By YOKO HASEGAWA/ Staff Writer
June 17, 2022 at 07:00 JST
Testing the waters of the “genderless” movement in the fashion industry, Japanese apparel giant Wacoal Corp. added lace to a line of men’s underwear. The dainty items were quickly sold out.
“I never expected lacy boxer briefs would become a hit like this,” said Akira Mizoguchi, who works at Wacoal’s sales and marketing section for men’s underwear. “The boundaries between men and women have disappeared in the world more than I thought.”
The company, headquartered in Kyoto, has produced countless lace undies for women. But in December last year, it offered the lineup of lace-made boxer briefs in seven colors, such as black, red and beige. Each is priced at 3,960 yen ($30).
“It is obvious to anyone that lace is beautiful, and lacy underwear are breathable. So why not use lace for men’s boxer briefs?” the company said in a statement about the collection.
In autumn 2021, Wacoal accepted pre-orders of the lacy boxers in a crowd-funding campaign. Its goal was 300,000 yen.
The response exceeded the company’s expectations. Around 700 people made pre-orders worth 3.2 million yen.
The boxers were all bought soon after Wacoal made the collection available online and at three stores, including Isetan Shinjuku Store Men’s Building in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
The company attained its three-month sales goal within 10 days.
Wacoal ramped up production in April this year, but it still cannot keep up with demand.
The company is expected to release new colors of the lacy boxer briefs this summer and again increase production of the existing collection.
Many of the customers are men in their 30s and 40s, Wacoal said.
“It was love at first sight,” a customer wrote in the review section on Wacoal’s website. “I love the design and immediately purchased it.”
“Wearing it lifts up my spirits,” another wrote.
In the past decade, fashion brands, particularly those for clothing and jewelry, have led a movement to disrupt the traditional gender binarism.
They have, for example, offered pearl necklaces for men and used lacy garments and skirts in their men’s collections.
Paris International Co., an Osaka-based authorized distributor of Cosabella, an Italian underwear brand, started importing Cosabella men’s lacy briefs early this year and made them available online.
A Paris International representative said the company has received inquiries from retailers who want to selll the briefs in their stores.
Hidetoshi Takeyasu, a manager at the inner wear business division of Gunze Ltd., an Osaka-based apparel company, said the trend in men’s underwear in Japan “has shifted every 20 years or so under the influence of Europe and the United States.”
After World War II, long underdrawers and undershorts called “sarumata” were popular among Japanese men.
Briefs took over in the 1950s and continued to be popular for around two decades. In the 1980s, men preferred to wear trunks.
But boxer types became more readily available around 2000 and have remained popular until now, Takeyasu said.
In the fashion industry, the business model of appealing to popular tastes and relying on bulk production has become outdated and more difficult to sustain.
“Incorporating diversity and responding to segmentalized needs are more important nowadays,” he said.
E-commerce has allowed people to buy things without worrying about the prying eyes of other shoppers, Takeyasu said.
“There is the potential for an unconventional product to enjoy large sales,” he said.
Visit this page for the latest news on Japan’s battle with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.
Haruki Murakami and other writers read from books before selected audiences at the new Haruki Murakami Library.
The Asahi Shimbun aims “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” through its Gender Equality Declaration.
Let’s explore the Japanese capital from the viewpoint of wheelchair users and people with disabilities with Barry Joshua Grisdale.