Friday, June 03, 2005

"Japanese culture remains alive in that meter length of cloth."

I often miss being in Japan. It's been a year, almost to date, that I last headed to one of my favorite places in the world. Sometimes smells, sounds and even the way morning air feels can trigger great longing for Japan's simple pleasures. When this happens, I put some Koto music on, e-mail friends and voraciously read publications that were part of my life while there.

I also miss the interesting cultural trends that permeate Japan. In an attempt to connect with some online Zen, I connected with an article on fundoshi (loincloths) in the Japan Times site that both brought me back to the strange joys of Japan and made me think about trends in undergarments. A good combo, huh? Mark my words: the loincloth with be a staple of high-end designer styles on our side of the pond soon.

Fundoshi used to be adorned only by warlords, laborers, Sumo wrestlers and the elderly. Now, girlfriends are decorating their boyfriends nether regions with the cloth, women are buying them as gifts, corporate salarymen are donning them as power underwear. Even girls are adding fundoshi to their wardrobes. The dang things are moving out of mom and pop shops to the glitz and glamour of Tokyo's Ginza district - known for high-end fashion. Sales are up from 80 a month to 800!

Where am I going with this? Yes, there's a practical point that falls under the marketing umbrella - or cloth. As I continue to read All Marketers Are Liars, I can't help but identify products and services that succeed because of their stories. Marketing that speaks to an audience's worldview. The reintroduction and repopularization of the loincloth in Japan is due in a large part to the story behind it and its ingrained position in a highly homogeneous society's worldview.

Read the headline quote again! "Japanese culture remains alive in that meter length of cloth." That's a lot of responsibility for underwear.


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