Free & Easy magazine
number 110 (December 2007)
Free & Easy, launched 1998, has a cult following in Western style circles. It's a thick glossy Japanese magazine. Most of it appears to be a comically detailed report on the classic and casual style of the Western male. It's difficult for us to discern particulars, though. It has the occasional and mysterious English buzzword but, as my cosmopolitan friend puts it, "it's all in funny" apart from that.
US forces dazzled us in World War II. We never got over aspects of the culture they introduced, and it got to the point where we preserved what the US neglected. Our love for rhythm & blues, rock & roll and rockabilly led to the British Invasion.
US forces dazzled Japan after World War II. The country never got over aspects of the culture their captors introduced. Japan valued ever more what the US discarded. It's got to the paradoxical point where the best US clothes are Japanese. The reproductions are artefacts themselves, and North America covets even catalogues like Free & Easy.
The past is a mythic, better country. That's what Free & Easy implies, and that's one of the reasons I love it. Steve McQueen naturally tends to figure a lot as well. I do wish I understood it all more, though. Is it a bit homoerotic? I'm not gay, just confused. A salty sea dog on a Harley is a typical photo shoot, so it's at least the pictorial celebration of a spectacular midlife crisis. The cartoon diagrams that detail outfits make me laugh. I plan to sit down a lucky Japanese girl I know and make her read several issues to me.
|My Rugged 211|
Free & Easy editor Minoru Onozato put out a book last year called My Rugged 211, which features a couple of hundred of his favourite style things. (If repetition is anything to go by, rugged in the world of Free & Easy is the best English word ever.) It has genuine and intentional charm and humour in places, but it's repulsive compared to Free & Easy.
My Rugged 211 is sort of bilingual. Something's obviously lost in translation (I hate that film, by the way). The unfortunate thing is, that's only part of the problem.
Onozato explains how his childhood hero was an iconic Welsh rugby player called J.P.R. Williams. That rugby player's career, he says, is "far beyond mine". Onozato then describes himself in comparison as a humble "editor in chief ... fashion creator and ... executive officer of a listed company" (I make it sound as if there's huge amounts of text, but it's mostly photographs).
False humility aside, 50 of Onozato's 211 favourite style things are Ralph Lauren. Free & Easy also has its issues, so to speak. Both the book and the magazine have a soft spot for stupidly big four-wheel drives, and stupidly big racist Eric Clapton can turn up in the magazine.
My Rugged 211 is about £50 on eBay. The magazine upholds the belief you have to spend a good deal of effort and money to appear free and easy, that much is obvious. The current average price of a back issue on eBay is about £30. You can get the latest copy for £22.50 including postage from End Clothing, a Newcastle upon Tyne clothes shop, if you're fast. Too late, February's has gone. (If only you were in Japan, it'd be a mere ¥980/£7.50.)