Who owns bras and lace?
Which fashion items do you think to have the largest gender differences? Skirts and pants? Pumps and dress shoes?
This is just my opinion, but I feel there is a huge difference between male and female underwear. Various kinds of underwear come in different shapes and give off distinctive impressions. What might be common for both men and women is that they enjoy underwear as fashion, although not everyone may see it this way. Either way, it is a personal choice. I used to believe that underwear’s lack of gender-neutral designs, compared to other fashion items, comes from the physical differences between men and women. I did not even think there was any bias behind my thinking.
However, I came to a huge realization when I discovered an underwear brand called “REING”. They offer simple designs without lace or ribbon in a variety of colors that look good on anyone. Their trunks and boxer briefs are designed for comfort. They also have a selection of unisex bralettes. Regardless of gender, their models are all wearing the same underwear and looking very natural. That’s right, it’s possible to have gender-neutral underwear. This realization was so shocking to me.
There must be men who want to wear bras in the same way there are women who feel more comfortable wearing boxer briefs or trunks. I thought that the brand had such an amazing concept. It allowed people to choose underwear based on what they actually wanted to wear, regardless of gender.
To be honest, I never really liked bras. To enjoy my fashion style, I wanted to make my breasts look smaller (even though they are not really big, to begin with). Unfortunately, many of the bras I find are meant to make your breasts look bigger. But I also do not feel like not wearing anything at all. That is why I usually look for non-push-up bras or bras with thinner cups. But after discovering REING, I felt like I was able to set myself free from my own biases because I recognized that if men can wear bralettes, then women do not necessarily have to wear bras.
Recently, there was another occasion that made me realize that I had a bias about underwear.
Wacoal is a Japanese female underwear brand. In October 2021, using the crowd-funding service “Makuake”, Wacoal launched a project to design lacey boxer briefs for men. The shape of the underwear looks like an ordinary boxer brief, but its front is complete with delicate lace. In addition to black, red, and saxe blue, there is a wide selection of colors that accentuate the lace design: it is decorative and gorgeous underwear.
The project’s website states the following:
“Women’s underwear often have a wide selection of gorgeous designs with lace. But have you noticed that we don’t usually see men’s underwear with lace? This might be due to a subconscious idea that associates lace with women.”
That is right. I used to be convinced that lace was only for women. Rather, I had decided that men were not interested in lace. While I was so struck by finding gender neutral underwear, I never thought of the lack of variations in male underwear designs. As I was moved by REING, there must have been men who thought: “I want more decorative designs rather than simple ones.”
As of October 23, 2021, the Wacoal’s project has raised about 2,800,000 yen and gained support from 585 people. Comments from the supporters read: “I want to see more sexy designs like the one from this project” and “I hope the company launches this underwear as a new regular line.” These comments show how many men had awaited lace underwear, and once again, I realized my bias. Do I still believe that men are not interested in lace underwear? No. Some wear it as a fashion item and others put it on to have a good time with their partner. For a variety of reasons, lace boxer briefs had been long-awaited.
There are women who do not want to wear a bra. There are also men who want to wear a bra.
Some women like simple underwear without lace, and some men want boxer briefs with lace.
It all comes down to self-expression and freedom of choice. For women’s underwear, there is an option for boxers. Bras and lace do not only belong to women. There used to be gender-specific elements to the designs of underwear. But, I hope that people feel more free to wear the underwear they like in terms of designs and shapes so that our “ordinary” choices would expand. I hope for a society where everyone can define their own ideals and where people can respect others’ ideals. This is just a story about underwear. But isn’t it amazing?
Translated by Mutsumi Ogaki
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphic by Maya Kubota