Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Kid You Not….. Some of the Best Men’s Magazines in Japan

Oily Boy..well…well…what to say about Oily Boy.

The magazine is produced by the people that create Popeye (which is like a Japanese version of Nylon magazine).

Oily Boy, however, is for the “elder boys” market. I am a little troubled that it’s surprisingly so good. I would love to shoot something for them but if I stop someone on the street and say “Hi. you look great..can I shoot you for Oily Boy?” I’m positive I would get punched out.

Click to enlarge any of these magazine pages.

Men’s Ex is the magazine in Japan that I contribute a page to every month.

It focuses more on the Italian style that I love rather than all the typical runway stuff. Actually it’s more of a shopping guide for Sartorialists, except most the the items are only available in Japan. It is one of the few magazines I would subscribe to if I wasn’t already working for them.

I’m also proud of the fact that the guys who work at Men’s Ex are very, very stylish and appear on my blog often.

Leon…another great men’s magazine that focuses on classic Italian style.

Mens Fudge, I don’t even know where to begin…so I won’t

I buy these magazines at the shops listed below.

Supposedly you can buy the magazine over the phone with your credit card and they will ship it to you. I’m sure it works fine, but I can’t vouch for it myself.

1073 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY

Asahiya Bookstores
360 Madison Ave, New York NY


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  1. thwany

    December 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

    have you read any korean magazines? they’re amazing.

  2. Jack Daniel

    December 11, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Get Commons & Sense. Best japanese fashion magazine ever!

  3. eric

    December 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    hi im from germany
    and I have been looking for the mens ex magazine for a long time. do you know, if i can get these magazines somewhere here? or is there somekind of internet order possibility?

  4. mark

    December 11, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    sart…. great post. ty for all the leads.

  5. The Man Who Knew Too Much

    December 11, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Not only is Japanese craftsmanship and industrial design top-notch, their magazines are also of high quality and I am glad that I can buy them here in Amsterdam as well!

  6. thebelljarbird

    December 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    fudge (ladies verston) is the love of my life…too bad they don’t do a soen for men as well.

  7. Dominica

    December 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Japan rules !
    Everytime hubby goes to Japan, he brings girly magazines for me – like Marie-Claire – Elle etc. …
    Funny and afterwards nice to use the paper with the Japanese texts (glued) on shoe-boxes…they look so much funkier …

  8. pearl

    December 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I’m a girl myself, but am also an illustrator. Flicking through Japanese men’s magazines is very inspiring for reference.

  9. Mohammad

    December 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I was member of LEON and some others Japanese fashion for few years when I was living in Japan. These magazines are so efficient. You can learn a lot about what’s new in men fashion world or how to set things together, where is good place to buy your favorite items and how much cost each set with complete price details and brands.

  10. lisa

    December 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I’m really curious as to the rationale behind the name Oily Boy. Maybe they were trying to target their magazine toward slick gentlemen? ;)

  11. Dreams

    December 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    me encanta tu blog!!!

    besitos desde Málaga


    I love your blog!!!
    Kiss from Málaga (Andalucía, Spain)


  12. Anonymous

    December 11, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    What unfortunate names, ha ha!! Oh my – but I do looove Japanese magazines. I especially appreciate the wonderful catalog-style layout. So much more efficient than the American magazine format with all the models and overstyling etc., isn’t it?
    Glad to hear you’re a contributer to at least one!

  13. Anonymous

    December 11, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Tyler Brule just gave a big thumbs up for OILYBOY (see last weeks FT weekend article). Since everything he touches is gold, I best run out and buy this mag. Even if I can’t read it.

    Thanks for the recommended reading.

  14. The Life and Times of a Southern Foodie

    December 11, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I am so glad you are bringing attention to these Japanese magazines.

    I spent some time in Tokyo and found some of the best looking clothing and ensembles in thier magazines.

    What I was so surprised about was how many magazines embraced mature asian and caucasian models.

    It the seems Japanese a problem with males leaving youth behind and embracing their age.

    I hope it catches on here. This youth culture is tiresome at best.

    Act and dress your age!

  15. Anonymous

    December 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I am pretty sure the name “Oily Boy” comes from a pun on the Japanese word 老いる (oiru) which means “to get old.” The magazine is formatted to look almost exactly like the original Popeye from the mid-’70s, so the idea is bringing those initial readers back with a bit of nostalgia. This is a one-off mook (magazine + book) but if it does well, they will no doubt make it seasonal or something. Popeye was the first “catalog magazine” in Japan and set the pattern that everyone follows today.

