08 October 2010

Hayashida & 'Nioi' Part III

What is Nioi?

This is Nioi.

And this.

"Not many people dress like that in Japan." T.Hayashida

Mr. Hayashida's use of 'smell' is from the Japanese word, 'nioi.' The literal translation is smell, aroma, odor, but it also means having a sensitivity for something. That is, being able to sense what and what isn't traditional. Ivy style has it's own "nioi" that one, "just knows." We would call it an aesthetic.

The Trad: Did you notice much of a difference from campus to campus in terms of student style?

Hayashida: Yes, there was a difference from place to place. The atmosphere or ‘smell’ of each campus was different. That’s what I like. This different atmosphere or smell from school to school.

For example, at a small school like Brown, the style was very smart without being flashy. When I visited Brown on a later trip I was surprised that most of the ivy on the buildings had been removed. It costs a lot to keep up and can cause damage to the buildings. I was with a friend, who translated, and as we went around the campus I learned so much. These experiences could never be turned into money. They're priceless.

The Trad: You mentioned the atmosphere of Cornell – could you describe it?

Hayashida: It’s a small country town. Not a ‘country-like’ town, but really rural. Dartmouth, too, is a small country town. To say it another way, the landscape around the campus is expansive. For example, the mountains around Dartmouth. At Cornell there are a number of waterfalls and rivers. I was really astonished by the natural beauty. So it’s rural but in a good sense of the word.

The Trad: In contrast, how would you describe some of the other schools like Yale, Harvard and Princeton? Were they more urban?

Hayashida: More urban in that they are near metropolitan areas. What’s the name of the school in New York City?

The Trad: Columbia?

Hayashida: Columbia. Whenever I go there the thing I notice is that it has no color. No distinct smell. Cornell and Dartmouth are green. That’s how I immediately think of them but not Columbia.

The Trad: You’ve mentioned your favorite schools to visit but if you could only return to one for a day where would it be?

Hayashida: It really depends on the theme I'm thinking of shooting. That makes me waver a bit about deciding which one. I’d really like to visit them all (laughter). A theme makes it easier to decide.

The Trad: What if the theme is how the Ivy style has changed over forty years?

Hayashida: I’d want to go and look at all of the campuses. When something becomes popular, the color and smell of that particular town and campus also has an effect on it. Just because something might become popular doesn’t mean that it will all be the same everywhere. That’s what really appeals to me.

In Japan when something becomes popular, it quickly spreads so that it’s the same everywhere because it's a relatively small place. But America is big. People dress according to their surroundings and circumstances. Take the style of Bermuda shorts worn with a cotton sport coat. In Japan, it’s muggy and hot and such a style might actually make sense. But not very many people dress like that in Japan.

The Trad: How long were you in New York?

Hayashida: Not very long. And even though I wanted to take photos of traditional clothing there wasn’t much of a traditional atmosphere. Anyway, we were there for about two or three days.

The Trad: The photos taken in New York City are very appealing for a couple of reasons. First, the photos of classic men’s clothing. Second are the photos of store windows at night. Why were the window photos taken at night?

Hayashida: First, because there are too many people during the day and the photos couldn’t be taken just by hand but needed a tripod. The other reason is that if it gets too late there’s the chance of being held up. I was always afraid of that so I wanted to shoot before it got completely dark and while there were still some people around.

These images give a good impression of the period. Display windows are a kind of art. There are good windows in Japan but there was nothing like this. I feel I’m sensitive to this kind of thing but I’d never been impressed like this before.

The Trad: How were Brooks Brothers’ windows (pages 96-97) different from display windows in Japan during this period?

Hayashida: Completely different. The atmosphere was completely different. So different that it’s really hard to express. Those windows were stylishly tasteful. A tasteful men’s style is not flashy. I think that it’s this sense of simple transparency that makes men’s clothing tasteful.

The Trad: The photos taken at night are very well focused and have a certain power about them in the way the darkness of the night frames the windows.

Hayashida: They were taken using a large heavy tripod. I’m not trying to praise myself but they were taken with a certain amount of intent. The windows don’t speak but they're ornamental like still life paintings. They need to be shot with certainty. I wanted to do them justice because they were valuable material.

The Trad: Were the photos of New York City taken at the end of your trip?

