Is it my imagination or have my observation skills taken a jump this summer? There seem to be a noticeably higher number of women, mostly young—but then, at my age, what woman isn’t?—hitting the streets of Tokyo in short shorts (SSs). Now most SSs surely have their origins in the short pants outerwear that once only boys wore, but some of them are made from flimsy cloth and trimmed with lace, making them look, with perhaps with added gloss and froufrou, like something out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog (or so I guess, based purely on what I’ve heard from my friends). And some of the similarly constructed dresses could be mistaken for chemises. And on the other side of the gender divide, the suteteko, baggy underpants created to wear under kimono, is making a comeback among the young as casual outerwear.
This reminds me of my Osaka childhood, the hottest days of summer saw women walking around the neighborhood in their chemises and men hanging out in suteteko. But these were the doings of older generations (though for someone my age, anyone above high-school age was old); a couple of events stand out in my memory, the high-school age sister of a friend walking around the house in her chemise and a grade seven classmate stripping down to her chemise to change into gym wear, for their unusualness.
This is not without precedent. The kimono as we know it today evolved from the kosode, which had its origins as underwear for the nobles in the Heian era that spread to the samurai and later to the lower classes. The more casual yukata began life as a bathing suit-and-bath towel, an origin that is reflected in the protocol now largely honored in the breach (or so I hear) that says you’re not supposed to wear any underwear with it.
Summers are hot here, we wanna take our clothes off, and between global warming and the heat island effect, here we go again, by Nelly, led by the young, as usual. And next up for promotion? The thong. I may not be around to see this prediction vindicated, though. Sad, isn’t it?
Sidebar: More women are covering their arms in dark sleeve-like gloves and long plastic faceguards, a look that I first saw maybe just a couple of years ago, when I wondered if the woman was hypersensitive to sunlight. But this Dr. Moreau-meets-the Invisible Man and Darth Vader look is sported by women typically more advanced in years, indicating a rearguard action against the ravages of time.