    Most of the older men’s magazines have never seen huge sales compared to the younger men’s magazines even though older men are the only consumer segment with money in Japan these days. That being said, Men’s EX is one of the few with an uptick in circulation — maybe thanks to The Sartorialist!

    Japanese fashion magazines really have no analog in the United States, because American magazines have these pesky things called “articles” where they write about or interview famous people. Japanese magazines are pure product guides and style textbooks. And of course, most of it is advertorial, which is hated in the U.S. but is the reasons why Japanese consumers understand brands so well. Magazines give a chance to see full collections on models in almost every issue.

    Most importantly, Japanese magazines really reflect the spirit of Japanese fashion: it’s about propriety, doing things perfectly. In the new AERA Style Magazine, focused towards men, one of the first lessons on how to be stylish reads: “The most important thing is not having good taste, but following the rules.” That says it all about the cultural difference.

    More on Japanese magazines here, if interested:

    Recent circulation figures:

    W. David Marx

  16. Anonymous

    December 11, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Maybe Men’s Fudge should get together with Oily Boy :op

  17. f2images

    December 11, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Next time I’m at my favorite japanese food store in IL, I’m going to have to look for these!

  18. Rom / Rub according to the barista

    December 12, 2008 at 2:10 am

    I think Japan brings the greatest (but underrated) design influencers in the world. I equate this country with Sweden when it comes to great aesthetics and a good sense of what is beautiful.

  19. Petulia

    December 12, 2008 at 2:29 am

    I was just reading the same thing on the Fast Lane (Tyler Brule) section of the FT!
    I guess now, I will have to buy some of these mags and take a look. Thanks for the pointer!

  20. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I went to japan twice(and i’ll go there soon again)…
    that’s a crazy place!!! i’m not the same person anymore!

  21. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 3:55 am

    Almost all my fashion inspiration from magazines come from japanese men’s fashion mags. Not to mention they are so good at styling clothes for shorter gents.

  22. chirooo

    December 12, 2008 at 4:39 am

    I read that the title “Oily Boy” comes from the nick name of Jiro Shirasu(白州次郎), who negotiated for the GHQ after Japan defeated in WW2. He was called “Oily boy” because he was a car maniac. He’s still popular in Japan because of his cool styles and personality.

  23. hannah

    December 12, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for mentioning kinokuniya! its one of my favorite bookstores, and besides the wealth of magazines, has an amazing sewing/patternmaking/crafts section with some incredibly creative and unique books.

  24. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 7:30 am

    “From old editors”…that’s pure marketing genius! :))

  25. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Oily Boy = Old Boy

    Japs have phonetical difficulties with English.

    Old Boy makes perfect sense with the mission and the content of the magazine.


  26. Dan in Richmond

    December 12, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Very interesting. US men’s “fashion” magazines are hardly inspiring, at least not the ones readily available. I’m going to look for LEON now.

  27. t

    December 12, 2008 at 11:24 am

    chirooo is right – “Oily Boy” was the nickname of the de facto diplomat and businessman/millionaire Jiro Shirasu (1902-1985) that he earned while studying at Cambridge University in the mid-1920s. It seems he spent most of his time there tinkering with cars and getting oil all over himself and driving around Europe rather than being in the classroom. Maybe it’s a British term/slang that was used during the early twentieth century.

    Instead of his postwar diplomatic work, Shirasu, with his movie star good looks (he was also exceptionally tall for a Japanese of his generation) is now known as sort of an original Japanese Sartorialist for his love for Henry Poole three-piece suits and as being one of the first Japanese to wear a pair of jeans. In his later years, he also appeared as a model for Issey Miyake.

    Although the text is in Japanese, the following link is worth checking out for the photos of Shirasu:

  28. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I’m a Japanese girl and it’s very nice to hear that you guys paid a lot of attentions to the Japanese magazines. Reading mags is fun, but you should come and shop around in Tokyo if you love clothes!


  29. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    You’ve not been to Japan to shoot photos yet, Sarto. It would be great if you’d go there!

  30. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    thank you all for such a mind broadening dialogue to remind us that style and fashion signifiers are everywhere in the world besides the west…it is all about Shirasu and Japanese mens magazines (which thankfully our sizable diverse Asian population here in Toronto makes possible to access the wealth of Korean, Japanese, Hong Kong and Singaporean versions, etc…)at this moment for me until the dialogue points somewhere else on our globe…what Tyler Brule understands and models so well with Monocle…thanks Sart for facilitating…

  31. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I bought almost a hundred dollars worth of Japanese magazines at the airport in Tokyo–no matter the topic, they absolutely rock! Love your site…guess I’m a capital L lurker!

  32. Anonymous

    December 12, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Japanese mags are crazy! They are so detailed and immaculate. I love most of the magazines you mentioned though I see Popeye more often than Oily Boy.

