06 October 2011

Blogging about Fundoshi

Wearing fundoshi seems like one compartment, writing about fundoshi is another compartment. If I only wrote about my own wearing experience, I think it would lose my interest pretty fast. But if I only wrote about fundoshi in the abstract, it wouldn't be being 100% true to myself. Coming from a different culture, I may always be an outsider to the fundoshi, like a suburban kid dressing all punk. Or maybe I will be uniquely an insider, since I am wearing it and making it a part of myself. How does that all work?

Fundoshi is first and foremost, a garment. It covers. In that regard, it is optional. We can be naked: we can sleep naked, we can relax naked, and sometimes we can swim naked or be naked with others -- when our culture allows it. The loincloth has been called "the basic marker of civilization." Yet it has also been reduced to the basic marker of primitivism and savagery. Who is right? How did ancient fundoshi-like loincloths evolve into 3-packs of Hanes?

What if we had decided to cover our faces, instead of our genitals? Masks and hoods would have gathered the same sort of baggage that underwear and loincloths have -- objects of fierce fascination. The face would have been studied, fetishized, legislated against, abstracted, celebrated openly only in underground clubs and grimy disreputable websites. But that's not what our ancient selves chose to cover. We chose our generative organs; males and females alike swathed their waists in leaves, fabric, or fur. In some cultures it would stay a very simplistic, utilitarian device for the basic protection of dignity and the delicate sexual parts of the body. In other cultures it would be ornate, elaborate, an object of ceremony. In modern society, where elasticized underwear is the norm, it is often merely a hygienic layer -- something worn under pants or dresses that is clean and fresh every day. For some, it is also a marker of personality -- it is demure or frilly, whimsical or tawdry.

Writing about fundoshi engages all these issues. On one level, it is underwear. It captures and defines the male apparatus. It serves a purpose, but it can also inspire other parts of our lives. One immediate way is that we are cautious when wearing fundoshi underneath clothes, out in public. What if someone catches a glimpse? What if they wonder why you are wearing a knotted loincloth instead of Fruit-of-the-Loom? Will they think you're a pervert? Will you think you're a pervert? What about situations where your fundoshi could be revealed, i.e. the doctor's office or an impromptu swim? Are you ready for that, to explain it or to not explain at all, just accept it as natural and field any questions that come along?

Are any of these things even real issues? Shame seems like the common denominator, and maybe blogging about fundoshi is a way to navigate and negotiate this basic, ancient, unstoppable feeling. One day it comes out of the keyboard as musings on cultural differences. Another day it celebrates the raunch potential. A third day it is unapologetic and frank. The next day it is humble and questing.

I think on an intellectual -- and human -- level, we all know that shame is unnecessary. Yet you don't see fundoshi on celebrities, or at the beach, or offered in catalogs. If only everyone knew that a simple, wide ribbon of cloth could be so comfy and versatile and useful and sexy and inexpensive and rewarding to wear -- you'd think that supply-and-demand apparatus would kick in and fundoshi would be peeking out of saggy pants in Queens, dotting the sandy expanse of Waikiki, and holstering the cocks of everyone from airline pilots to construction workers.

But there is some comfort in the ordinary, some camaraderie in wearing the same skivvies as everyone else; the tartan boxers, the hot brands of fashion underwear (your Calvin Kleins, 2(x)ist, etc.), or the basic blacks, whites, and heather grays. If fundoshi are ever to reach critical mass, there will need to be people who prime the pump -- people who are the early motivators and prophets unafraid to sing the praises, unafraid to demonstrate how a fundoshi is tied, unafraid to be caught in public.

Like underwear, fundoshi functions best in private -- or at least respectful -- settings. It's ancient history is totally different than underwear's despite lots of visual similarities. It would be nice to insert it into high fashion, or promote it as a low-cost, sustainable option to mass-produced items. Every once in a while, someone does.

Maybe I am one of those early promoters. Maybe some of you are too. It's a challenge -- and an honor -- to hit the "post" button, but I'm really glad you're all here. And I hope there are more of us tomorrow.


John said...

This inner monologue is familiar to me because I have had many of the same thoughts. Then I get back to the fact that I LIKE wearing a fundoshi. It fits me and feels great and I like the way it looks. So if I am cleaning my pool in my fundoshi when the guy comes to read the electric meter, so what?

We tend to wear labels, not garments. That's why underwear is now about 80% advertising. The logos are now huge. I'm not sure I want my genitalia used to help someone else make a buck. I want to wear something supportive which speaks of virility, sexuality and me, not some brand name.

It's good to be here and to be a part of this process of enlightenment and fun. Thanks for your thoughts and inspiration.

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

thanks John, you raide the most important point of all -- I LIKE fundoshi too!

JPTOMO said...