Whether it’s the flamboyant outfits of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure or the perfectly tailored day-to-day school outfits from series like Sailor Moon, eye-catching fashion and character design in anime and manga is a mainstay. Given how fashion-forward so many anime series are, it only makes sense that anime-inspired fashion trends would crop up. From record-breaking movies to best-selling manga, the past two years have been especially huge for manga and anime, and all the merchandise around it.
On TikTok, anime merchandise and clothes specifically rose in popularity. Where official merch was harder to come by, smaller sellers started creating streetwear for manga like Chainsaw Man. Others looked for T-shirts or replicas of their favorite characters’ accessories, like earrings. Others just wanted cute products inspired by their characters’ outfits, which is where the popular Shinobu Kocho swimsuit came in.
The merch and content around it seemed endless. Individual influencers posted videos about how they would style their anime merch and posted anime-inspired outfits. Together, anime merchandise and clothing became a major consumer trend. Now even larger companies are likely looking to cash in on the anime merch boom — Shonen Jump even launched a clothing store in January. Given the pervasiveness of it all, Polygon staff happened to pick up some anime merch over the years — so we decided to write about our favorite anime merch and why we like it so much.
Limited Edition Akira shirt from Creep Illusion
I have an extensive collection of graphic shirts that, as a whole, offer a pretty clear picture of my tastes and interests when it comes to movies, books, music, and art. Surprisingly though, not a lot of anime-themed shirts, with the exception of one anime in particular that should surprise no one who actually knows me personally: Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 apocalyptic sci-fi epic Akira. The series, both the six-volume manga and its aforementioned anime adaptation, left an immeasurable impact on my fledgling love of the medium back when I was a teenager and as such, my favorite piece of anime apparel — a limited edition screenprint I copped from the Indonesian T-shirt shop Creep Illusion, complete with a vinyl capsule logo — is dedicated to Otomo’s magnum opus. I don’t wear it often, but I absolutely love it. —Toussaint Egan
Gon and Killua Hunter x Hunter shirts
I only started watching anime in the last year or so, stuck waffling between so many options, unsure of where to start. When I asked friends for recommendations, Hunter x Hunter kept coming up — so I decided to take the plunge. I ended up loving the show so much that I binged entire seasons in just a few weeks. By the end of Heavens Arena, I already knew I wanted a shirt, and I already knew the style I was going for. Zumiez carries a ton of Hunter x Hunter merch, and I like the line featuring the eyes of one of the main characters, with the rest of the shirt in a coordinating color palette. I just had the impossible task of choosing who to commit to.
I was struggling between Killua, Kurapika, and Hisoka — my personal favorites — or just buying all of them, honestly. My boyfriend (and anime-watching partner) came in with the perfect solution: I would get a Killua shirt, and he would get a Gon shirt. We would be disgusting and wear them together to celebrate our favorite boys. (Don’t talk to me about Chimera Ant). So far, wearing them has been a fun way to find other Hunter x Hunter fans, and to remind them that bungee gum possesses the properties of both rubber and gum. —Nicole Clark
Demon Slayer Giyu Cardigan
Steady Hands makes some of the best subtle anime merch on the market, but their cozy cardis are the clear standouts. Many of them are so popular you can only buy them during once-a-month drops and they take two months to ship out. But the wait is beyond worth it. In the fall, I invested in my first Steady Hands cardi — the one based on Giyu’s haori in Demon Slayer — and it immediately became my go-to outfit. The quality is absolutely fantastic and I’m constantly getting compliments on it from people who don’t even know the reference.
I fell so in love with it that only a month after receiving my first cardigan I ordered a second, this one inspired by Tokyo Revengers’ Draken, and my husband ordered a Giyu cardigan of his own. Since then, Steady Hands has already released even more new cardi designs and I know it’s only a matter of time before a third finds its way into my closet. —Sadie Gennis
Kurapika’s Earrings from Hunter x Hunter
I like these earrings a lot because they’re subtle. I have my fair share of clothing items with more noticeable anime characters on them (this is where I admit I also own a pair of Hunter x Hunter pajama pants), but these earrings work with a wide variety of outfits. I can pair them with a nice dress for a formal setting and still pay homage to one of my favorite characters of all time. Did I buy them for cosplay reasons? Maybe, maybe so — but I also just wear them whenever I can.
