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Uniforms are more than spiffy markers of occupation or allegiance; they make walking symbols of the individuals who button them on. By associating a standard set of clothes with themselves, organizations claim the deeds of soldiers, employees, and students for good or ill. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the minds behind marketing and PR push night and day to engender a sense of pride and belonging into even the simplest forms like the ubiquitous tucked T-shirt and baseball cap affair you’ll see in your typical fast food chain. Used correctly, uniforms can go beyond simple identification and promote loyalty, trust, and dedication to a common cause.
In the realm of anime, where there are no pesky limitations like practicality or budget, creators have a lot of leeway to dream up some truly unique uniforms that oftentimes deliver a fun base for group cosplay efforts. They also serve as great insights into a character’s disposition at a glance. For example, a cleanly pressed school uniform typically signals a bright, orderly student while an unbuttoned jacket with a loose tie signals a punk or a “cool kid”.
If you’d join us, we’ll peek into the guys’ dressing room and point out a few of the most iconic designs with particular attention paid to uniforms that provide key details about an individual’s circumstances and the world they live in.
10. Gate: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (GATE)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Following an interdimensional incident, the JSDF is pushed into defending Japan’s interests in the Special Zone, a fantasy world with dragons, demigods, and mages aplenty. Early on, the Type IV Flecktarn Pattern is developed specifically for use in expeditionary operations. It bears a passing resemblance to the US Woodland Pattern that saw extensive use in the 80s minus the black and brown. The idea was to equip soldiers with cheap equipment that would pose less of a risk if JSDF forces had to abandon their gear. The soldiers from the modern world quickly picked up the moniker “The Green Men” from the locals.
Early on, Yoji Itami doesn’t seem like a competently trained warfighter, especially when you consider his status as an otaku. After he’s given a full kit and command of a selection from Japan’s finest, the doubt flies out of the window. The image of a young officer sitting, and sometimes fighting, beside knights clad in plate armor gives a wonderful sense of dissonance that highlights the anime’s premise of two worlds colliding on a massive scale.
9. Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation (Danganronpa: The Animation)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2013 – September 2013
The students of Hope’s Peak Academy toss away the concept of solidarity most uniforms are meant to push, each set being a stand-out expression of their personality and background. Among the boys, the disparity between Kiyotaka Ishimaru and Mondo Owata’s style of dress is the most striking.
Kiyotaka, in order to preserve his family’s honor, lived a strictly regimented life of hard studying, forgoing video games, TV, and even his social life. His pure white military-inspired uniform drapes a visible symbol of the dedication and self-discipline he weathered over his shoulders. Mondo, on the other hand, is the rabble-rousing leader of a biker gang brought up to be tough from a young age. He’s seen in a massive open jacket that shows off a hint of some impressive muscles, just like one of the stronger stereotypical images of high school delinquents in other titles.
8. Gatchaman Crowds
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2013 – September 2013
The original 70s anime decked out the Eagle Riders in heavily avian-inspired Sentai suits that were rather striking for their time. While the heroes of the most recent installment made a transition to metallic, highly individualized sets of power armor favoring bright pastel colors, members of the G-Crew still retain the iconic cry of “Bird go!” when it’s time to transform and lay down the law on some bad guys.
Keeping with his likeness to the stoic image of a virtuous samurai, Sugane Tachibana's uniform takes on a sharp, stoic appearance with a more serious design than his peers. It goes well with his strict adherence to his organizations’ core codes.
7. Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 1995 – March 1996
Ah yes, the plugsuit. These technological marvels are built to match an individual’s specifications and contain a small selection of devices to monitor a pilot’s vital signs and provide basic medical relief in addition to giving them an easier time controlling their mecha. Nifty, but they don’t seem stocked with nearly enough features to give wearers more than a good old college try against the damage an Angel could do if they pierce their cockpits.
On Shinji, the plugsuit really drives home how small he is without the squared shoulders and thick overcoats of other uniforms. The choice of form-fitting material makes him look fragile, even behind the bulk of his EVA unit. Whether intentional or not, the plugsuit offers another harsh dose of genre deconstruction. Who could have guessed that sending teenagers off to do battle with eldritch abominations would prove detrimental to their mental wellbeing?
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2012 – December 2012
The uniforms of Scepter 4 take on a certain knightly charm, they feature deep blue dress coats with little variation spared for the higher-ups, even down to their swords. Taken out of context, you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to convince someone that they were musketeers.
The design choice is largely telling of their police organization roots and fits well with their goal to track the movements of other individuals with supernatural talents in an effort to maintain the structure that the other clans upset through the use of their powers.
