With steteco and haramaki, old men’s underwear is young again

February 25th, 2011 by Sandra Barron

A selection of steteco from Steteco.com

Men’s underwear is going retro in Japan, with steteco leading the pack. Steteco are “long trunks” that date back to tight trousers worn in Japan as early as the 14th century. The knee-length pants loosened up along the way and were just the thing to wear under hakama or kimono in the Meiji Era, and they made a comeback with the mass production of gauzy crepe fabric in the 50s. By the 1970s, blue jeans and the “new traditional” look had relegated the storied drawers to the top drawers of aging dads. But now, as old-man cute makes a global fashion comeback, the old briefs are young again.

In 2008, Steteco.com, a sub-brand of an intimate apparel maker called as, not only started making a youthful version of them, they called for nothing less than a world-wide steteco revival. “The first time I wore them under a suit, I loved how comfortable and absorbent they were, and how nice it was to come home, take off the suit, and just relax in them,” the head of the “Tokyo Labo” says on their site. “We decided to show the world how great life can be with steteco.”

Their vision has been catching on. In addition to Japanese fashion brands like Uniqlo and United Arrows, big international names are also bringing out their own versions. Hanes is about to put out a line in March, calling them “Neoteco.” Some have loud Hawaiian prints while others stick to a more traditional palette of sober stripes and plaids. The colors and  length recall surfers’ board shorts, but the fabrics are lighter and the silhouette is a bit slimmer. Levi’s made some, now apparently out of stock, to look like stone-washed jeans in blue and black. Company catalogs show both men and women wearing the basic models, and there are also low-rise women’s versions with lace trim.

Haramaki briefs from Wacaol's Lunch

Not so into the loose and breezy thing? There’s plenty more neo-retro for you, too. Check out the new shorts with a wide, stretchy haramaki attached at the waistband. A haramaki is a traditional Japanese undergarment, a warm and snuggly woolly wrap that people — mostly older men and women of all ages and most famously, Tora-san — wear wrapped around their waists in the winter to keep warm. Wacoal saw the market potential of adding the stomach wrap to their men’s lines after their women’s version sold well over the last several years. Women wear them at temperature extremes, Wacoal found, to protect against both winter weather and overactive summer air conditioners. Now they’re gambling that guys might like to keep their midriffs warm and have a little extra slimming support at the same. The shorts come in boxer and brief varieties, in bright bold colors and small flower patterns.

Since these are being released just as the weather is starting to warm up, the real goal may be more about fashion than old-man practicality. That said, picnicking on those blue tarps at the early spring hanami is always chillier than expected. Going full length with haramaki tights might not be a bad idea.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses

  1. Wow! Old guys where I work wear these and I have never known why! Very interesting! Good ole boxers are still the choice for me. But I have to admit, with an ever expanding midriff that gets chilly in the winter, Haramaki briefs may be the way to go, haha!!

  2. Ha, Pulse is happy to be of service, Jonathan.


Recent Posts

  • J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

    Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation. We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application […]

  • Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

    GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it. These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation […]

  • Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

    The two-step method to purification.

  • Attack of the plant hunters, green carnivores and fleshy girls

    Never promised you a rose garden, but how about a fleshy plant or a stag-horn fern?

  • Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

    The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history. Now art lovers can create their own […]

  • Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style

    A few items that will help you stay dry and happy during Fuji Rock Festival’s unpredictable weather.

  • Pokemon ages ungracefully with middle-aged ‘Ojisan Monsters’

    “Ojimon” is a new mobile game where players can catch middle-aged pocket monsters and make them do their bidding.

  • The new face of Japanese beauty products

    A wise woman once said that beauty is pain, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. With designer face masks, even the simple act of skin moisturizing can become fun. Face masks rose to popularity after the 2011 Korean BB Cream craze. Over the past four years, the “lazy girl” alternative to […]

  • Dominique Ansel caters to Tokyo’s (semi)sweet tooth with cronuts and s’more

    Long queues will mark the spot where Dominique Ansel wil be serving a vast array of creative desserts and, of course, his famed Cronut.

  • Load up YouTube because it’s morphin’ time!

    Summon your Megazord because the Power Rangers are heading to YouTube — and it’s all in Japanese. “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” was a hit children’s show back in the ‘90s that featured campy acting, ridiculous monsters and possibly the best theme song of all time. It was actually based on the long-running “Super Sentai” TV […]