16 August 2011
The Wedgie Factor
One of the aspects of wearing fundoshi that takes a little adjustment is having fabric in the valley of your buttocks. "The Wedgie" is a time-honored piece of locker room torment, and I think most middle schoolers fear it as much or more than their first kiss.
Unless you're already a devoted thong-wearer, "butt floss" is spoken of only derisively... but I'm here to tell you differently! Clearly the young man in the opening photo is mortified and shamed by his sumo mishap -- but it probably has nothing at all to do with the temporary discomfort of having his mawashi forcibly removed by an opponent. It probably has a lot more to do with loss of form. In disciplines like sumo, kendo, and even origami and ikebana, there are forms and conventions that are observed over and above considerations like creativity, strength, etc. There is a time-honored, ancestral, "right" way to do things -- and there is every other way.
That sort of conventionalism, or conservatism, is not necessarily to be feared. We love our concept of free expression and all the 1970s free-to-be-you-and-me feel good stuff... don't get me wrong, I grew up with all that... but we also love a well-cooked traditional meal. Bread baked to perfection. Cars that function efficiently and dependably -- rather than expressively or unpredictably. A certain amount of order is essential. And let's not front: boxer shorts, the most conventional underwear of all, are particularly prone to "creep" and "wedgies."
One convention that does not hold up to inspection, however, is baseless wedgie-phobia. I'm not saying you should go out and hang yourself from a flagpole by your drawers -- that would be silly and potentially injurious. But more people have an aversion to thongs than have ever tried wearing them! More people are afraid of wedgies than have ever had them. More people are nervous about potential discomfort than have ever tried a fundoshi!
So... is it uncomfortable? Find out after the jump!
Well, "creep" is really a non-issue with rokushaku fundoshi. It stays on, as tied, until you (or someone else) removes it. Like sailor's knots, its very design ensures its security and if you wrap yourself snugly it also ensures its form.
It would be disingenuous to say that it doesn't take some getting used to, but once you've worn fundoshi for a day or so you'll stop being conscious of its strangeness -- in fact, you may come to appreciate the new feel of it, and even prefer it over default elastic-waistbanded undies. The basic layout of your body, the cleft where your legs extend from your abdomen, where your sexual organs and the end of your digestive system converge, provides the ideal shape for cinching a length of soft, thin fabric. Stated plainly, your butt makes the design of the fundoshi brilliant; your genitals and rectum make some sort of covering necessary for optimal comfort and health.
There are many variations of the loincloth. Some of our more ubiquitous modern variations say "Hanes" or "Calvin Klein" on the waistband. The rokushaku fundoshi, I feel, is the most highly evolved and refined version -- I can't really think of a way it could be improved!
When you put on your fundoshi, one of the very first steps you commit is to draw the fabric backward between your legs, while gathering your penis and scrotum into the basket of cloth that this step begins to create. If you follow tradition, you twist this portion around and around itself to form the ropelike belt of the fundoshi.
In past posts, I've recommended not twisting the fabric -- allowing it to lay flat -- for a slimmer profile underneath clothes. I also just like the way this method looks, with a wider belt around your waist/belly. Lately, however, I've been going traditional and rolling the cloth into a rope-shape before drawing it all the way around my body, passing it under itself, and cinching it tight. Over the past few weeks of doing this, I've observed a few things about the two different approaches to tying.
Yesterday, wearing my brand new fundoshi made of "island breeze gauze cotton," I found myself walking about 3 miles (long story, car trouble!). It was unexpected, and hot, and a touch humid. Uncomfortable underwear can make an experience like that especially annoying, however I forgot all about my fundoshi and just enjoyed the walk and the tunes on my iPod. That evening I walked back the same 3 miles, again marveling at the comfort and support of the fundoshi. I wore it to bed that night, and slept like a baby -- no doubt from the extra exercise and fresh air!
Not only did I twist the waistband, but after letting the gauzy fabric fall from my shoulder and securing the second layer of the basket/pouch that cradled my genitals, I wove that fabric through the "thong" section I had created in the first step, reproducing the classic look of a traditional fundoshi -- but also creating some relief between the fabric and the sensitive parts between my legs (my rectum), so that even over the course of a long walk in hot weather, the soft fabric held itself up and away from areas that could have been subject to chafing. The open, breathable cotton wicked sweat away, the basket portion gave great support, and honestly I felt invigorated by my walk rather than frustrated by my car and uncomfortable because of the blazing sun and sultry air.
Many thanks to John for pointing me to the online store for that fabric! John will have a guest column coming up in the next week or two. I have to say that it forms the best fundoshi I've ever worn -- a nice natural crinkle to the fabric, it tears easily into the long strips that become the fundoshi, holds its shape marvelously, launders well,and has a nice soft edge without any hemming. John, again, thank you! It's an epiphany, this new fabric.
So, "wedgies." First of all, it does not feel like anything is "jammed" between your legs or any other such unpleasantry. The members of the taiko drumming group Za Ondekoza all ran the 1976 Boston Marathon in their fundoshis, followed immediately by stripping off their running clothes and performing a thunderous odaiko drum solo. No one would attempt that in uncomfortable underwear!
On the contrary, that wound bit of fabric passing upwards between your buttocks and weaving into the simple, ingenious knot of the fundoshi at the small of your back, well, it feels pretty good! It provides light pressure against your perineum and anus, which in addition to not feeling uncomfortable at all is actually mildly stimulating! That's correct, it feels good! That is a nerve-rich part of your body and the fundoshi's design takes that into account. Whoever perfected the fundoshi 1,000 years ago has the gratitude of literally millions of fundoshi-wearers over the millenia. With zero design changes, the fundoshi is ready for another 1,000 years of wear.
Perhaps it was a nameless monk, or a warrior literally "girding his loins" for battle, who knows? Like the wheel, the fundoshi takes advantage of natural principles -- it doesn't ask you to adjust your comfort level or change your habits to enjoy its wearing benefits. So if this perceived "wedgie factor" has put you off from trying fundoshi for yourself, wait no longer! There's a reason this evolved, refined variation of the loincloth has lasted for scores of generations.
Men, if you haven't taken the time to get to know your perineum and prostate, it is highly recommended for both pleasure and health. Kegels are a wonderful exercise for strengthening and stimulating these areas, as well as for increasing sexual health and stamina. I also can't recommend abdominal crunches strongly enough -- they'll strengthen your abdominal core and your lower back, and tone some of the very muscles that a well-tied fundoshi will visually accentuate!
So, in closing, there are no real comfort issues with rokushaku fundoshi that you can't address through adjusting the fundoshi or getting to know your own unique body better. If you're a first-time wearer and not sure if all-day wear is right for you, I suggest wearing a fundoshi around the house on a day off or a weekend. Get to know how it feels. Tie it a touch looser for sleeping or lounging, a bit snugger if you plan to be active or if you plan to wear it by itself (i.e. for swimming).
And on a final note, rokushaku fundoshi is also excellent at showing off your physical assets! The buttocks are the largest and most powerful muscles you own, and aesthetically speaking butts can be very nice looking. Fundoshi affords an opportunity to display your butt, thighs, and abdomen in a very nice light -- approved by tradition!
Let's usher in the next 1,000 years!