Of note is the fact that Scepter 4’s king, Reisi Munakata only bears a black border around the chest of his uniform and a saber with a slightly expanded hand guard. He’s a man that commands respect yet remains on the ground level with his subordinates, never asking more of them than he would ask of himself.
5. Kidou Senkan Nadesico (Martian Successor Nadesico)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 1996 – March 1997
The uniforms of the Nadesico’s crew are a mix between stylish and practical, you can see cues taken from other sci-fi anime titles like the original Gundam in the way that alternate colors and slightly futuristic baubles are trimmed into the shoulders, with the rest typically resembling modern military dress clothes.
Akito Tenkawa goes into battle wearing a yellow cook’s uniform rather than the standard red of the other pilots. The fact that he doesn’t drop his kitchen garb highlights his gentle nature and presence as a reluctant participant in the conflict with the Jovians. He never wanted to fight, but he’ll sure as hell throw down to defend the new home and almost-family he’s grown to love.
- Episodes: 366
- Aired: October 2004 – March 2012
The Thirteen Court Guard Squads eschew the usual tattered robes and scythes that one would expect death gods to hold as a symbol of their office, instead, Tite Kubo’s Shinigami pay homage to their titles by donning primarily black kimonos, a color strongly associated with the finality of death, or in the case of the series, just its certainty.
Being a military organization, functional variations exist to easily signify distinctions in rank and division affiliation for most officers, take the simple inclusion of a sash in Hanataro Yamada’s uniform, for example.
Captains and lieutenants are often given leave to make extensive modifications to their uniforms, (good luck finding a quartermaster brave enough to complain about dress code adherence) Shunsui Kyoraku presents himself as a fine specimen with the way he drapes an additional flower-patterned piece over his captain’s haori. Together with the cream blue obi, he looks more like an easygoing uncle figure that may or may not have just emerged from a midlife crisis than a leader of monster-slaying guardians of the afterlife.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2004 – June 2004
The most common piece of protective gear given as a leg up against the alien menace is simply known as the basic suit. They look a lot like the bodysuits used for motion capture with the nodules spread through their skintight material. While undamaged, they give wearers superb boons to their physical strength and endurance, allowing for herculean feats like leaping several stories in the air without worrying about something so mundane as a few broken bones on the way down.
The basic suit does provide some equal opportunity eye candy, especially on the young men with fuller forms like Masaru Kato, but you’re more likely to scream than salivate as the package comes with front row seats to the raw deal that is the anime’s plot. While impressive against modern hazards, the suits stand up to scarier alien threats like wet paper resists bullets.
2. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
- Episodes: 102
- Aired: April 2017 - Ongoing
Despite being filled with tree-sailing chakra sorcerers that know how to throw a punch, practical design philosophy reigns over the wardrobe of most senior members of the shinobi world. Probably because anyone caught out in a big, flowing ensemble in the field is either very good, or very dead. In Boruto, there are as many variations on standard gear as there are countries, each a result of founding symbology and adaptation to their home environments. It’d eat up the full length of this article if we described each one, so we’ll just take a quick look at a series mainstay, the post-war flak vests of the Hidden Leaf.
The pieces are of a sleeker, more compressed design than those of the previous generation, helping along the imagery of a world in advance. One can speculate that the transition either came from leaps made in material science or a simple lack of need for the heavier design as conflicts around the world deescalate.
They make for a rather neat fit on Kakashi and Guy. Seeing the two old dogs in new clothes is both a treat and a testament to their incredible wisdom and prowess as they aren’t swept away by winds of time.
1. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 – July 2007
Though many of the uniform variants in Code Geass deserve their own mention, the outfit Lelouch vi Britannia wears while under the guise of Zero stands out as the symbol of Japan’s rebellion as well as the anime itself.
The cloaked, dark color scheme of Zero’s uniform is in direct opposition to the primarily white theme of Britannia’s elite Knights of the Round, brazenly challenging the authority of the empire that would see Japan under its thumb. It also emphasizes Zero’s position as an avenging anti-hero, willing to go to absurd lengths to tear down the current power structure in pursuit of his country’s independence.
Literature class stuff aside, can we take a moment to revel in how fabulous it looks? That cloak and head reaching collar are enough to make Dracula jealous!
There you have it, a small taste of some of anime’s most iconic male uniform, representations of organizations and individuals both illustrious and fearsome. If you want to share your thoughts on your favorite pick or throw another glitzy bundle of threads into the conversation, be sure drop a comment below.
For a long time, uniforms have always been part of anime whether they would be school related or not. The reality is uniforms are a part of Japanese school, work culture, and society as a whole. How did this come about? Steve Jobs actually shares this story in an interview on how his black turtle neck sweater and jeans were influenced by the Japanese style of uniforms, and how in extension, also influenced in anime.