Hayashida: Some were taken at the beginning of the trip and others at the end.

The Trad: What was it about the men’s dress that impressed you?

Hayashida: Clothing that was inconspicuous. Just wearing normal things – this is what looks cleanest. This is really the key to dressing well. I really don’t like it when someone wears something expensive with the sole intention of standing out.

The Trad: Did you buy anything when you were on this trip?

Hayashida: Some small things and I think I may have purchased some shoes. I only like to wear traditional shoes. Traditional shoes shouldn’t stand out. Men whose manner of dress is too conspicuous really aren’t stylish. When you pass someone on the street and their shoes stand out so much so that it makes you turn your head... that’s really not classic style.

The Trad: The madras shorts on page 30 are very conspicuous…

Hayashida: I really like those. One doesn’t have only quiet inconspicuous clothing. One has variety. I like those a lot. Red, yellow, green, and blue don’t look out of place in these photos but if you look closely there’s always something quietly transparent.

The Trad: Interest in this book has grown largely because of the Internet. Before the book was re-released there was considerable interest due to bits and pieces that made their way into circulation via the Internet. The images resonate with many people across a broad spectrum of ages. Why do you think the book is so appealing to people today?

Hayashida: I never thought that the book would become such a topic of conversation or so well known. I took pictures that I would not be ashamed of but I never thought that the book would be valued in such a way as this.

The Trad: Is there a message that you would like to leave for admirers of your work.

Hayashida: Though it’s good to be conscious - one shouldn’t be overly conscious. What I would like to see is the natural power of choice to be consciously unconscious about oneself. I like choice.

It’s not just about shirts or glasses. It’s about maintaining the future of a traditional Ivy sensibility. Just like these students had. I don’t think it will change, but rather, hope that it will remain. I mean, I may only live for another 10 years or so and though I’ve gotten older -- people have been kind enough to evaluate this work after 40 or almost 50 years. However, by the end of the 21st century, I hope that people will not worry so much about what is most ‘modern’ but remember things ‘as they are.’In what is most natural.

I believe this is the essence of traditional. That might seem a bit abstract but that’s what I think. It’s not about a certain color like a yellow or red or some such thing. It’s about having a sensibility and these things don’t change. I mean, after almost 50 years this sense or ‘smell’ for what is classic hasn’t changed! It still remains. It’s modern but not too modern.

The Trad: Thank you for making so much time in this way today to share your thoughts about your experiences in the making of Take Ivy.

Hayashida: I’ve never talked in such an extended way about this before. It makes me quite happy to be understood and that others understand what we did.


JDelage said...

Nioi is a word that is used a lot in traditional Japanese sword appreciation. It's a feature of the hamon (quench line) on some traditional swords. Some hamon are in 'nioi', others are in 'nie', etc.

There - a tidbit of useless Japanese trivia for you.

Silk Regimental said...

Wonderful series of posts -

"A tasteful men's style is not flashy .... simple transparency"

Love it.

Anonymous said...

Nice interview. Now give us a Friday Belt, please.

Patsy said...

I love to hear/see people speak about their work when they truly enjoy and are proud of it and Mr. Hayashida seems to enjoy his immensely.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating interview. Thanks. That there was a giant gap in time where no one thought or remembered these people and their ground-breaking book, is testimony to how America views ever-changing trends. We seem to live in the nano-second and have a tendency not to look in the rearview mirror for decades at a time.

Nor, especially, do we realize how influential the West's impact on "foreign" cultures has been since the end of WWII. When seven men can dress in Western cut clothing and pose for a portrait next to a poster of a young Marilyn Monroe - all without a hint of irony on their faces - that should be proof of our impact abroad.

And lurking right around the corner from Ivy: The Beatles.


ADG said...

Once again. The inclusion of these interviews, verbatim and with pictures, would have breathed a transformational calibre of "life" into the Take Ivy re-issue.

Thank you.

David M. said...

Great interview, thanks. Just as scanning 'Take Ivy' a couple years ago turned into the book being re-released in English (and it did), this interview, in time, will be bigger than you think.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for doing these interviews. They have been extremely insightful, and have made the book even more enjoyable.


Ari said...

Enjoyed this interview. Great questions, thoughtful answers.

Anonymous said...

fuck. yes. bravo, sir.