Takahiro Kinoshita

Writer Matthew Klassen
Photographer Ryan Willms
Translation Natsumi Oh

The influential Japanese magazine, Popeye, celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016. There aren’t many fashion titles that make it to this landmark, and fewer still that remain relevant to contemporary culture. Over the last decade this wasn’t always the case, but with the addition of current Editor-in-Chief, Takahiro Kinoshita, in 2012, Popeye received a refocus, a redesign and, as a result, a significant renewal. Having previously worked as an editor for Brutus, he brought a wealth of knowledge and a strong vision for the publication’s rebirth when taking over the reins. This eventually lead to Popeye’s reemergence as one of the preeminent men’s fashion monthlies from Japan. We had the opportunity to ask Kinoshita about his relationship with the magazine, as well as delving into what interests him most about the current fashion landscape.



Popeye magazine was established in 1976. Do you remember when you first encountered it?
I must have been 13 or 14 when I first started reading Popeye. This would have been in the ’80s.

When you saw a copy for the first time do you remember what impression it left on you?
Popeye did a lot of sports-related issues back then. I was also an athlete, mostly playing tennis. I remember that Popeye had several issues called ‘Tennis Boys,’ as well as some issues related to activities like skiing and surfing.

Were there other titles with a similar focus that you were reading at the time?
We had a rival magazine in the ’80s called Hot Dog, which is no longer available. Hot Dog had more sex-related articles, relative to Popeye, which I didn’t like so much. However, guys of my age favoured either Popeye or Hot Dog back then. Come to think of it, both names must sound funny to Americans.

Certain stylistic subcultures are taken very seriously in Japan. What were you interested in fashion-wise when you were growing up?
Ivy League was over when I was a university student. That’s when Popeye focused on the American Casual styling which definitely piqued my interest. This was in the mid ’80s. Some of the significant items were Levi’s 501s, polo shirts from Ralph Lauren, Irish Setter boots from Red Wing, BD shirts from Brooks Brothers, baseball jackets from Skookum and US Army surplus M-65s. These are still very popular amongst Japanese people, just like back then. When American clothing took over the whole market, I started to see more traditional British wear. After that, perhaps in the late ’80s to ’90s, there was a domestic brand trend all over Japan, generally called the DC boom. I was very keen on Comme des Garçons and Y’s but soon got into imported brands from Europe and the US.

You played a big role in the recent rejuvenation of Popeye, having taken over as Editor-in-Chief. Can you share your thoughts on steering such an historical publication in a new direction?
My interest in the publication started from reading Popeye in my youth. I cannot express how much of an impact it had on me. I am now working hard to repay that influence and bring back the best in magazines. Those are the reasons why I’m editing Popeye today.

What were some of your experiences before taking on this role, and what lead you to this position?
I was editing the Brutus fashion editions before working for Popeye. I had the chance to present what could be improved at Popeye because it had become a dull fashion magazine, without much culture, and it really needed a renewal.

Popeye is known for highlighting established fashion brands and up-and-coming lines alike. What are some of your old favourites and which new brands have caught your attention?
My style is very much based on American Casual. That also says that I am fond of simply designed clothing made by young emerging designers. Steven Alan Tokyo has a very good mix of basics and modern designer labels which might be a little bit different from what they offer in the US.

The magazine has a decidedly youthful feel, but it’s relevant for all age groups. Is this an important balance for you to achieve?
Inventory might have the same ideas about this. We have no intention of deciding how old our readers should be. There is no boundary between men and women either. It’s natural for a younger generation to have interests in an older generation and vice versa. Thus, I would like to create something worthy for people in their fifties as well as something that can be understood by teenagers. One clear fact is that youth is the best time of your life, and that may be an important focus for Popeye.

Popeye’s tagline is a ‘Magazine for City Boys’. Can you explain what being a ‘City Boy’ means to you?
This of course has nothing to do with where you live or what you wear. What’s most important is that you know who you are. Perhaps also that you have compassion for others. Who ‘City Boys’ are isn’t very clearly defined, but certainly they are someone you can aspire to become.

What excites about the future of Popeye and fashion in general?
Fashion trends are repetitive. This is what I’ve seen personally over the years. The ’70s, ’80s and ’90s styles that I’ve lived through don’t appeal to me so much, but what I saw in the Spike Jonze film Her interested me. Those references to the 1920s seemed new and fresh. In general, I think pre ’60s fashion styling and details can be interesting. As far as Popeye goes, it is going to be the 40th anniversary next year and I hope to create something memorable for this special occasion.