Within the show, we only ever see Kurapika with one earring, which means that the other one doesn’t necessarily have to be a red gem. The seller I got these from had a few options available, but I went with the dagger design, because I just think that’s neat! —Petrana Radulovic
Evangelion Fourth Angel Soccer Jersey
In Evangelion, god-like monsters called “angels” wreak destruction on the world. Their existence brings pain and suffering to the lives of characters like Shinji Ikari. In my day-to-day life, these same monsters make for the perfect outfit accessory.
One of my favorite pieces of anime clothing is this “Evangelion Fourth Angel Soccer Jersey” from Atsuko. The lightweight shirt feels like the pure embodiment of streetwear. Its bold black and red color scheme, coupled with the absolutely giant depiction of Sachiel, who to the non-Evangelion fan just looks like some sort of punk monster, never fails to win my compliments when I go out. I bought it oversized so I can layer it over a black hoodie or long-sleeved shirt during the winter. In the summer, I’ll wear it as it, and pair it with black bike shorts and black Dr. Martens. It’s so intense you can’t do all that much with it, but you also don’t really need to.
As a child who grew up around sports like soccer and football, it’s fun to finally have a jersey of my own to wear. (Even if I’m not rooting for the angels to win.) The jersey is high quality — it’s an actual soccer jersey with the shiny sticker and all. Unfortunately, it’s sold out at Atsuko at the moment and it’s unclear if the store plans to restock. —Ana Diaz
Soma Yukihira’s diner shirt from Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma
I used to think I loved cooking, but the pandemic taught me a key truth: Actually, I love hosting and sharing a cooked meal with my friends. I also love watching competitive cooking shows. Cooking for myself, on the other hand, is a complete chore — and when left to my own devices I will often just eat a weird pantry snack meal, foraging from bits and bobs like a raccoon.
I was hoping to find something to play in the background of cooking, basically as encouragement, after I’d burned out on Top Chef. I’d initially chosen Food Wars! because it seemed to fit the bill. But I was totally wrong! The show is not a background watch — boarding school students fight each other to make the tastiest dishes, and also people’s clothes burst off in a horny flight of passion whenever the food is really good. The show hasn’t just re-ignited my desire to cook — it has also made my cooking better. So I ordered this long-sleeve crewneck from Etsy, the one that Soma Yukihira wears when he’s cooking in a food war. Sadly, it hasn’t arrived yet. But I look forward to wearing it while cooking, which will give me plentiful opportunities to shout “ORDER’S UP” and “YOU’RE WELCOME.” —NC
Bakugo crop top
I love a crop top, and now that I’m working remotely, they make up a startling portion of what I wear. That’s why I was so excited to find TheOkakuStudio on Etsy, which carries a small selection of anime-inspired crop tops. While Bakugo isn’t my ultimate favorite character in My Hero Academia (that honor goes to sleepy king Aizawa), he is fairly high on the list, so the second I saw the top inspired by his hero costume it got added to my cart.
I love merch that’s on the more subtle side and was surprised by how versatile the shirt turned out to be. The material is super stretchy and you can easily use it as a workout top, but I prefer to dress it up with a pair of high-waisted black jeans or leggings. If you wanted, you can even pop on a blonde wig and a few accessories to use it for some low-key cosplay (which I have 100 percent done). My Bakugo crop top really does it all. —Sadie Gennis
Pokémon Gengar Backpack
This Gengar backpack is really just a ruse to allow me to take a really cute Pokémon plushie with me everywhere. Part plushie, part purse, this bag allows me to reasonably tote around the chonky ghost-type with me wherever I like. For how cute it is, it’s surprisingly practical. The internal pocket is spacious and can easily hold my wallet, phone, and keys. It’s not the best for errands, it is a little clunky in size and it can take a moment to fish out the right item from the pouch inside. However, it is really fun to tote around with you while hanging out with friends. I just love being able to hold it in my lap as I chat or eat.
I wear a lot of blacks so it brings some color and something a little lighter to soften to my outfits. In the winter I’ll usually wear long skirts with tights and long jackets. I pull the straps long so it hangs a little bit low and Gengar just looks cute hanging out there. I’ll wear like a dozen different textures from flurry headbands to wooly scarves at once, so I like throwing it in the mix. Also … I just adore Gengar. I count the ghost in the high ranks of my “favorite Pokémon” list so I’m especially happy to have it along for the day. —AD