26 July 2011

Fundoshi Care and Feeding + Reader Submissions!

Like anything worn close to the skin, fundoshi benefit from frequent washings. Not only does this keep your fundoshi crisp and clean, it also serves to soften the fabric. If you are making your own fundoshi out of fabric you purchased, old bed sheets, etc., the fabric may seem a little thick or stiff until repeated trips through the washer and drier distress the fabric enough to soften it up.

Some of my first homemade fundoshi were thicker, colored cotton (orange, black, and light blue). For a while, they were a bit bulky, but now after years of washing and wearing, the light blue ones especially (since they must be my favorite color to wear?) have taken on a softness that is both extremely comfy when snugged against my skin and also looks soft, smooth, and cozy. Even the color has lightened a bit. The orange and black ones, which I must not wear quite as often (although I am wearing one of the black fundoshi right now) have stayed thicker even while softening up significantly. I consider these my "winter" or "autumn" fundoshi, reserved for cooler weather when a little extra thickness is desirable. They're also great for sleeping, tied a little looser.

One of Fundoshi 4 All!'s regular readers, Mikey, sent us a couple great fundoshi pics of himself (one is at left, the other after the jump) with his own handmade muslin fundoshi, which he wears daily and has perfected tying so well that it is comfortable for long bike rides. He also related a humorous, laundry-related story:

I threw my muslin fundoshi in with my jeans after they stopped shedding. So they wind up wrapping around my jeans. I also recently moved in with my father and step-mother, in doing so the inevitable happened, my dad came across a long strip of white fabric in the dryer.

What's this Son?

Ancient Japanese Loincloth Dad

Is that so?

Yup. . . .

Your crazy Son.

So was Dali, Dad...

Best conversation EVER!

-- Mikey

Related to the subject of laundering, Mikey wondered if anyone out there irons their fundoshi? I typically don't, I usually disentangle them and fold them up into a small square (a little larger than a wallet), so they still have some creases and wrinkles in them when I get them out of the drawer to tie on. This is not necessarily by design -- it's by necessity since I don't own an iron! I do own an ironing board, though, which is sort of strange... It is a certainty that members of the drum troupe KODO definitely do iron their fundoshi, lending them their beautifully snowy-white and composed wrap against the sinewy bodies of the drummers. Also, Jason, a member of Taikoproject, can be seen ironing his fundoshi in the picture to the left.

I can see a lot of benefits to ironing fundoshi (one of which is I'd just simply love to put on a freshly-ironed fundoshi! Sounds like a luxurious feeling). Among them is neatness, as well as that great feeling when you change your sheets and bedding -- the fresh sheets feel so good! Also, for anyone who'd like to return a little ceremony to their lives, ironing is a fairly calming activity that would allow for some reflection or meditation. Not to mention, ironing is one of many, many activities that can be done in just a fundoshi!

(are we single-minded here at Fundoshi 4 All!? Maybe...?)

I've also seen people use a bottle (such as a beer or wine bottle) to press their fundoshi flat against a hard surface (such as a floor or wooden table top), or to crease it in just the right places. This is most often done with a sumo wrestler's mawashi, a close cousin of the fundoshi that involves a heavier weight cloth of a much greater length. Having a securely-tied mawashi is of the utmost importance in the sumo ring.

I think an alternative to folding or ironing fundoshi is to roll them up, fresh out of the drier. Simply making one roll of the entire length of the fundoshi makes it easy to store in a dresser drawer (or luggage) and helps manage wrinkles -- especially if you do it while the cloth is still warm from being tumbled dry! They could even be rubber-banded this way so it would be easy to grab a few fundoshi and toss them into an overnight bag.

Another reader, John, recently wrote me a pretty eloquent e-mail about the design simplicity and engineering beauty of the fundoshi -- it appealed to his intellect. I think that's so cool, the "fabric origami" aspect of fundoshi that other readers have observed. John, like me, makes his own fundoshi, and he shared a couple links to fabric website Fabric.com, where he was able to obtain some super lightweight cotton gauze like this! I was pretty thrilled to see that they have my beloved baby blue, in addition to white and many other great colors. This fabric has a natural crinkle to it, so it looks great and, in this particular case -- no ironing is necessary! Also, at $3.98 a yard, it's pretty economical to make DIY ancient Japanese loincloths and retire the BVDs.

On a side note, I've frequently wrote about how I lay the "belt" of my fundoshi flat as I wind the cloth around my waist and through my legs -- for comfort as well as to reduce bulk under clothing. Lately, though, I've been winding the cloth into a "rope" like most of the more traditional fundoshi-tying instructions suggest, and I've been finding that very comfortable for all-day wear. Not to mention flattering to my body in appearance.

Not only is it a nice variation, but it also helps to define the shape of the front pouch, I've found, allowing it to be both secure and a little roomier -- maybe because the added "grip" of the twisted cloth keeps the pouch from tightening (or loosening) over the course of the day as my body moves? Not sure, but it seems that over 1,000 years, the twisting of the fundoshi must have evolved for a reason besides just aesthetics. Anyway, my preferences change from time to time, and right now I'm preferring the roped style of tying my rokushaku fundoshi.


John said...

Another cool and informative blog entry! I'm glad I could contribute a little background information for other readers. The gauze material surprised me by its strength yet see-through breathability but also in its ability to edge-curl when ripped. It's as close to a finished edge as I could have hoped for and in hot, humid weather I find a fundoshi made of this is cooler than nothing at all!

Tim said...

A fantastic blog :) I haven't yet tried an ironed fundoshi, but I'm sure I will in time :) With regards storage, I also fold my fundoshi into squares, but I might try rolling them and seeing if that makes any difference regards storage space, or feel of the fabric when unrolled :)

Tim said...

Updated Findings...
I recently acquired some pinking sheers so I can safely run my fundoshi through the washer and dryer, rather than hand-washing and drip-drying, and that meant I had to iron many of my fundoshi to prepare the edges for cutting. Putting on the freshly ironed fundoshi, was exactly the same as the very first time I wrapped the specific piece material around me, it was stiff and thin, and, unlike the nice feeling of fresh bed linen, this actually felt rather impersonal, and I find them much more comfortable un-ironed... Also, I tried the method of rolling the fundoshi for storage, and while the fabric certainly 'drops out' more easily for donning the fundoshi, the wrapped garment takes up much more space in the drawer than when they're folded into squares, which I find a much more meditative practice, and more in practice with the 'fabric origami' ethos of the fundoshi :)

John said...

I have to say that Mikey looks great in his white Fundoshi and jeans. That's an off the charts masculine look. I like the idea of using pinking shears on fabrics that like to unravel. I tried it after reading this tip and just nipped the edge of some "shirting" fabric and it worked quite well, created a soft edge and yet didn't have the deep pattern the shears can leave. The Island Gauze king of rolls in on itself and forms a nice edge all on its own, so I was pleasantly surprised there. Buying a Fundoshi with finished edges is great but I'm enjoying making them, selecting my own fabric, etc.

Tim said...

Most of my fundoshi are made from shirting fabric, although I do also have a few of a thicker material. I'd like to try some of the Island Gauze as well, as that would be great for the hotter weather, and as you say, the selection of fabric and making them really is all part of the garment's appeal :)

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

good observations all around!

Thanks for trying out the ironing method, Tim -- and I can see how a tumbled-dry or drip-dried fundoshi would seem less starchy.

Tim said...

Something else I noticed, is once the material has got some creases in it from drying, it holds the knots better than when it is either pristine material, or after ironing, as well as being more snug and comfortable :)

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