Some say the fashion brand’s springtime outfit looks more like Kim Jong Il cosplay.

Japan is a country of starkly distinct seasons, and so the changeover from winter to spring is always one that people look forward to. And it’s not just the blooming of the cherry blossoms that signals the start of spring, but also the flowering of fashion, as people across the country cast off their heavy winter coats for lighter materials and brighter colors as the weather warms up.

However, mixed in among Uniqlo’s springtime lineup of gauzy blouses and short-sleeved shirts is one item that doesn’t quite embody the season’s atmosphere of liberating lightness and easygoing freedom.

The model above is wearing Uniqlo’s new Military Jacket, but while the chain has had past success selling bomber jackets, this design seems to be drawing from a different geopolitical tradition. Specifically, a number of online commenters in Japan think it looks like something someone living in a communist dictatorship would wear, though reactions, such as the ones below, seem split on whether it’s more evocative of China or North Korea’s version of the philosophy.

“A lot of people are saying it has a strong ‘People’s Communist Republic of China’ vibe, but it reminds me more of Kim Jong Il. I thought it must be a joke, but it turns out they’re really selling this.”
“They could probably boost sales by marketing it as a Kim Jong Il cosplay set.”
“Totally Mao Zedong.”
“I’d totally look like a North Korean dictator wearing this.”
“It really needs a cap with a red star to complete the ensemble.”
“That jacket better be manufactured in China.”
“It looks especially unusual seeing a Caucasian guy wearing this.”

Even those who weren’t commenting on the communism connection found things to criticize:

“It looks like a prison inmate’s uniform.”
“How many pockets do you need?”
“No way anyone is going to use all of them.”
“That looks so dorky.”

In all fairness, the Mao suit resemblance is especially strong since Uniqlo’s model is wearing the jacket in tandem with a pair of its baggy Easy Wide Fit Tapered Pants.

▼ Both the pant and jacket are offered in khaki, black, and navy.

The pants and jacket are sold separately, and it’s likely that a different choice of pants, or even a different color, would do a lot to lesson the “government-mandated fashion” aesthetic.

▼ As would modeling the jacket with an expression that doesn’t seem to be saying “Please contact Amnesty International” as much as this one does.

Ironically, neither item is particularly inexpensive, with the jacket costing 6,990 yen (US$63) and the pants 3,990, bringing the total cost of the proletariat package to 10,080 yen.

Despite the online snickering, Uniqlo’s online store itself has some positive reviews for the jacket, with one satisfied customer happy about how the loose-fitting cut allows him to wear thick, warm clothing such as a sweatshirt or parka underneath it. Whether or not the Military Jacket will be a hit at sakura parties and springtime hotspots, though, remains to be seen.

Sources: Kinisoku, Uniqlo, Twitter/#ユニクロ ミリタリージャケット
Top image: Uniqlo
Insert images: Uniqlo (1, 2)

Follow Casey on Twitter, where on any given day at least 30 percent of what he’s wearing is probably from Uniqlo.