During a visit to Sony, Jobs asked the chairman why employees wear uniforms. After World War II, not many people had any clothes and companies like Sony provided their employees something to wear to work. Eventually, the uniforms became a way for the employee to show they are part of the company. In addition, school uniforms are also meant to symbolize this notion as the student is a representative of that school, too.
However in recent times, many schools have been changing from the traditional gakuran for boys and sailor style for girls, in order to actually promote their schools more openly. This is why anime, in the past few years, has been transitioning to blazer style uniforms (as seen in the Parasyte and Wangan Midnight anime series, where the uniforms are changed from gakurans in the original manga to blazers in the anime).
So what are the most iconic uniforms for males in anime? Let's see and find out.
10. Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoiyo!! Masaru-san(Sexy Commando Side Story: That’s Amazing!! Mr. Masaru)
- Episodes: 48
- Aired: January 1998 – April 1998
Despite being unknown to a huge percentage of western audiences, it actually has a large following in Japan. In this anime, Hananakajima Masaru, a martial arts expert comes back from a spiritual journey in mastering the greatest martial art of all. This fighting style is called the Sexy Commando, the ultimate art in distracting your opponent for an easy win. As a condition of membership, they must wear the official club uniform.
The uniform consists of a long sleeved shirt and jeans while with Masaru, he wears two golden shoulder rings. It is easy to cosplay and the concept equally reflects the ridiculousness and strange effectiveness of the Sexy Commando fighting style. It is also an accurate representation of Masaru’s easy going and eccentric personality.
So go to your local retail store and get yourself a sexy commando unicorn and train to defeat the likes of Ronda Rousey and Floyd Mayweather right now!!!
9. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
- Episodes: 45 (ongoing)
- Aired: April 2014 - Ongoing
This is in relation to the saga’s main character, Kujo Jotaro (and a bit of Kakyoin). As a (forgettable) 17 year old, Jotaro is still in high school but he wears an unbuttoned chouran coat as opposed to the standard buttoned gakuran and a worn out school cap (a cap with the uniform is rather outdated, and was even considered outdated when this story was published in the manga over 20 years ago).
This style of dress code, according to the Japanese education system, is the equivalent to someone gangsta sagging his pants. But for Jotaro, he doesn't care. He's tough, smart and knows how to take care of himself. The chouran just simply shows he's a bad ass and to remind the audience he is still a teenager, though his facial design (and his deep voice) makes you think otherwise a majority of the time. Even though showing up to school in a chouran will make a student get reprimanded in real life, nobody gets away with it and makes it look good like Jotaro.
8. Ouran High School Host Club (Ouran Hosuto Koukou Hosuto Kurabu)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
Serving as a “parody” to the Shoujo Genre, this series takes the concept of Host Clubs (in real life Japanese society, these are clubs for women to drink alcohol and talk with handsome men) and waters it down into a high school setting. While the real hosts wear flashy suits, this is reflected in the Ouran High School purple uniform.
It is a great color in appealing to its female audience, it blends effectively with the environment, and I think it does give a bit of a realistic night life vibe, but with a touch of sunshine. It also reflects the clubs pretty boy looks and their well-kept hairstyles.
7. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsuu)
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: April 2006 – July 2006
As stated in the introduction of this article, gakurans in anime are slowly going out of style as a result of real life trend changes. Through The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the audience can get a first mainstream glimpse of this change to using blazer uniforms. Through Kyon, the audience sees a more casual approach to his style by having his shirt un-tucked and his tie lowered, while Itsuki is wearing it properly. I feel that the green suits bring a sense of prestige to their school and blends naturally with their brown hair whether light or dark. Gakurans have been done for years and even though some other series may have done the blazer style prior to this series, Haruhi was the first to make it main stream.
6. Saint Seiya
- Episodes: 114
- Aired: October 1986 – April 1989
In the world of Saint Seiya, the guardians of Athena are assigned battle armors called Cloths, making it something like a uniform in the same vein that the costumes in Super Sentai/Power Rangers are also considered uniforms/armor. Just like the Olympics, the Cloths are ranked Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The Cloths all represent constellations while the Gold Cloths represent the Zodiac. While the Bronze Saint Cloths tend to be thin, the Gold Cloths appropriately fit within the body frame of its bearer by not making them seem too big or too small, but enough to make an opponent feel more than intimidated. For the long haired characters such as Mu, Shaka, Saga, and Milo, without their helmets on their hair flows beautifully and radiates with the armor no matter what the hair color. In addition, it provides just enough protection and allows the right amount of flexible mobility. The designs are all pretty distinct in representing the constellations in their unarmed object form and the figures are a must buy for fans of the series.