    One thing that I really really can’t stand is that for some reason, most of the suit trousers in the styling, 99% appears to be about 1 inch too short (not in the trendy way either).

    And being very Japanese, all the stylish Japanese men copy these looks down to the T, so I see streets full of these too short trousers (I live in Japan at the moment).

    I go on the street, see their very stylish hair, watches, coats and then I have to ignore the trouser hem and skip to the very beautiful shoes. If only the hems are an inch longer!! (Apologies for my frustration but the balance, however I look at it, is off….)

    I am sure Japanese who travels often or live abroad probably do not have this problem so you may not notice this???

    I would love to hear opinions. Is it just me who sees this? Can someone share my view on this?

  33. james

    December 12, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    i'm dying to check out tokyo, seoul & hong kong for some major shopping in '09. interesting mag titles…

  34. Kati

    December 12, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I love Kinokuniya! So fun. We have a few here in the SF Bay Area. Japanese fashion magazines are awesome–I love the free gifts!

  35. Jennifer

    December 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I heartily second another comment to go to Japan and shoot there! I think it would be so fun and interesting. Whenever I go to Japan, I always feel like I see “trends” pop up there years before I see them emerge in the States.

  36. Anonymous

    December 13, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I have been living in Japan for almost 5 years and all my old friends ask why I don’t come back to NYC–well, I love NYC but life in Japan, especially in the country is so amazing. And these magazine are really great but the style on the street is equally amazing. Everyday, everywhere is FULL FRONTAL FASHION and the people are great, too.

  37. Anonymous

    December 13, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I used to live in Japan, so I’m glad to see Americans embracing Japanes fashion magazines! They’re more like fashion catalogs rather than magazines, just pages and pages of fashion! For anyone who doesn’t live near a Japanese book store, you can order Japanese magazines online at They have Leon and Men’s Ex. Uomo and Men’s Club are also two other great men’s fashion magazines. Men in their teens and twenties might like Men’s Non-No and Smart.

  38. Anonymous

    December 13, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Men’s Non-no is another one worth checking out. They do a fairly extensive Street Snap feature a few times a year which usually encompasses a few different cities across the globe. Not just the cities you’d expect either, Glasgow and Brussels have been featured in previous years!

  39. Jake Astig

    December 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

    yep. i’ve been subscribing to men’s club for a year now. it’s very educational. i love the different looks that they put together. excellent reference!

  40. dapper kid

    December 16, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I was introduced to Oily Boy by my father oddly enough. He has had a subscription for a while now, and I can always find the latest issues rolled and sticking out his Barbour pocket!

  41. okdc

    December 18, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Hey, great post. I am happy to see that the men’s fashion media is flourishing somewhere with DNR and Men’s Vogue falling here. I am curious about something you mentioned about Mens Ex and Leon focusing on Italian style. Do any of the magazines focus on British style? I have heard that classic American style is big in Japan as well.

  42. Josh in Seoul

    December 21, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Japan rocks!
    I live in Seoul, but travel to Japan often for business and I try to book an extra day to shop at the “select shops” like Beams, United Arrows, etc…

    The Japanese have magazines devoted to everything in the world!

    The only American equivalent of a Japanese fashion magazine that comes even remotely close is probably InStyle…but that’s for ladies…

    Japanese fashion magazines don’t have expensive photo shoots shot in exotic locations that seems obligatory for American fashion magazines.
    They are an efficient quasi text book/manual/catalog.

    But regarding style…Japanese seem to have fastidiously studied classic Italian style and have gotten very good at “carrying it off” with ease.

    Ofcourse there are still salary men with suits that hang off their shoulders and pants length that are just too long…but over all I think the most stylish people in the world are in Italy and Japan…best haircute in the world would have to be Japan though…and these magazines plus well educated shop staff sure must have played an important role in making them look so good.

    PS…I found out about theSartorialist through Men’s EX ^^

  43. Anonymous

    December 22, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Kinokuniya is one of the most wonderful stores in NYC. It is chock full of lovely little gifts for anytime and tons of Japanese magazines.

  44. Bruno Azevedo

    December 27, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Can someone tell what designer are the boots on the cover of Leon? They are amazing!!!

  45. Yas

    December 29, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    hi Bruno,

    I looked at the list what the model is wearing on the cover page of Leon, it says
    CROCKETT&JONES' boots, it looks the model named "CONISTON", but a slightly different color though. Check it out!

  46. Nik

    November 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you so much for providing the make and design of the boots on the cover of Leon, but I am unable to find the exact pair anywhere! If you know where to buy this exact pair, please share! Thanks!

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