CLUTCH Journal





BELAFONTE / Designer

Things that match my sensibilities become luxurious on my mind.

Having grown up as a teenager influenced by American products and culture, Noboru Tanaka made the decision to move to the United States to see them with his own eyes in 20s. There, he launched his own brand, and moved his base back to Japan in his 30s. Although he had a period when he was inspired by high-end items, he gradually started to rely more on his own sensibilities rather than generally luxurious items as he grew older. To Noboru, the term “casual rich” refers to things that match his own personal taste. To him, just because something is expensive or high in quality doesn’t make it automatically cool.

Pictured on the left are a pair of vintage US Keds, and on the right is a pair of cap toe boots from the 1940s. The BELAFONTE sneakers pictured in the middle were created using elements of both styles, and is a new item for the next season.

“These past few years I have been wearing vintage cap toe boots, but recently I’ve been interested in sneakers with narrow lasts. That’s when I found a pair of vintage Balmoral sneakers. I took elements from both styles to create a completely new pair of shoes.”

This vintage eyewear featuring detailed engravings along the temple and bridge was manufactured in Japan. The round design gives it a more classic look. “As I’ve gotten older, I started to search for a pair of hand-cut glasses from the United States of Europe, but couldn’t find one that satisfied my needs. I decided to change my perspective a bit and began searching for Japanese eyewear made during the Showa era, and realized that there were many glasses with cool designs and made with high quality. I love the classic look, so I chose these rounded glasses.”

Noboru showed up for the interview in a simple outfit consisting of a ribbed pocket T-shirt from BELAFONTE and a pair of classic 5-pocket denim. With a good eye for creating patterns, the denim features a wide and straight workwear-style silhouette with a slim waist, and the attention to details puts them in a different category compared to regular reproduction items. His outfit is perfectly balanced with the pair of vintage cap toe boots, which are one of his favorite footwear styles. In his hand is a pre-war era iron box that is the perfect size for holding everyday accessories, like his wallet, eyewear and handkerchief.
BELAFONTE / Designer
Born in Tokyo in 1969. Having worked with clothing from his teenage years, he moved to the United States in his 20s. There, he launched his own brand before returning to Japan. In 2011, he started BELAFONTE, and also plays the guitar and vocals for ALLSOULS, his three-piece band. His personal favorite guitar brand is Epiphone.

“When you hear the name Epiphone, a lot of people might have the image of it being a cheap version of Gibson. I used to think so as well, before I heard that Epiphone guitars were actually superior in quality to Gibson guitars before the company was acquired by an antique guitar store. The music that I play is based on garage rock with lots of distorted sounds. That is why I customized my guitar to cover the sound hole. I’m against high-end products, but I don’t mind spending a decent amount of money for a musical instrument (laughs).”

Pictured here is a handkerchief made by BELAFONTE. The design features a embroidery that resembles a souvenir jacket.

“I thought about what a souvenir jacket design would look like on a handkerchief when making this item. I don’t dislike bandanas, but I had an image of a handkerchief as a symbol of “casual rich.” The selvedge chambray pictured on the top left is used to make our brand’s shirts. The hawk and Mt. Fuji embroideries were produced based on the image of a souvenir jacket to add a subtle yet stylish design.”

This shirt, which was designed based on a summer knit design that was popularized after the war is one of BELAFONTE’s most iconic items. The three shirts pictured from left to right were released this season, while the shirts on the right, which feature a large duck and yacht pattern, were released in previous seasons.

The three shirts pictured below are part of his personal vintage collection. The shirt on the bottom right features a marlin print, the shirt on the right features a unique pattern that appears differently depending on how you look at it, and the shirt on the left was made for children and features a stylish zipper that meshes with the woven whale design.

“When I lived in LA, I purchased vintage items and managed a vintage shop with my friends, but to be honest, I wasn’t very passionate about vintage clothing at that time. However, after I turned 40, I started to gain a better appreciation of vintage items, and today if I find something I like, I’ll buy it instantly. I don’t believe that there is a need to reproduce these style of knit shirts with a modern twist, so I try to replicate them as close to the originals as possible.”

“I used to work in a studio that was located inside a residential home, so I usually drove to work, but today my work studio is near my house so I generally ride this bicycle to commute. At first glace it may look like a pre-war bicycle, but it is actually from the 1960s-1970s.”
“This bicycle looks like a classic pre-war British design, but it’s actually a relatively new model. The fact that it was made in China, and not the UK, made it even more appealing to me. The design is very similar to a RALEIGH, but that sense of cheapness really matched my own taste. I had my friend find this specific model for me, and although it’s not an expensive bicycle, it is very important to me and I take great care of it. I use a tire tube to attach this old steel box on the back so I can carry things around while I ride around the city.


This leather bag showcases the highest level of craftsmanship.

“I never cut corners for any product I make, but once in several years, I make something that I can be truly proud of from the bottom of my heart. This leather bag is a perfect example of that,” he says, as he introduces this BELAFONTE bag. This bag was reconstructed using brown leather based on the design of the iron box attached to the back of his bicycle. Made with high quality tanned leather, the bag ages beautifully over time, and the concave and convex designs on the side require an extremely high level of craftsmanship.

Pictured here are two new items released by BELAFONTE. Their designs were based on the SUPER BIG MAC work shirts from the 1940s. BIG MAC, a workwear label established by J.C. PENNEY, released items under the  “SUPER” symbol for a limited time between the 1930s and 1940s.

“I wasn’t so interested in how rare they are, but instead I fell in love with the long point collars and details of the stitchwork. We carefully reproduced these details and created our own original fits.”

This custom-ordered belt from goro’s was purchased by Noboru when he was 20 years old, and has been used for over 25 years.
“I don't really like luxury items, but I have a very strong fondness for this belt, and I take great care of it. A friend of mine at the time introduced me to the brand goro’s, where I ordered this custom belt that features gold hibiscus flowers scattered throughout. I’ve been using this belt for a long time and it has yet to fade in color, which tells me that high quality items are really made to last a lifetime.”

Photo by Nanako Hidaka  Text by Shuhei Sato  

*This journal was reedited from the feature story from the 2016 April “CLUTCH Magazine” vol. 56 issue. 

belafonte casual rich

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