5. Mobile Suit Gundam
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: April 1979 – January 1980
This goes mostly in relation to the Red Comet himself, Char Aznable. Appearing in two TV series, a movie, and now his own OAV series, Char has changed his uniforms in each separate installment. In the first Gundam series, he is wearing a spandex military outfit along with a mask/helmet. The design appropriately fits with how space opera/sci-if was done in the 1970's and his outfit is an effective and yet, Japanese extension of that. There is some feeling of both German soldier and Japanese samurai influences with the costume. The mask does bring a majestic and intimidating aura to the character due to his small physical frame.
However, when the character comes back in Zeta Gundam, as opposed to a mask, he wears 80's style oversized sunglasses and wears a uniform that feels like a militia version of Michael Jackson’s suit from Beat It and Thriller. It has 80's appeal written all over it. Plus, his hair grew a little longer, grew taller, and put on some muscle. In the Char’s Counterattack movie, as the new leader of Neo Zeon, he goes back to wearing a more formal uniform that also reflects his nobility as Zeon Daikun’s son and also enough to show his muscular frame. No matter what, he always makes red his color.
4. Slam Dunk
- Episodes: 101
- Aired: October 1993 – March 1996
For a hit 90's series, during the prime of the Bulls with the likes of Jordan, Pippin and Rodman, it is only natural that Shohoku’s jerseys take influence from that popularity. For away games, they wear the red and white for home games. The jerseys naturally blend in with Sakuragi’s hair, but at the same time, you don’t feel that there is too much red on him. Despite the team expressing it in their own distinct ways, the jerseys are also an excellent collective representation of how hot headed and yet, passionate the team members are, and to some people, there is nothing more iconic.
As for Sakuragi, anybody who watches this series and knows basketball can't help but feel he is based on Dennis Rodman. Not based on his hair and brashness, but on his position as a power forward specializing in rebounds, and he shares the same jersey number, 10, when he was in the Pistons.
3. Prince of Tennis
- Episodes: 178
- Aired: October 2001 – March 2005
One of the top Shounen Jump titles with a large female fan base, Prince of Tennis is home to the flashiest of uniforms. Even though in American teenage dramas, the varsity jacket is a symbol for testosterone and the character is a douche bag jock. Prince of Tennis re-defines the appeal of the varsity jacket with a sense of “I want to wear something like that and win Wimbledon,” but in reality “Mada Mada da ne.”
Seishun Gakuen, the central school of this series, the characters wear a white dominant jersey with blue sleeves and some red lining. White is a symbol of purity in Japan and I feel this is most reflected when Ryoma first puts on his varsity jersey. The moment he wears it, it does bring a mature kind of atmosphere to his character, while also showing his innocence. I feel it does bring a sense of unity to this team, but still allows them to demonstrate their regular traits.
2. Dragon Ball Z
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: April 1989 – January 1996
Taking influence from Shaolin Kung Fu monks, the orange gi with a blue undershirt, wristbands, belt, and boots are an iconic staple to the Dragon Ball franchise which originated when Goku trains under Master Roshi during his childhood. It excellently brings out a sense of power with their well-built frames, and makes the hyper paced action sequences easy to follow.
It appropriately makes the wearer (with or without kanji symbols) look like a fighter. The color scheme brings a balance of the hunger for battle but for the protection of peace with an overall masculine atmosphere.
1. Babel II (Babiru Nisei)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: January 1973 – September 1973
This is the classic title that established the archetype in which Koichi (family name differs per version), a schoolboy who wears his uniform, or in this case the gakuran, as their foundational choice of clothes. The gakuran (and any other school uniform for that matter) is meant to symbolize youth.
For the longest time, especially during its initial broadcast and publication, the gakuran was the standard male school uniform and this series made it into a super hero outfit. Thus making it cool to wear a uniform, while to westerners such as myself, I think wearing uniforms to school would suck.
Needless to say, in most of American society, uniforms will not work due to cultural and society differences. Steve Jobs actually got the Sony uniform designer to make an official Apple uniform and employees did not respond well to it. While Americans, such as myself, tend to value individualism, the Japanese are a group oriented society and value harmony. Through uniforms, this quality is expressed in art to the Japanese, whether it would be anime, manga, games, or j-dramas.
But just like in American animation shows like The Simpsons, Japanese animation is still free to break itself from social norms in which it is expressed through Jotaro from JoJo (as well as the characters from Bebop High School). Either way, thanks to anime like Babel II, the regular Japanese schoolboy can imagine himself as a super hero every time he gets ready for school. But the question remains, in Japanese culture, does the man still make the clothes?