, just as original as the previous one, is the young artist Kensuke Creations. This prodigy has even launched his own line of streetwear. And just recently one of his illustrations of the anime Gundam in streetwear was even featured in a video of the famous Youtuber PewdiePie!

transformer anime streetwear

Nowadays, the biggest Japanese anime and manga franchises, including hentai, have ended up in the hands of streetwear designers. Soon, this will be an almost systematic step as soon as a new series is launched.

When will we see collections dedicated to the most popular anime of the moment? My Hero Academia, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Shingeki no Kyojin? Only time will tell, but we predict it will happen very soon.

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