Yoshio Suyama, a Hogtown dandy


Yoshio Suyama in a Cabaret custom-made suit. Yes, that’s a giant butterfly tattoo peeking out of his shirt.

I like the word “dandy.” And I like being called a dandy. In fact, I was originally going to title this website “The Hogtown Dandy.” But sadly, the word has too many negative associations. Some men think it means affected, flamboyant, superficial and effeminate (even though that in itself is not negative). I follow its original meaning, being a man who is concerned with his dress and takes great pleasure and fun in building a wardrobe.

And I’m not the only one. There is an entire movement of men reclaiming the word “dandy” and wearing it with pride. I would include fellow Torontonian Yoshio Suyama in that camp.

Yoshi on Yonge. Source: Instagram.

Yoshio on Yonge. Source: Instagram.

Yoshio grew up in Japan and after finishing school, moved to London, England. At the time, he was starting a career in barbering and his look was full-on 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. Thus all the tattoos.

Yoshi's impressive tattoo. Photo by Ink Butter, source: Instagram

Yoshio’s impressive tattoos. Photo by Ink Butter, source: Instagram

But in England he discovered the styles, fashions and way of life of the 1920s and 30s. And he fell in love with the look, the movies, the music, the characters. It was a look he felt that would mesh relatively well with contemporary fashion, better than, say, the 1880s. After all, men still wear suits, not so much top hats and frock coats. While in London, he met a barber from Toronto who helped convince him that his next stop should be our fair Hogtown. That was over a year ago and Yoshio is firmly ensconced in our city, working as a barber at Garrison’s.

Yoshio’s grandfather first inspired him to dress well. At an early age, Yoshio remembers his grandfather wearing a kimono at home but changing into a suit and hat whenever he went out. Plus, he had a massive moustache. Yoshio’s other great inspiration is Fred Astaire. Yoshio aspires to not only dress like Astaire, but to embody his elegance, grace and even his sense of humour.

Yoshi Suyama. Source: Instagram

Yoshio Suyama. Source: Instagram

In that spirit, Yoshio doesn’t take it all too seriously. While he is meticulous in the way he combines all the elements of an outfit, insuring that everything is just right for the era, he admits his clothes are a costume. And I can strongly relate to this. For a number of years, I went to Japanese Anime conventions, often dressed as my favourite characters. That’s when I realized how much clothing can change you and the way you feel about yourself. And that clothes can be a celebration. Now, I can’t walk around dressed as a samurai and go unnoticed. But when I dress in a three-piece tweed, inspired by the great looks of Downton Abbey, not too many people bat an eye. As Yoshio says, what he wears is “a costume for every day life.”


Watch out for that streetcar, Yoshio. Source: Instagram

That said, it isn’t easy being a dandy. We may think our society is all about individual freedoms, but try telling guys they don’t always have to wear jeans. Or try walking around in a fedora. You’ll see how closed-minded we really are. Yoshio tells me people sometimes laugh at him. I’ve experienced this too. I understand that that laughter comes from a lack of confidence or sheer ignorance. For Yoshio, it is a reminder that he must believe in himself and be confident that he’s doing what’s best for him. And the reaction isn’t always laughter; Yoshio and I receive our fair share of compliments.

The “full vintage” look may not be for you and Yoshio is ok with that. “Be yourself,” is his clothing advice, “you don’t have to dress like me.” But if you are interested in a more vintage look, Yoshio’s advice is to watch old movies and musicals. Like sartorial archaeology, I’d suggest.

You can follow Yoshio on Instagram.