Come all ye hoarders and swappers

February 24th, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

Brother, can you spare some shoes? Japanese men are being encouraged to swap their shoes via a new online service called 4 Jigen (Dimension) Closet, which launched this month. To register, men simply upload information about a pair of shoes they’re willing to loan out and once that’s done, they can borrow a “new” pair of shoes from an online collection of secondhand shoes for a small fee. The fee, which usually comes to around ¥525, covers a cleaning service and postage.

Before you borrow some shoes, simply register a pair of your own

For those who like to keep in step with the latest styles, the concept definitely has an upside: Puma, Lanvin and YSL are just some of the brand names already available. And if you’re worried about using other people’s whiffy shoes, be assured that the cleaning process is pretty thorough: The company behind the scheme, 1K, sticks the shoes in a washing machine, scrub ’em with a toothbrush, buff them and deodorize them before finally putting in new insoles.

According to Fashion Snap, the idea was the winner of a competition sponsored by Skylight Consulting which is aimed at encouraging the start-ups of twentysomethings. If it’s successful, 1K  intends to expand the service to include other clothing items. But will today’s fastidious male be willing to swap shoes with a complete stranger?

One good indication for the future fortunes of 4 Jigen Closet is that the economic downturn seems to have made the Japanese less squeamish about buying secondhand clothing. A recent article in The Japan Times reported that secondhand book store Book Off are now expanding into the clothes market and sales of secondhand apparel on online store Rakuten are taking off.

The concept of getting something for next to nothing is also at work on Livlis, a site on which you can acquire other stuff for free (if you’re willing to pay delivery charge at the other end). A beta version of the Twitter-powered site went live in December last year. Originally set up for residents of Kawasaki City last year, the site now offers its services nationwide. At post time, electronic gadgets, video games, textbooks and an Ikea desk were among the items on offer. If you have clutter, it certainly beats paying the haikibutsu shori guys. Be warned that people also tweet stuff they want to sell on the site, so make sure the item you’re after is flagged 無料 (free) before you send off a message.

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