[From July Issue 2015]
Since the summer of 2011, more and more people have been wearing “suteteko.” They first appeared in the Meiji era (19-20th centuries) and were originally used as underwear worn beneath men’s pants. They were made from “cotton crepe,” a crimped material that effectively absorbs sweat, and were regularly used during the hottest time of the year. However, since people thought of them as being “something old men wear,” white suteteko were perceived as being uncool and gradually fewer and fewer young people wore them.
TAKEMURA Keisuke of the underwear maker As Corporation is the person who hit upon the idea of reviving suteteko. “One day, a senior member of staff recommended that I try wearing suteteko. Although I had my doubts about wearing another item of clothing under my pants during the hot summer season, when I tried them on, I was surprised. It alleviated the sticky sensation produced by my sweat and felt smooth against my skin,” he says.
Takemura recommended suteteko to friends of his own generation. “Although everyone was surprised at how comfortable they were, they still felt dowdy in them.” In spite of that, Takemura felt that the functional aspect of them had potential.
In addition, Takemura was attracted by the fact that they could also double as lounge wear once pants are removed. By adding colors and patterns, he reasoned that they might even be worn as outerwear (as opposed to underwear). He established the “Steteco Research Laboratory” website in 2008 and started to sell suteteko on the web in daring colors and patterns. Suteteko was reinvented as comfortable lounge wear and purchases by women increased, too.
As suteteko grew more popular other companies also began to sell suteteko in a variety of different designs and materials. However, Takemura thinks that the best way to feel the utility of suteteko is to wear ones made of cotton crepe.
Yogateko pants, modeled on suteteko, for women practicing yoga have also been created. “Most yoga wear is manufactured abroad. So, in order to make an item of clothing that would fit the Japanese figure and emphasize the beauty of a person’s legs, we decided that the entire production process down to spinning the yarn itself, would be done in Japan,” says TO Ayako, a representative of Yogateko, who also runs a yoga studio.
Since she studied abroad in the U.S., To felt that Japanese people ought to be better informed about the quality of items on offer in their own country. So, she combined a cloth entirely made-in-Japan with traditional Japanese patterns. Though most yoga pants are black, her gorgeous yoga pants have been attracting attention. In addition, it’s just been announced that the fabric she uses is the same as that worn by the Olympic athletes representing Japan. Suteteko have become an item that combines the positive aspects of Japanese tradition with the country’s latest technology. The fixed idea of suteteko has been altered and the clothing item has proved itself to be adaptable to a variety of different purposes.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo