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Traditional Belly Warmers Turn into Hot Men’s Fashion Items

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A haramaki blends in naturally with the rest of this young man’s outfit.

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This haramaki incorporates the fashionable "Nordic knit" pattern.

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A colorful bordered haramaki.

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With winter in full swing, belly warmers or bands known as haramaki are making their way onto the waists of a growing number of young Japanese men. Until recently, haramaki typically came only in a camel-colored beige close to the color of the typical Japanese skin. They were mostly associated with elderly men. This winter, though, department stores and boutiques have been selling a wide range of stylish and colorful haramaki aimed at fashion-conscious Japanese young men. The designs range from stripes, dots, and houndstooth patterns to images of popular characters. The choice of colors has dramatically increased as well. No longer just a slightly unfashionable item for underwear for keeping the body warm in winter, haramaki are becoming popular as fashionable items of clothing, often worn over a shirt for an attractive layered look.

Recent TrendsThe idea of putting part of one’s underwear on public display as a fashion statement took off two or three years ago, thanks mostly to two popular trends in women’s fashion: the mori girl (forest girls) and “outdoor mix” styles, both of which made wide use of leggings and deliberately put underwear on show. The concept has now spread to the world of men’s fashion, where warm and comfortable outfits have been a major trend over the past few years. Haramaki have now hit the big time as the next snug fashion item after leggings.

Adding a haramaki to a suit jacket and shirt is a quick way to add a touch of style to a formal look. A head buyer at Marui, a chain of department stores popular with young people, says: “Growing numbers of men are buying thin haramaki that can be worn with a suit at work without making them look bloated.”

Haramaki make an affordable and fun addition to any wardrobe.

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This rainbow-patterned haramaki brightens the whole outfit with a splash of color.

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Snapshots from the StreetsSophisticated styles matching dark colors with a black or gray background are particularly popular among men at the moment. Haramaki can be worn in a variety of different ways. While some men like to match the color of their haramaki with their sweaters, others prefer to add individual nuance with a crumpled, scrunched-up look. Brightly colored haramaki are a good way of adding a splash of color and accenting the waist area. Many stylish Japanese men have developed ways of ensuring that their haramaki look good when they take off their jackets in a restaurant or at the office. In the past, haramaki have been restricted to the colder months. It will be interesting to see how the fashion develops as we approach spring. (March 2011)

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